Reigning champions Sarsfields progressed to the Laois Ladies SFC semi-final for the seventh successive year when they saw off the challenge of St Brigid’s in a tough, uncompromising encounter in Mountmellick on Sunday evening. Played in perfect conditions for football the game was played at a hectic pace, particularly in the opening half, and provided lots of entertainment for an appreciative crowd.
The visitors started well and had two points on the board, from Deirdre O’Shea and Chloe Ryan, within three minutes and Tracey Lawlor then got Sarsfields off the ground with a brace. A goal from Ryan rocked the Mountmellick side back on their heels but Lawlor and Alison McEvoy steadied the ship again with points. Then another goal and a point from full forward Ryan saw the score line read St Brigids 2-3 Sarsfields 0-5 after eighteen minutes.
Sarsfields were severely stung but they responded magnificently to the challenge. Two wonderfully executed goals from Rachel Williams and Laura Marie Maher and points from Claire Conlon, Ciara Burke and Tracey Lawlor completely changed the complexion of the game. During a ten minute purple patch the forwards hit 2-5 as they went from a deficit of four points at the twenty minute mark to leave the half time score Sarsfields 2-10 St Brigid’s 2-4.
The second half was a much less exciting affair as Brigid’s concentrated much of their energies on shutting down scoring opportunities. Despite territorial advantage for most of the half the winners found it very hard to penetrate a very tight marking rearguard and added only a goal and three points to their first half total.
St Brigid’s had to settle for two Deirdre O’Shea points in that period as Sarsfields rearguard displayed much less generosity than in the opening half when some lax defending saw Clodagh Dunne’s goal breached for the first time this year. Aisling Dunphy, Jenny McEvoy and Emma McEvoy, all of whom played in a camogie game on Saturday evening, and Louise Bergin showed some excellent defensive traits. Up front six players shared in the six Sarsfields scoring tally for whom the win puts them through to face Portlaoise in semi-final on Saturday September 15.
St Brigid’s defeat means a playoff date with Shanahoe next week-end. They have however shown themselves to be well capable of competing for the top prize in the county and have brought an extra edge and competitiveness to the SFC. Their forwards led by the Miller sisters, Alison and Grace, Chloe Ryan and Deirdre O’Shea gave Sarsfields backs a torrid time for most of the game while in elsewhere Aisling and Blaithnead Wall, Jane and Anna Moore and Danni Callinan can all look back with much satisfaction at the game. St Brigids must now face Shanahoe in a play off for second spot in Group A with the winners meeting Timahoe.
SCORERS - Sarsfields: Claire Conlon 1-5, Tracey Lawlor 0-4, Laura Marie Maher 1-1, Rachel Williams 1-0, C Burke 0-2, Alison McEvoy 0-1; St Brigid’s: Chloe Ryan 2-3, Deirdre O’Shea 0-3
SARSFIELDS: Clodagh Dunne; Aisling Dunphy, Jenny McEvoy, Amy Grehan; Sinead Walsh, Emma McEvoy, Louise Bergin; Alison McEvoy, Joyce Dunne; Ciara Burke, Tracey Lawlor, Laura Marie Maher; Claire Conlon, Ciara O’Loughlin, Rachel Williams. Subs: Hazel O’Connor (S Walsh), Meaghan Dunne (C O’Loughlin)
ST BRIGID’S: Ciara Moore; Blaithnaid Wall, Aisling Wall, Amy Potts; Tara Farrell, Jane Moore, Rhona Julian; Anna Moore, Danni Callanan; Grace Miller, Deirdre O’Shea, Alison Miller; Aisling Hayden, Chloe Ryan, Kelly Farrell. Subs: Niamh Power, Niamh McDonald, Averil Kelly.