TWO crucial goals in the second half against the strong wind and a string of fine saves from outstanding goalkeeper Fiona Kelly were pivotal as Scoil Criost Ri, Portlaoise claimed the Leinster Ladies Senior C Football Final in Mullingar last Friday.
Played in miserably wet and windy conditions on the excellent all weather at St Loman’s, Criost Ri started slowly but with the elements at their backs they had built a 1-9 to 0-4 lead by the break.
They managed just two further scores against the strong wind in the second half but crucially both scores were goals and that was more than enough to win them the game.
As important as the goals were, the performance of the defence and in particular of goalkeeper Fiona Kelly were equally if not more significant in the final outcome.
On each occasion Criost Ri found the back of the net, Loreto broke down the field and created a goal chance of their own but each time they found Kelly in their way with a string of fine saves.
The best of them came in the first half when she dived low to her left to get a hand to a powerful shot from Naoise de Graaff.
While Kelly and her defensive colleagues were keeping the scores out at one end, the forwards were building a match winning score at the other.
Against the wind Loreto started strongly and kicked the opening three points of the game while also hitting the crossbar.
Criost Ri eventually settled into the game and a point from Orla Carroll and three from elusive corner-forward Laura Whelan, two with her right foot, one with her left, put the Portlaoise side 0-4 to 0-3 ahead after nine minutes.
Criost Ri continued to pile on the pressure and after a shot from Aisling Bohan went inches wide of the post, points from Laura Whelan and three from Bohan put them 0-8 to 0-3 ahead with 20 minutes on the clock.
Kelly-Marie Harris pulled one back for Loreto but that was cancelled out quickly by a point from Laura Whelan, her fifth from play in the half.
Before the break Criost Ri extended their lead when a shot from distance from Orla Carroll eluded the goalkeeper and found its way to the back of the net.
Loreto almost hit back instantly but they were denied by a stunning save from Fiona Kelly.
Before half-time Criost Ri had a chance to extend their lead with a penalty but the kick went wide.
The Meath school had the wind at their backs in the second-half and they opened the scoring soon after the restart with a goal from a powerful shot from Naoise de Graaff that gave Fiona Kelly no chance. However after that they found the Criost Ri defence made life very difficult for their opponents and chances were few and far between.
The Portlaoise school always looked dangerous on the break and 13 minutes into the half they scored a crucial goal when a long ball from Fiona Dooley found Aine Fitzpatrick in space and the full forward made no mistake with her finish.
Loreto looked to respond instantly but again they found Fiona Kelly in fine form as the ‘keeper made another crucial save.
They did reduce the deficit with a point but at the other end Criost Ri scored the decisive third goal as Aine Fitzpatrick and Laura Whelan combined to put Fiona Dooley through and she rattled the back of the net.
Another fine Fiona Kelly save kept the lead at 3-9 to 1-5 and while Loreto added four points in the closing minutes, they never looked like breaching the Scoil Criost Ri defence for the goals they so desperately needed.
With the wind still blowing straight down the the field and the driving rain showing no sign of stopping, the referee blew the final whistle and Scoil Criost Ri players, mentors and supporters alike took to the field to celebrate the win.
Scorers: Scoil Criost Ri: Laura Whelan 0-5; Orla Carroll 1-1; Aisling Bohan 0-3 (0-2f); Aine Fitzpatrick 1-0; Fiona Dooley 1-0. Loreto: Naoise de Graaff 1-1; Eleanor Lane 0-3 (0-1f);Stacey Grimes 0-2; Kelly-Marie Harris 0-2; Niamh Cassidy 0-1
Scoil Criost Ri: Fiona Kelly; Kelly Preston, Aoife Conroy, Niamh Dunne; Anna Healy, Sarah Phealan, Laura Corcoran; Aoidean Delaney. Claire Dollard; Orla Carroll, Fiona Dooley. Anna Fitsgibon; Laura Whelan, Aine Fitzpatrick, Aisling Bohan. Sub: Orla Phealan for Niamh Dunne (HT)
St Michael’s Loreto SS, Navan: Nicole Byrne; Aisling Taffe, Kate Flynn, Sophie McDermott; Regina Hand, Catriona Keogan. Jamie O’Mara; Aisling Cassidy, Eleanor Lane; Stacey Grimes, Ruth Commons, Kelly Marie Harris; Shauna Fitzgerald, Naoise de Graaff, Rachel Gardner. Sub: Roisin Mallee.