In a tense, hard fought, but hugely entertaining final, Sarsfields eventually got the better of a battling Killeshin to win the 2012 Laois Ladies JFC title in Crettyard on Saturday.
It was delight for the girls from Mountmellick but for the Carlow border club the result was another heartbreak and a bitter pill to swallow; their fourth final defeat in five years.
Sarsfields, on the other hand, were picking up their fourth title over a period of twelve years, the last in 2009. Such an outcome seemed unlikely at half-time as, after a dour thirty minutes, they trailed 1-1 to 0-1. That opening half provided lots of honest endeavour by the players on both sides but accuracy in front of goals was a major problem across the board.
In this regard Killeshin were most guilty as they created the most scoring opportunities. The forwards problems were compounded by tenacious defending by the respective rearguards that gave little time or space for shooting.
Killeshin were the more confident and assured outfit early on but they will look back with regret at the opening fifteen minutes of the game when their midfielders, Lauren Brennan and Sarah Kelly, dominated that vital sector and centre back Mary Clare Kelly hoovered up everything that moved in the half line.
They built up numerous attacking moves only to come away empty handed, repeatedly failing to capitalise on possession, and went in at half time just one goal to the good, 1-1 to 0-1; having to settle for goal from Eva Brennan and a Sarah Dempsey point. There were also some major contributions from Laura McDonald, Aishling Whelan, Siobhan Ronan and Lorraine Doogue.
Sarsfields on the other hand looked nervous and hesitant and their first attacks yielded zero, being easily repulsed by a full back line of Ciara Dowling, Siobhan Dowling and Philomena Kelly. A missed penalty did not help their cause either.
The second half turned out to be a very different kettle of fish altogether. Having scored a single point in the first thirty minutes Sarsfields became much more economical in front of the posts and just about did enough to see them through.
The introduction of a number of substitutes by the winners, either side of the break, had a major bearing on the game’s outcome. Lauren Kearney announced her arrived with a point on 25 minutes, her side’s only score of the half, and minutes after the restart she slotted home a goal following great work by Niamh Coss.
Alison Russell, Emer O’Loughlin, Amy Clinton, Anne Hyland and Becky Williams upped their games and the scores came mainly through Hannah Russell, whose deployment nearer the goals paid rich dividends, as she found the target with a goal and three points. The Blues had eased into a 2-1 to 1-1 lead after 20 minutes and looked comfortable but again the game took another twist. Killeshin’s outstanding performer, Eva Brennan, picked up a pass from Mary-Clare Kelly rounded a few defenders and lashed past Trisha Murray in the Sarsfields goal to square the match. Minutes later Murray pulled off the save of the game when shedived full stretch to deny Aishling Whelan a certain goal.
The save inspired her colleagues and Sarsfields shut up shop. Despite some brilliant attacking moves by Brennan, Dempsey, McDonald and Whelan the Sarsfields defence, brilliantly led by the experienced Lisa O’Reilly, ably assisted by Amy Loughman and Becky Dowling, gave a master class in defensive play. Aoife Wiseley, Amy Coss and Daphne Behan also played excellently.
At the other end Kearney and Russell picked off the vital points that sent Sarsfields forward to present Laois in the Leinster Club Championship on October 7. After the game Laois Ladies Football Chairperson Mary Wheatley presented the Junior Cup to Sarsfields captains Emer O’Loughlin and Lisa O’Reilly.
KILLESHIN: Maura Quirke; Siobhan Dowling, Ciara Dowling, Philomena Kelly; Lisa Heart, Mary-Claire Kelly, Claire Shortall; Lauren Brennan, Sarah Kelly; Siobhan Ronan, Laura McDonald Lorraine Doogue; Sarah Dempsey (0-1), Eva Brennan (2-0), Nina McCarney. Subs: Amanda Brennan, Amy Brennan, Shauna Brennan, Kate Bolger, Joann Dempsey, Chloe Doyle, Derbhla Kennedy, Claire Malone, Ashling Moran (0-1), Chloe Murray, Aoife O’Rourke, Aishling Whelan.
SARSFIELDS: Trisha Murray; Daphne Behan, Becky Dowling, Aoife Wisely; Amy Coss, Lisa O’Reilly, Amy Loughman; Alison Russell, Hannah Russell (1-3); Becky Williams, Anna Hyland, Emer O’Loughlin; Amy Clinton, Orla McDonald, Ruth Williams. Subs: Sarah Williams, Niamh Williams, Lauren Kearney (1-2), Chloe Dunne, Niamh Conroy, Nicole Mulhall, Niamh Coss, Roisin Dunne