Kildare Ladies Junior A Championship: Round 1
By Robert Cox @Clane
On a historic day that saw the 2012 London Olympics draw to a close, Kilcock Ladies made their own piece of history by competing in and winning their first ever Junior A Championship match against a gallant and well drilled Clane side, @Clane on Sunday morning 12th August last. To keep comparison with the great Olympic games, the visitors just about cleared the last hurdle to make it over the finishing line in front but Clane have to be mentioned for their efforts throughout, making it difficult for the recent winners of division three of the league. Shane Stone and his charges now know what awaits them having made the step up in grades and though the league is in the bag, championship football is a whole new kettle of fish.
As in their recent league final, Kilcock started slow but this in turn could be down to the months break they had to endure due to the difficulty in finding a team for a challenge game but credit to Clane they were up for it and in the early exchanges they were rewarded for their hard work when corner forward Sinead Healy opened the scoring with a fine point from play. Kilcock did respond almost immediately when full forward Emma Robinson gathered a long ball into her chest and used her smart footballing brain in fisting the ball over the bar, when all other avenues were blocked. Clane were on top in midfield, winning the majority of the breaking balls and feeding their full forward line at pace and this resulted in them getting the games next two scores, the first a well taken point from the dangerous Melissa Lyons and the second the games opening goal. A long, high ball in on top of full forward and target woman Lisa Redmond, resulted in the number fourteen getting by full back Linda Byrne and blasting the ball to the roof of Eimear Kelly’s net. This gave the hosts a four point lead after ten minutes but this was to be as good as it got for the girls in all white as it seemed to wake up Kilcock, especially Byrne and Kelly who would go on to play a major role in Kilcock’s win.
On a scorching hot day, credit must go to all who kept the girls cooled down with water but there was to be no cooling down of the Kilcock forwards, who in a fifteen minute spell bagged three goals and a point to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Noelle Conlon who was revelling in her new role on the wing got the first goal after she picked up a long ball into space and made a bee line for goal before dispatching the ball to the corner of the net, giving Clane goalie Clodagh Kelly no chance. Centre Forward Sheena Byrne added the second soon after, when she too went on a mazy run through a porous Clane defence before calmly slotting the ball to Kelly’s left and into the back of the net. Kilcock’s old Achilles heel of missing handy point chances came back to haunt them though in this period of dominance, with all six forwards guilty of missing the target. At the other end Melissa Lyons was keeping the scoreboard ticking over for Clane as she added two points, one from play and the other the games only pointed free. It is worth mentioning that all of Kilcock’s scores came from from play and all bar one of Clane’s did likewise in what was a good, open game of football. Kilcock’s top scorer in the league Grace White was now beginning to play her way into this game, finding space and giving the Clane defence a tough time of it and it was she who got her teams last two scores of the half. The first was a bit special in my eyes because as we all know White is naturally right footed and Clane knew this but such is the talent of this girl, she fooled them all by pointing with her supposedly weaker left foot from an acute angle when her marker seemed to be pushing her down a dead end. Take a bow!! Then came the goal of the game which was started back in Kilcock’s half back line. Orla Cagney, who worked so hard all day, won the ball back, fed her midfield partner Aisling O’Connor who went on a run through the middle before hand passing the ball to White who beat two defenders before side footing the ball home. Kilcock now looked in control but if they thought this Clane side were just going to lie down, they were wrong. Clane in fact got the last two points of the half from Sinead Healy and from substitute no.24 to leave only two points between the sides at half time on a score of Clane 1:06 Kilcock 3:02.
When the sides returned out for the second half, the game was very much still in the melting pot and any favourites tag that Kilcock had was now gone. Clane had made a couple of changes too that seemed to upset their opponents and it was one of those subs that got the half’s opening score, a fine point from play from no.19. Again this only seemed to spur Kilcock into life and when Conlon fed a high ball into the square from forty yards, Emma Robinson reacted quickest of all in there to palm the ball to the back of the net. This put her side four ahead and really they should have pushed on from this but it was Clane who hit the next four points to level the sides. In that time Stone replaced Hayley White with Laura Ward and credit must go to captain Shona Cagney and to Emma Hoare for their efforts in limiting the damage. Also in the full back line Fiona Campion and Linda Byrne did their best to ensure it was only points and not goals that Clane got and as per usual goalie Eimear Kelly pulled off some top drawer saves to keep her side in it. Melissa Lyons got three of them four points as she was a constant thorn in Kilcock’s sides while Sinead Healy got her third of the day in between. Stone and his team will be unhappy that Robinson’s goal was all they had to show for the first twenty minutes of the second half but they were still in it and now the game now hung on a knife edge as it entered its last ten minutes.
As the old saying goes cream always rises to the top and that is in no way been disrespectfull to Clane but Kilcock would have been the more disappointed to come away from this game with a draw or a loss and it was with that in mind that they finally put on the after burners to kick the games last five points, while at the same time keeping Clane scoreless. Emma Robinson who lay dormant during Clane’s period of dominance, erupted with two fine points from play as she began to come into her own. Grace White tagged on another before Emma Hoare got the point her hard work deserved as she split the posts from thirty yards. The last score of the day fittingly went to the returning holiday maker Sheena Byrne who had a fine game at centre forward. This left five points between the sides and when the referee ended the game there was a sense of relief amongst the players, mentors and loyal supporters of the Kilcock Ladies who won on a scoreline of 4:07 to 1:11.
Clane for their part are a good side and there is no doubt they are going to trouble teams at this grade in the coming weeks and there is a strong chance theses sides could meet again when more will be at stake. With players of the calibre of Melissa Lyons, Sinead Healy, Leona Flynn and Lisa Redmond there is no doubting they will be there come the business end of the championship. For the winners, Eimear Kelly maintained her status as one of the best in the county between the sticks, even pulling off a save with her head!! In defence Linda Byrne and Shona Cagney were to the fore while Grace White, Sheena Byrne and Emma Robinson were a constant threat going forward. Once again Emma Hoare played her new role in the forwards with aplomb. Speaking to manager Shane Stone after the game, he was glad to come away with the win and put the rustiness down to a lack of games since the league final. He added that all the training in the world is no substitute for game time but was quick to heap praise on Clane whom he said have improved 100% since the sides met in the league. He also knows that tougher tasks lay ahead as he now prepares his side for battle against Carbury on Saturday evening. On what was a great week for Ladies sport, with Katie Taylor bringing home the Olympic gold and in doing so surely spurring on all girls out on the pitch to strive and improve their own game, if this was a boxing fight Clane would have shaded the first round, Kilcock convincing winners of the second, Clane the third and Kilcock convincing winners of the last, leaving the judges scoring the bout 19-14 and the referee raising the hand of the green girl. Stone knows though that they were on the ropes far too much for his liking and must play more technical and with a bit more fight!!
Full Time Score: Clane 1:11 Kilcock 4:07
Emma Robinson 1:03
Grace White 1:02
Sheena Byrne 1:01
Noelle Conlon 1:00
Emma Hoare 0:01
Melissa Lyons 0:06 (1f)
Sinead Healy 0:03
Lisa Redmond 1:00
6:Shona Cagney (c)
Laura Ward for Hayley White
Laura O’Neill for Louise Keane
4:Anna Clare Fagan
Wides: Kilcock (15) Clane (7)
Frees Conceded: Kilcock (17) Clane (15)
Player Of The Game: Linda Byrne (Kilcock)