Kildare Ladies Junior A Championship: Round 4
By Robert Cox @Kilcock GAA
A goal on either side of half time from wing forward Noelle Conlon sent Kilcock Ladies well on their way to defeating their Naas counterparts in this top of the table clash @Kilcock on Saturday night last, the 8th of September. Even though both sides were guaranteed qualification to the semi finals before this game, it was still eagerly anticipated and the large crowd in attendance were not let down by either team as they fought tooth and nail for the sixty minutes to try and secure top spot in the table while also trying to hold onto their unbeaten records in the Junior A championship to date. With that on the line, something had to give on the night. Naas travelled with only fourteen players which wasn’t ideal as Kilcock had their plans in place, leaving manager Shane Stone and his selectors with the job of re-organising their side. Hayley White was the unlucky girl to miss out as both sides agreed on the line up that would see a two person full back/forward line. For Kilcock Emma Maguire returned to the starting line up having missed a couple of games, while young Andrea McGrath made her full championship debut at wing forward as a late call up to replace the injured Grace White. Orla Cagney was another notable absentee as was the injured Laura O’Neill.
When the game finally got under way, (20mins behind schedule) the home side were the faster out of the blocks and they got the perfect start after only two minutes when midfielder Aisling O’Connor received a pin-point pass from Noelle Conlon and found herself in acres of space down the right hand side of the pitch and though her effort looked like it was for a point, it dropped short and looped in over the head of Naas goalie Aoife Hederman and into the back of the net. In Hederman’s defence, her side had lost the toss at the start of the game, forcing her to face into the glaring sun for the opening thirty minutes and it is fair to say that she most likely lost the flight path of the ball as soon as it left O’Connors’s foot. That’s the way the cookie crumbles though and Kilcock took full advantage of it. The visitors were finding it hard to settle at this stage but they were aided in that department when Chelsea Crowe pointed from play on four minutes and dead ball specialist Sarah Callinan sent over the first of her three frees on the night on six minutes. This Kilcock side have added a steely determination to their play this year and weren’t about to let Naas back into the game too easily while also trying to protect their long unbeaten record. Unanswered points from Noelle Conlon (1) and a first ever championship point for Andrea McGrath backed up the above statement as Kilcock restored their three point lead after ten minutes. The ever dangerous Shannon Doheny evaded the clutches of the tight marking Emma Maguire to point for Naas and reduce the lead but Kilcock’s full forward Emma Robinson cancelled that out with a point a minute later. Robinson received a long ball into the corner, turned her player and sensibly fisted the ball over the bar. This has become a trademark of Robinson’s of late and she wouldn’t have too many for company in a skill that in my opinion is not used enough at this level. The Naas girls enjoyed a period of dominance in the middle of the field over the next ten minutes as Rachel Corrigan and Roisin Mellett worked hard to enable wing back Briona Hoban and Chelsea Crowe to score two well taken points to leave a point between them after twenty minutes. Naas were then harshly reduced a player when Aine Cummins was yellow carded for a tug of the jersey when a warning would have been more common sense on the referee’s part. This allowed Kilcock to let Shanon Byrne play the free role as a sweeper on the half back line and it was within this time that the hosts struck for their second goal of the night, as Conlon got on the end of a good team move to finish the ball to the back of the net. Conlon was rewarded for not giving up and her determination in getting to a ball that never looked hers. Centre forward Sheena Byrne followed this up with a well taken point to leave five points between the teams but she will be a little bit disappointed she didn’t raise the green flag in this period as she missed two goal chances, with one striking the post. Credit must go to her for getting into these good positions in the first place and to her team-mates for looking the player in the better position. To their credit the Naas girls responded with a good move of their own which resulted in a free which was punished by Sarah Callinan to leave it 2:4 to 0:6 at half time. Kilcock defended stoutly in that opening half with Linda Byrne restricting Callinan to two pointed frees while Emma Maguire and Shanon Byrne were also to the fore. One negative for Stone’s charges was the loss through injury to wing back Paige Byrne after fifteen minutes.
Whatever was said in the Naas half time huddle certainly seemed to work as they began the second half at a blistering pace that had Kilcock rocked back and under immense pressure, firstly a shot from Sarah Callinan came off the bar then another shot from Shannon Doheny rebounded off the post but Orlaith White was on hand to tap the ball to the net for the latter. Shannon Doheny was beginning to exert her presence on the pitch as she added a point to level matters. As both teams went for the win the game opened up a bit and though there was plenty of good play, they were both guilty of some silly mistakes in giving away posesssion. Noelle Conlon wasn’t getting as much change from Briona Hoban in the second half and it was the Naas girl who disposed Conlon to allow Rachel Corrigan gather the ball on her own end line before dispatching a good hand pass to Niamh Hederman who in turn released a long ball into Orlaith White who turned her player with a quick one two with Sarah Callinan to put Naas in front. It was a well worked team score and the score of the game. Kilcock then introduced Grace White for the last twenty minutes and she had an immediate impact when she won a ball played into her, layed it off to the on rushing Conlon and though she failed with her first attempt at goal she never gave up and pounced on a mix up in the Naas defence to palm the ball to the back of the net. This was a vital score for the hosts as a Sheena Byrne point was all they had to show for the previous twenty minutes and this is something that will worry Stone as he prepares for the semi final. With five minutes remaining Naas came down the field and a quick pass from Chelsea Crowe to Orlaith White split open the Kilcock defence but she was fouled allowing Sarah Callinan to add the point from a free. Naas finished the stronger of the two as they went in search of more scores and had they taken their points instead of trying to walk the ball into the net they may have come away with a draw but alas they didn’t and goalie Eimear Kelly and her defence stood firm to see out the attacks. In fact Kilcock were to have the last say on the night when they hit Naas on the break resulting in Emma Hoare adding a point after a quick free. Kilcock held on for a famous victory against the championship favourites win thus securing their top place finish and their unbeaten record.
Best for the winners were Linda Byrne, Fiona Campion and Emma Mguire in defence with Shona Cagney and Aisling O’Connor emptying their tanks in midfield in getting up and down the field with the latter chipping in with the early goal. Up front debutant Andrea McGrath can be very happy with her display as can Sheena Byrne but Noelle Conlon stole the show on the day with her two goals and a point but not only that, she created chances for others around her and played two delightful cross field passes in the first half. For Naas Briona Hoban served them well in defence as did Roisin Mellet in the middle of the park. In attack they showed patches of brilliance throughout and in Doheny, Crowe, White and Callinan they can be a force to be reckoned with. Naas will go on to do battle with Clane in their semi final while Stone and Kilcock will want to improve even more in preparation for their semi final with neighbours and old foes Carbury on Saturday next
Full Time Score: Kilcock 3:05 Naas 1:09
Noelle Conlon 2:01
Aisling O’Connor 1:00
Emma Robinson 0:01
Sheena Byrne 0:01
Emma Hoare 0:01
Andrea McGrath 0:01
Orlaith White 1:01
Sarah Callinan 0:03 (3f)
Chelsea Crowe 0:02
Shannon Doheny 0:02
Briona Hoban 0:01
4:Hayley White (did not start as Naas only had 14 so game was 14 a side)
8:Shona Cagney (c)
Laura Ward for Paige Byrne (inj)
Grace White for Louise Keane
Wides: Kilcock (5) Naas (3)
Frees Conceded: Kilcock (26) Naas (10)
Sin Bins: (1) Naas Aine Cummins
Player Of The Game: Emma Maguire (Kilcock) Returned to the starting fifteen after missing the Carbury game and coming on a substitute against Kilcullen, Maguire was sent out to mark the dangerous Shannon Doheny and she didn’t disappoint as she won the personal duel between two girls still at minor level. Maguire restricted Doheny to just two points and never left her side throughout, while also making good use of the ball when coming out of defence.