First off before I write anything about last Saturday’s Junior A Championship final between Kilcock and Naas I must say hard luck to a great bunch of girls from Kilcock who I have worked with over the past few months in training and at all their games in the build up to this showpiece in Leixlip. For me they are not only a team that I turn up and train twice a week or help get through games at the weekend, they are much more than that and to see them lose in the manner they did against a strong Naas side was a heart breaking experience to endure. I do not only train these girls. I am their selector, their PRO who has reported on every game they contested this year and most importantly their friend. To be involved with a side with such strong character, a side that has only tasted defeat three times this year is an honour for me. I would like to thank their manager Shane Stone who asked me to become involved last year and again halfway through this year, fellow selector Seamus Kane for all his help through the year and Nicky O’Connor. Nicky especially you. You have been my unofficial number 2. Any training that I took I was guaranteed to have you there for support and I could not have done it without you. I also know that the girls really appreciate the efforts of the three men mentioned above. There is always one special lady that a captain mentions at the end of a victory speech and while Shona Cagney did not get to do this on Saturday if she had I am sure that certain special lady Breda Byrne would have got a big thank you from all the girls. On behalf of the whole squad and mangement team, I would like to thank Breda for all the work she does behind the scenes. Every club needs a Breda Byrne so thank you Breda for washing the jerseys, cleaning the water bottles, bringing the oranges and jaffa cakes for half time and producing two players for the team to use in Linda and Sheena Byrne!! I have written many a report at this stage for the Kilcock Ladies and I will be honest I am finding it hard to face up to doing this one. I reported when we were beaten in last years league final v Ballykelly, I reported on the last two final victories against Kilcullen and Suncroft and I even reported in your 2003 league final win against Moorefield. I will continue to report for you as long as I am able and I am very confident that this time next year I will be sitting here reporting on Kilcock Ladies Junior A Championship success. For now I better do something on last Saturday’s game. Remember this is a young panel who have already made a remarkable rise through the ranks and with the underage structure that is currently in place the future is bright. Now back to the bright lights of Leixlip’s Glen Easton pitch last Saturday night where the age old adage of ‘goals win games’ raised its head to Naas’ advantage.
Kildare Ladies Junior A Championship: Final
By Robert Cox @ Glen Easton Leixlip
A goal each from Shanon Doheny and Caroline Hill set Naas on their way to victory over an unlucky and more determined Kilcock side in the Kildare Ladies Junior A Championship final @ Leixlip’s Glen Easton Park last Saturday night, the 22nd of September. Kilcock who came into the game as underdogs having only last year won the Junior B championship, had to plan without the influential figure of Noelle Conlon who picked up a serious knee injury in the semi final victory over Carbury only seven days previously, while county minor Caoimhe Fagan was also misssing although her absensce has been known for a long time now. It didn’t soften the blow. Laura O’Neill was given a rare championship start at corner forward with Louise Keane the unlucky palyer to miss out while Paige Byrne replaced the injured Conlon. Naas for their part came to Leixlip with a much stronger panel than the one that travelled to Kilcock only two weeks previously (a night they could only field fourteen players) in the final group game, a game in which Kilcock enjoyed a four point win but one must question Naas’ mind games in undermining the current structure of the championship. It is safe to say that returning players Aoife Trant and Caroline Hill would add to any team in the county but such is life I guess!! That could be their cuteness and experience at this level kicking in and it worked. The scheduling of the game for 7:30pm under lights was also to the liking of the girls in blue and white having played most of their group games in the same conditions where as the same cannot be said for Kilcock.
Right from the off it was clear for the large crowd in attendance to see that they would be in for a treat of fast flowing football and intense tackling from both sides. However in the midst of the intense start it was Naas who settled the quicker and opened their account with a bang when wing forward Doheny gathered the ball out the field, played a one two with Sarah Callinan, used her pace to beat a pourous and unsettled Kilcock defence and blasted the ball to the corner of Eimear Kelly’s net. It was the worst possible start for Shane Stones side but there is a new found steel to this team and while in the past they might have buckled under this body blow, nowadays they steadily play their way back into games if such a disaster strikes. Sheena Byrne lead by example when she raised the white flag a few minutes later with a fine point on the run before young Andrea McGrath, playing in her first ever adult final, added a second soon after from an acute angle. Naas full forward Sarah Callinan struck one over from a placed ball for Naas on ten minutes before Kilcock’s very own dead ball specialist Grace White put two frees over the bar to level matters on fifteen minutes. Kilcock were well on top at this stage and were beginning to play some good football upfront safe in the knowledge that Paige Byrne, Fiona Campion and Orla Cagney were providing ample cover for Eimear Kelly at the back. In fact Kilcock actually took the the lead in this period with their third point in a row when the impressive Emma Robinson got her first point of the final after she got on the end of a long ball in from Emma Hoare and shot from a difficult angle for a right footer to split the posts. Kilcock were getting joy when they sent the quick long ball into full forward Robinon and it was only when they slowed it down and began to handpass it that they ran into trouble. And trouble was never too far away when Naas have players with the speed of Doheny and Caroline Hill and can hit you on the break so when Kilcock gave away free in their own half and let Naas take the quick one into the unmarked Hill there was only going to be one outcome. Goal. Hill gave Eimear Kelly no chance with a bullet of a shot to the roof of the net. Callinan tagged on another free and Hill a point from play to leave Naas four points ahead and the girls from North Kildare again chasing the game. The character that Stone and his selectors have instilled in this team was once again evident in the lead up to half time as they struck three more unanswered points, one from Robinson and two frees from White to leave the minimum between them. It is fair to say the girls in green and gold got a bit of a raw deal from the referee on a night when many decisions went against them, with the most blatant of these depriving Kilcock of a penalty chance that would have sent them into the break in command. Corner forward Laura O’Neill was staring the Naas keeper in the eye, ready to pull the trigger from all of 8yards out when she was clearly barged in the back and bundled to the ground by two Naas players. NO PENALTY!! While at the other end Naas were awarded a very kickable frees but I don’t want to dwell on that. The ever dangerous Doheny wrapped up proceedings in the opening period with a point after beating what seemed like the whole Kilcock team with one of her trademark mazy runs. It would be unfair not to mention the heroics of goalie Eimear Kelly just before half time in keeping out two definite Naas goals with two of the saves of the season and Kilcock can thank her they were only two points down at the break. What made them all the more special was that they were two saves that so close together but so far apart in similarity.For the first one Kelly stood firm as a shot was blasted at her from an incoming Naas forward and whereas many a keeper would do well to get a hand to it giving its power, Kelly caught it clean and for that split second looked invincible. In fact she is not far off it!! The second save was even better, Naas had Doheny clean through on goal at speed and set to round Kelly soccer style only for the ‘Meath’ keeper to dive at her feet (a dive that was timed to perfection) and win the ball. Any missed time tackle and Kelly was off, Naas would have had a penalty and the game would have been over. Alas Kelly kept her side in the game and the crowd looked on in disbelief with old men reduced to tears and muttering comments, ”she’s some goalie that one, a young Kelly one I think from out over the bridge”!! As final go it was a most entertaining opening thirty minutes and as both teams left the pitch the game hung in the balance.
Half Time Score: Kilcock 0:08 Naas 2:04
With neither side making any changes at half time, play resumed as it had left off in the first half with Kilcock on top and enjoying most of the possession but Naas were playing a Donegal style game and as they packed their defence they left their speed merchants upfront waiting for the break. The pattern was set and Naas seemed happy to take their chances in trying to drown out any Kilcock attack. Captain Shona Cagney and Aisling O’Connor were both starting to get on top around the middle of the park for Kilcock while Emma Hoare, who was named at corner forward, was putting in a hard shift out the field as she continued in her roaming role, a role that has served Kilcock well all Championship. Kilcock were rewarded for their dominance when Andrea McGrath got on the end of a good move down the right wing involving the two Cagney sisters and Fiona Campion and slid the ball low and under the hapless Naas goalie Aoife Hederman and into the back of the net for her sides’ opening goal of the game and her first ever goal in Championship football. This should have given Kilcock the impetus to push on and win the game and to be honest I have no doubt they would have done so on any other given day. It wasn’t going to be their night and to be fair they will be the first to admit they made too many mistakes on the ball to and in giving away possession to beat a team of Naas’ class. Naas punished one of these mistakes a few minutes later when Claire Cummins got her name on the score sheet with a point to level matters before Grace White continued where she had left off in the first half with another pointed free. At this stage it was nip and tuck and both sides tried their best not to win the game as the mistakes mounted but it was a tense quarter on a big night so all involved can be forgiven. With Kilcock mainly on top, they suffered a hammer blow when Naas hit them on the break, again at a ferocious speed to allow Hill to beat Kelly and get her second goal of the night and put her side two points up with ten minutes remaining. Kiccock were not about to throw in the towel just yet and spurred on by the hard working Sheena Byrne, they levelled the game once again with two points in a row. The first from the aforementioned who shot over after a determined run through the Naas rearguard and the leveller from a White free. That free from White made it six from six for the number 12 from placed balls, a great personal tally in the pressure cooker of a county final. Once again Kilcock can feel aggrieved not to have won a penalty after O’Neill was again brought down in the square. If it was soccer it would be either a penalty or a dive with the dive resulting in a booking, I wish the refs would stand up and make a decision either way. In my opinion and I am not been biased, they were both penalties but I cannot change it now. It just leaves a sour taste in the mouth. As the game entered its closing stages, the similar pattern of Kilcock on the attack was the case and unfortunately once again they lost the ball high up the field and were this time hit with the fatal blow. The winning point from none other than Shannon Doheny who broke down the field and pointed from a tight angle. To their credit Kilcock once again battled back and were eventually helped by the referee for the addition of at least three minutes and some frees albeit from tight angles but this time they could not find the equaliser when the last chance went a begging, the ref blew the final whistle to the delight of the small Naas crowd and the despair of the Kilcock players, management and large support on show.
In fairness to Naas they were due a win at this grade having lost three finals in the last four years and their overall greater experience stood them in good stead on the night. The winners who now go onto The Leinster Championship were best served by Briona Hoban and Aoife Trant at the back, Caroline Hill at midfield and Shannon Doheny and Sarah Callinan in attack. They now face Longford champions Mostrim next Sunday and best of luck to them in that. It will take a good side to stop them.
For Kilcock Eimear Kelly was outstanding between the sticks and no blame whatsoever will be pointed at her for the three goals. As I said earlier the game would have been over as a contest had Kelly not pulled off them world class saves. At the back Kicock were best served by Fiona Campion, Orla Cagney and Paige Byrne with Byrne going onto win my player of the game for her intense tackling throughout, her will to win the ball ahead of her player and her distribution which has come on in leaps and bounds over the year. While at fullback Linda Byrne battled hard all night against the dangerous Sarah Callinan and reducded her to only two points from frees. Shona Cagney lead by example at midfield while upfront Grace White kept the scoreboard ticking over albeit all from frees but she was unlucky not to finad the net in the second half when she beat the Naas defence before seeing her shot brilliantly saved by Aoife Hedereman. Andrea McGrath played well beyond her young years and never let the occasion of a county final get to her while also chipping in with a goal but Sheena Byrne and Emma Robinson looked the most menacing of the six over the course of the game. At an average age of 21 this is a young Kilcock side who have been flying up through the ranks recently and their is no doubting if they can stay together that they will be back moving up that ladder in 2013. It could be worse they could be from Mayo!!!
Full Time Score: Kilcock 1:11 Naas 3:06
Grace White 0:06 (6f)
Andrea McGrath 1:01
Emma Robinson 0:02
Sheena Byrne 0:02
Caroline Hill 2:01
Shannon Doheny 1:02
Sarah Callinan 0:02 (2f)
Claire Cummiins 0:01
8:Shona Cagney (c)
Kilcock’s Unused Subs:
Noelle Conlon (inj)
Caoimhe Fagan (inj)
7:Hilary Piggott (c)
Wides: Kilcock (5) Naas (5)
Frees Conceded: Kilcock (22) Naas (18)
Player Of The Game: Paige Byrne (Kilcock) Caroline Hill (Naas)