GAA | Stabannon Ladies go top but they are pushed all the way by the Brides

Louth Ladies League Division One | Stabannon 6–9 St Brides 3–7

Stabannon’s Aine McBride breaks away from St Brides’ Niamh Belton. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

Gavin McLaughlin reports from Stabannon

Stabannon Ladies moved to the top of the Louth Ladies Division One League table on Wednesday night with a win against St Brides Ladies that wasn’t as clear cut as it may seem.

With seven minutes to play, the Knockbridge outfit were in front, 3–5 to 2–6, after an impressive spell in front of the posts.

However, the Louth senior champions dug deep and when a point from Grace Lynch was followed up by a goal from Michelle McArdle, John Garvey’s side pulled clear with a late flurry of scores to secure a hard fought win.

The victory moves Stabannon ahead of Geraldines at the summit. The mid-Louth side have 15 points from their six games and will secure the title if they can win their home game against Newtown Blues on Sunday morning.

The game started with goals at either end; Stabannon’s Maebh O’Hare diverting a high ball past Sarah Kieran with just seconds played but Emma McArdle followed that up with a looping shot to the back of the Stabannon net minutes later.

Stabannon’s Michelle McArdle gets away from St Brides’ Aine McNally. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

The hosts started to take control and Grace Lynch fired over before O’Hare broke away from two Brides defenders only to see her fisted effort drift agonisingly across the face of goal.

Bronagh McGrane tapped over a free after more good work from O’Hare before Anne-Marie Lynch showed great determination to break through a couple of challenges and make it 1–3 to 1–1 in Stabannon’s favour.

The visitors carried a threat whenever they went forward and Bronagh McArdle cut inside to fire over a very tidy score with the outside of her right foot in the 18th minute.

Stabannon hit back when O’Hare’s ball found Ruth McNally whose touch beat Kieran to end up in the net but frustration began to set in after that as they continued to cough up possession or take the wrong option in the final third.

St Brides’ Phyllis Coyne gets this ball away from Stabannon’s Ruth McNally. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

Tara McEnteggart split the posts with a free for the Brides before the half was rounded off when Michelle McArdle picked out Anne-Marie Lynch and she made no mistake to leave Stabannon in front, 2–4 to 1–2 at the break.

The lively Aimee McNally got the second period underway by guiding a point inside the Stabannon post and the hosts began to rack up the wides, hitting five in the opening six minutes of the half alone.

Danielle Sharkey found her range with a good score to extend the lead but Mickey Heeney’s side responded well with Bronagh McArdle causing havoc in the Stabannon backline.

The Brides number 10 scored a fine point in the 40th minute before seeing another attempt just go wide of the upright after a brilliant shot on the turn.

Rebecca Hilliard of St Brides gets away from Stabannon’s Grace Lynch. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

McArdle did cut the lead to just one point in the 44th minute when she turned on the accelerator to leave a host of yellow shirts in her slipstream before firing past Kim Lynch.

Emma McArdle’s free levelled the scores and the Knockbridge side went in front for the first time in the game when Olive McKenna’s effort beat the unsighted Lynch, 3–5 to 2–5.

A number of stoppages disrupted Stabannon’s attempts to get any rhythm into their play but Grace Lynch’s point steadied the ship before Michelle McArdle’s goal swung the pendulum back in their favour.

A bout of quick hand passes ended with Rachel McNally firing over the bar and the Stabannon forward followed that up by squeezing an effort inside the near post for the home side’s fourth goal of the game.

Stabannon’s Maebh O’Hare in action against St Brides. PICTURE: CIARAN CULLIGAN

To their credit, the Brides refused to buckle and Bronagh McArdle grabbed another two points, the first of those a sensational effort, either side of a Danielle Sharkey score, 4–8 to 3–7.

And it was Sharkey who put the game to bed with two late goals and a point to give Stabannon a vital win in their chase for the title.

ST BRIDES LADIES: Sarah Kieran; Niamh Sweeney, Phyllis Coyne, Rebecca Hilliard; Caoimhe Hoey, Sarah Fagan, Ruth Hanna; Tara McEnteggart (0–1, 1f); Kate Wynne; Bronagh McArdle (1–4, 1f), Niamh Belton, Emma McArdle (1–1, 1f); Karen Gogarty, Olive McKenna (1–0), Aimee McNally (0–1). Subs: Nell Meegan, Emma Fagan, Lucia Reina.

STABANNON LADIES: Kim Lynch; Andrea Carney, Laura McNally, Kate Smyth; Michelle McArdle (1–0), Aine McBride, Siobhan Giggins; Grace Lynch (0–2), Anne-Marie Lynch (0–2); Carol Cumiskey, Maebh O’Hare (1–0), Amy Malone; Rachel McNally (2–1), Bronagh McGrane (0–1, 1f), Danielle Sharkey (2–3). Subs: Ruth McNally, Lisa Barry, Megan Halpenny.

REFEREE: John Murphy.

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