LADIES GAA | Bannon and McGuinness in fine form as Stabannon beat Cooley to put one foot in the semi-finals

Halpenny Travel Senior Championship Group One
Stabannon Ladies 6–19 Cooley Kickhams 3–4

Stabannon’s Kate Smyth pictured with manager John Garvey. PICTURE: WARREN MATTHEWS

After seeing their round two victory over Newtown Blues scratched from the records, county champions Stabannon headed to Cooley on Sunday knowing that they needed a win to stay in the hunt for progression to the semi-finals.

They got it, and in emphatic style too, with Jenny McGuinness continuing her return from a long-term injury layoff by hitting 1–5 while newcomer Brenda Bannon scored 2–3.

The result leaves Stabannon on six points from their two games played, level on points with Cooley Kickhams at the top of Group One. If they can avoid defeat against the Blues in their rescheduled game — a date will be announced this week — they will advance to the semis as group winners. If the Blues win, three teams will be locked on six points and the calculators will be out!

The home side started well, winning the ball in the middle of the field and Evelyn Rice made no mistake in putting the ball over the bar to put them ahead.

Jenny McGuinness was unlucky to see her first attempt of the day go wide but Stabannon found their rhythm over the next ten minutes and a converted free from McGuinness got them on the scoreboard.

This was followed by a brilliant goal from Rachel McNally before McGuinness added another goal and point for John Garvey’s mid-Louth side.

Danielle Sharkey, Brenda Bannon and Rachel McNally added further points before Cooley replied with a goal of their own. Keri Ferguson fed the ball to Lauren Boyle and she got the better of Kim Lynch in the Stabannon nets, 2–5 to 1–1.

From that point on, the county champions began to dominate and they added a further three points before the break with Ruth McNally, Anne Marie Lynch and Jenny McGuinness adding to the tally.

Cooley were unlucky not to hit the back of the net again before half time, the quick thinking of Stabannon full back Andrea Carney denying the peninsula side a further goal, leaving the visitors in command with a 2–8 to 1–1 lead.

Stabannon newcomer, Brenda Bannon, caused a host of problems for Cooley, giving an exhibition in running with and without the ball. Her pace, intelligence and sheer determination was a feature when she was on the ball and once she got into a scoring position, she wasn’t going to miss.

Early in the second half, Bannon was on hand to set up Grace Lynch who won the ball from the Cooley kick out. Lynch combined with Ruth McNally, who found Bannon, and her pass back to Lynch ended with the Stabannon forward beating the Cooley netminder with a composed finish.

Jenny McGuinness added another point for Stabannon before Lauren Boyle responded with a point for Cooley. The peninsula side just couldn’t hold Stabannon in, however, and Bannon extended the lead, 4–10 to 1–2, after good approach play by Rachel McNally, Aine McGee and McGuinness.

Anne Marie Lynch had to settle for a point after her goal bound effort was tipped over — a brilliant save from the Cooley goalkeeper — before Bannon added 1–1 to her tally and Rachel McNally added another goal to make it 6–12 to 1–2.

Cooley added another point but Stabannon captain Michelle McArdle was on hand to keep the scoreboard ticking over for her side as she broke from the back to put over a great score.

To their credit, Cooley refused to throw in the towel and they responded with a goal from Evelyn Rice but Stabannon showed their class with Danielle Sharkey and Grace Lynch adding a brace apiece.

Kerri Ferguson hit Cooley’s third goal and Lauren Boyle was on hand again to put the ball over the bar for the home side in the dying stages but it was Stabannon who ran out resounding winners, 6–19 to 3–4.

There were impressive performances all round the pitch from Stabannon and this win will serve them well in their bid to retain the championship.

Bannon, who recently joined from Fermanagh, marked her first start for the county champions and was dominant in the half forward line while McGuinness, making her first start after a bad injury, looks to be back at full strength.

As the forwards converted the scores, the backline was also in full control with Andrea Carney keeping close tabs on Evelyn Rice and Carol Cluskey keeping Lauren Boyle in check for most of the 60 minutes.

STABANNON: Kim Lynch, Andrea Carney, Carol Cluskey, Michelle McArdle (0–1), Ruth McNally (0–2), Siobhan Giggins, Kate Smyth, Anne Marie Lynch (0–2), Aine McGee, Jenny McGuinness (1–5), Danielle Sharkey, Brenda Bannon (2–3), Danielle Sharkey (0–3), Rachel McNally (2–1), Grace Lynch (1–2). Subs: Ciara McNally for J McGuinness; Amy Malone for R McNally; Hannah Carolan for B Bannon; Megan Halpenny for K Smyth.

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