LADIES GAA | Classy Wicklow just have too much for Louth in Division Four final

LIDL National Ladies League Division Four Final
Wicklow 4–17 Louth Ladies 2–8

Wicklow just had too much class for Louth in Monday’s Lidl National Ladies League Division Four Final in Birr, the Garden County running out deserving winners at St Brendan’s Park.

The decisive moment of the afternoon came early in the second-half. Eight points adrift at the break, Kate Flood hauled Louth back into it with a goal just 120 seconds after the restart. Two minutes later, Cooley’s Lauren Boyle went for another major but Wicklow goalkeeper Kim Connors did enough to divert her effort onto the post.

Had it went in, Louth would have been right back in it, but it turned out to be the kickstart that Wicklow needed to go on and close the game out in style with Marie Kealy winning the Player of the Match award with a sublime hat-trick of goals and points.

A very open first-half saw the Wee County draw first blood when captain Flood fired over with less than two minutes played but Wicklow restored parity when Sarah Miley picked out Laura Hogan. She went for goal but Una Pearson made a stunning save to push the ball over for a point as opposed to three.

The open nature of the final continued with Boyle bursting through on the right but after opting to pick the ball up rather than shoot first time, her effort was well stopped by Wicklow net minder Connors.

Flood tapped over a free and Louth continued to pose a real threat going forward with Boyle dropping one short into Connors’ arms. After racking up a number of early wides, though, Wicklow hit the game’s first goal when Laurie Ahern fed Marie Kealy and she sidestepped Pearson to tuck the ball away.

Kealy and Flood both exchanged scores, the St Patrick’s forward scoring a sensational 17th-minute effort from distance, before Jackie Kinch found room centrally to make it 1–3 to 0–3 to the Garden County.

A brilliant score by Paula Murray cut the deficit back to two, the Louth co-captain, like Flood, really leading by example but well-worked efforts by Kinch and Kealy put Wicklow in charge as they continued to exploit the central channel.

Meadhbh Deeney blasted over a free after Rachel Kane was harshly penalised for fouling Clodagh Fox, and the Eire Og Greystones star left the Reds with plenty to do when she collected a Laura Hogan pass to rattle a crisp finish past Pearson on the stroke of half-time to put Wicklow 2–7 to 0–5 ahead.

Micheál McKeown’s side were given the perfect tonic at the start of the second-half when Flood beat Connors from close-range after midfielder Rebecca Carr’s attempt came back off the post and they almost stormed their way back into it when Boyle went for goal minutes later but Connors did brilliantly to tip the ball on to the post.

Louth’s momentum was checked by points from Jackie Kinch and Deeney and Wicklow took real charge when they cut the Reds open again in the 40th minute; Marie Kealy finding herself in oceans of space to beat Pearson.

McKeown turned to his bench in a bid to stem the tide but Louth were left with a mountain to climb when Kealy completed her hat-trick and they continued to add points to pull well clear, 4–13 to 1–5, with 15 minutes to play.

Boyle did beat Connors with a close-range finish to pull a goal back and substitute Catherine McGlew and Susan Byrne added their names to the scoresheet as Louth kept plugging away.

Amy Murphy’s 51st minute point showed Wicklow’s class as Mick O’Rourke’s side put the disappointment of losing last year’s final behind them but Louth did themselves and their county proud and will look back and wonder what could have been.

LOUTH LADIES: Una Pearson; Emma Singleton, Rachel Kane, Shannen McLaughlin; Ceire Nolan, Deirbhile Osborne, Bronagh McGrane; Sinead Woods, Rebecca Carr; Paula Murray (0–1), Susan Byrne (0–1), Aoife Russell; Lauren Boyle (1–2, 1f), Kate Flood (1–3, 1f), Michelle McArdle. Subs: Michelle McMahon for A Russell, 25 mins; Aine Breen for S Woods, 36 mins; Eilis Hand for E Singleton, 40 mins; Catherine McGlew (0–1) for M McArdle, 40 mins; Sarah Englishby for D Osborne, 48 mins.

WICKLOW: Kim Connors; Emily Mulhall, Sarah Jane Winder, Lorna Fusciardi (0–1); Alanna Conroy, Sarah Hogan, Laurie Ahern; Niamh McGettigan, Sarah Miley; Meadhbh Deeney (1–3, 1f), Jackie Kinch (0–5), Amy Murphy (0–2); Laura Hogan (0–1), Marie Kealy (3–3), Clodagh Fox (0–1). Subs: Naoise Baker (0–1). Subs: A Gorman for Fox, 47 mins; A Gillen for Fusciardi, S O’Connor for Deeney, N Baker for Miley, 58 mins; R Fagan for Mulhall, 60 mins.

REFEREE: Gerry Carmody (Mayo).

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