LADIES GAA | League title going back to Stabannon as county champions see off the Geraldines

Ladies League Division One Final | Stabannon 4–13 Geraldines 2–6

Louth Ladies County Board chairman Dermot Woods presents the Division One League trophy to Stabannon joint captains Michelle McArdle (left) and Orlagh Byrne (right).
Left: The Stabannon Ladies team. Right: Geraldines Ladies. PICTURES: WARREN MATTHEWS

After residing in Drogheda for the past 12 months, the Louth Ladies Division One League trophy is heading back to more familiar territory after Stabannon’s victory over the Geraldines on Sunday afternoon.

Defeated by Newtown Blues last year, the mid-Louth side started 2017 determined to win back their league crown and they did so in style on a perfect day for football in Tallanstown.

John Garvey’s side laid the groundwork for the win with a strong first half showing which saw them head into the break with a commanding 11-point lead.

Things might have panned out differently if Geraldines’ Sandra Lynch had beaten Stabannon’s Kim Lynch with a clear-cut opening just seconds into the restart but the goalkeeper did well to block the effort.

The concession of two further goals, midway through the half, left the Gers with a mountain to climb and they just couldn’t reel the county champions in with referee Niall Levins’ final whistle securing Stabannon their seventh league title in the last eight years.

Action from the Louth Ladies Division One League final between Stabannon and Geraldines. PICTURES: WARREN MATTHEWS

An entertaining first half got off to an action-packed start with the Haggardstown outfit finding the net after just four minutes. Sandra Lynch played Aine Lynch in behind the Stabannon backline and she made no mistake with her finish.

It was one-way traffic after that as Stabannon penned the Geraldines back for long periods, racking up seven scores without reply.

The pick of those was a well-hit Siobhan Giggins point that was followed up with a bout of quick passing from left to right that ended with Meabh O’Hare firing over. O’Hare then made it 1–7 to 1–0 with a cool finish after another well-orchestrated move.

Brian Cafferty’s Gers badly needed a score and they got it from the boot of Emma Gartlan. That gave the girls in green a boost and Fionnuala Cafferty was unlucky to see an effort bounce off the top of the crossbar minutes later.

Stabannon instantly cashed in on their moment of fortune as the excellent Grace Rogers powered her way through the Gers defence to beat Alannah Finn in style and further points from Amy Malone and Danielle Sharkey extended the lead, 2–9 to 1–1.

Sandra Lynch replied for the Gers, who had to make do without their experienced trio of Abbi O’Connor, Rebecca Carr and Ciara O’Connor, but although enjoyed a good spell of pressure after that, they just couldn’t convert their chances into scores.

Cafferty pulled a shot just wide of the upright while Gartlan saw an effort drop just short and it was Stabannon who had the final say of the half with Sharkey’s free leaving it 2–10 to 1–2 at the short whistle.

Action from the Louth Ladies Division One League final between Stabannon and Geraldines. PICTURES: WARREN MATTHEWS

The second-half was in its infancy when Sandra Lynch latched onto a Gartlan pass and tore towards the Stabannon goal but she couldn’t beat the advancing Kim Lynch.

The Gers did raise a green flag nine minutes later when Emma Gartlan’s ball was diverted into the net by Lynch, who put the Stabannon goalkeeper under heavy pressure. After consultation with his umpire, referee Levins confirmed it was a goal.

Gartlan’s second point of the day was matched by a Lafferty free to leave seven between the sides with plenty of time left on the clock but the experience and know-how of Stabannon shone through as they stemmed the tide before hitting two killer blows.

Rachel McNally and Grace Rogers combined to set up O’Hare for Stabannon’s third goal and they put the result beyond doubt less than two minutes later as McNally profited from excellent approach play by Orlagh Byrne to hit the back of the net and make it 4–11 to 2–4.

To their credit, the Geraldines never threw in the towel but Lady Luck turned her back on Roisin Soraghan who watched a looping attempt crash off the woodwork.

Action from the Louth Ladies Division One League final between Stabannon and Geraldines. PICTURES: WARREN MATTHEWS

A raft of substitutions saw the game drift to a quiet ending but Stabannon tagged on scores through substitute Bronagh McGrane and Rachel McNally.

Sandra Lynch hit the Geraldines’ final point of the day before Alannah Finn denied Grace Rogers another goal by making a fine penalty stop with the last kick of the ball.

After winning the Nicola Barry Memorial Tournament on their home ground three weeks ago, Stabannon now have another piece of silverware in the cabinet and on this performance, you certainly wouldn’t bet against them adding the Senior Championship in the months ahead.

STABANNON LADIES: Kim Lynch; Michelle McArdle, Andrea Carney, Kate Smyth; Siobhan Giggins (0–1), Ann Marie Lynch (0–1), Orlagh Byrne; Grace Lynch, Aine McBride; Carol Cluskey, Rachel McNally (1–1), Amy Malone (0–1); Danielle Sharkey (0–5, 2f), Grace Rogers (1–2), Meabh O’Hare (2–1). Subs: Ruth McNally for A Malone, 38 mins; Bronagh McGrane (0–1) for K Smyth, 45 mins; Jenny McGuinness for M O’Hare, 46 mins; Ciara McNally for D Sharkey, 57 mins.

GERALDINES: Alannah Finn; Sharon O’Connor, Ciara Power, Eilis Hand; Sinead O’Keefe, Jade Reddy, Gemma McCrave; Megan Scully, Helen Ryan; Meadbh O’Hagan, Sandra Lynch (1–2, 1f), Emma Gartlan (0–2); Fionnula Cafferty (0–2, 2f), Roisin Soraghan, Aine Lynch (1–0). Lorna Moriarty for M O’Hagan, 46 mins; Amy O’Donoghue for C Power, 47 mins;

REFEREE: Fintan Levins.

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