By Dermot Woods in Ruislip
Louth Ladies manager Darren Bishop is gearing his players up for ‘one of the biggest days’ in their career after they secured a place in the All Ireland Ladies Junior Championship semi-final with a hard fought win over London in Ruislip on Sunday.
After winning their group, the Wee County will meet Derry in the last four on the weekend of August 26th and Bishop said that the sole focus now was on beating last year’s beaten semi-finalists and booking a place in September’s final at Croke Park.
“We have won three group games out of three and are exactly where we wanted to be, in an All-Ireland semi-final against formidable opposition in Derry,” he said.
“Over the next few weeks we will get the players recovered as they have had a very busy few weeks with club and county and we will be solely focusing on our preparation’s for one of the biggest days of this young team’s year,” he added.
After finding themselves behind to a couple of Avril Kilkelly frees inside the opening 90 seconds, Louth got off the mark through Lauren Boyle in the 10th minute and the game opened up after that.
Ailish Healey and Niamh Rice exchanged points before the game’s first goal arrived in the 17th minute, the result of a well worked London move that saw Lisa Cafferky lob a high ball to the far post and the impressive Kilkelly showed great awareness to fist the ball to the Louth net.
Things went from bad to worse for Louth then they lost star defender Ceira Nolan to a yellow card in the 15th minute and a Kilkelly free extended the London lead to five points.
The Reds rallied, though, and seized the initiative when captain Kate Flood’s high shot beat goalkeeper Rachel Healy on its way into the top corner of the London net. It was a goal that sparked Louth into life and despite being down to 14, they outscored the home side by 1–3 to 0–2 while playing against the strong breeze.
The last action of the half saw London captain Catriona McGahan shoot over to give the home side a slender one point lead at the break, 1–7 to 1–6.
A quick Kilkelly point extended the Exiles’ lead after the restart and it got even better for the hosts when Noelle Cocoman’s brilliant run and pass put Cafferky in the clear and the former Mayo star rounded Una Pearson with ease before finding the net to stretch the lead to 2–8 to 1–6 with less than three minutes played in the second half.
Showing admirable courage, Louth really had to dig deep and they hit back with scores from Flood (0–2), Bonnie Fleming and subs Jenny McGuinness and Rebecca Carr to reduce the deficit to the minimum in the 47th minute.
Flood drew the sides level after a superb run by Aoife Russell and things ebbed and flowed after that with London going back in front on two occasions only to be pegged back on both occasions by points from McGuinness and Flood.
London were unable to add to their tally in the last seven minutes of normal time and the five extra minutes that were added on by referee Stephen McNulty saw Louth power over the line with four late points.
St Patrick’s star Flood, who was superb throughout, and teenage star Lauren Boyle accounted for all of the scores, shared evenly between them. Indeed, there might even have been another goal but Sinead Woods was very unlucky to see her fierce shot kept out the by the woodwork.
“This game was always going to be a tough test as both teams had two wins under their belt coming into it,” said Bishop. “I was pleased with how our girls prepared for the match and they were very focused from the word go.
“The game was extremely tight at times and I was impressed with how our team dealt with the conditions in the first-half. We registered a big score on the day and again we limited our wides tally which was good to see.”
The last four showdown with the Ulster side is a repeat of the 2010 semi-final in Emyvale where Louth — managed by Cooley man Alo McGrath — prevailed on a 3–10 to 3–7 scoreline only to lose to Antrim in the final. The other semi-final will see Limerick take on London.
LONDON: Rachel Healy; Catherine Barrett, Ruanne Hunt, Nicole Mulholland; Noelle Cocoman, Lorraine McNulty, Cliona Twohig; Naoimhin Daly, Ailish Healy (0–2); Claire O’Sullivan, Avril Kilkelly (1–6, 4f), Rebecca Mills; Lisa Cafferky (1–2, 1f), Fiona Morrissey, Catriona McGahan (0–1). Subs: Kathryn Canavan for N Daly, 38 mins; Patricia Marmion for F Morrissey, 42 mins; Bríd Murphy for R Mills, 60 mins.
LOUTH LADIES: Una Pearson, Eimear Murray, Michelle McMahon, Shannen McLoughlin, Michelle McArdle, Bronagh McGrane; Sinead Woods, Eimear Byrne; Aoife Russell, Kate Flood (1–6, 3f), Niamh Rice (0–1); Lauren Boyle (0–5), Bonnie Fleming (0–2), Aine Breen. Subs: Rebecca Carr (0–1), Jennifer McGuinness (0–2). Subs: Rebecca Carr (0–1) for M McArdle, HT; Jenny McGuinness (0–2) for B McGrane, HT.
REFEREE: Stephen McNulty (Wicklow).
Best Betting Sites In Ireland