LADIES GAA | Louth’s All Ireland dream blown away by Limerick’s lightning start

TG4 Ladies All Ireland Junior Championship Final
Louth Ladies 0–8 Limerick 5–6

Louth’s All Ireland Junior Championship hopes were crushed at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon following a nightmare first-half display against Limerick.

Looking to win the trophy in memory of their late manager, Micheal McKeown, Louth went into the break a massive 10 points in arrears as Limerick, with Mairead Kavanagh and Catriona Davis doing untold damage, hit three goals in the opening half an hour to all but write their name on the trophy.

With their creative players stifled, Louth just couldn’t find a way back into the game and two quickfire Limerick goals, midway through the second-half, left it a case of mission impossible.

To their credit, Darren Bishop’s young guns kept going and Lauren Boyle and Aoife Russell hit late scores but it proved to be in vain as Limerick deservedly won the trophy in style, hoping further misery on the Wee County after beating them in the 2010 decider.

Bishop went with the same team that beat Derry in a dramatic semi-final with Una Pearson, Rebecca Carr, Eimear Murray, Michelle McMahon, Branagh McGrane and captain Kate Flood survivors from the side that won the title against Scotland in 2015.

A surging run down the left by Niamh Rice got Louth off to a promising start. Her Cooley Kickhams teammate, Lauren Boyle, should have been the first on the scoresheet but she couldn’t convert with two early frees, the second of which came back off the post at the Hill 16 end of the pitch.

Flood did convert Louth’s third free, getting them off the mark with six minutes played, but Limerick responded well, pinning Louth in for much of the remainder of the half.

They were wayward with their early shooting, kicking four poor wides in quick succession with Catriona Davis and Rebecca Delee the guiltiest parties, before Davis eventually levelled matters with a 15th-minute free.

John Ryan’s side continued to ask questions and they hit the game’s first goal in the 18th minute when Davis picked out Maread Kavanagh with a quick hand pass and her shot deflected off the unfortunate Eimear Byrne and looped over Una Pearson to find the net.

That was backed up by a fine Kavanagh point from the right before Rebecca Delee lashed a vicious right-footed effort past Pearson to make it 2–2 to 0–1 with 21 minutes on the clock.

Things went from bad to worse for Louth when Davis floated a 45 into the danger zone and Kavanagh rose to beat Michelle McMahon and palm the ball into the net for Limerick’s third goal.

Louth needed a quick response but Flood missed with a free and the Wee County went into the dressing rooms well adrift and in need of something similar to Limerick’s response in the 2010 fixture when they overhauled a six-point half-time deficit to win the final.

Flood pulled one back after a forceful break from the back by Shannen McLaughlin and it looked like Louth were building a head of steam when the skipper and Lauren Boyle brought them back to within seven, 3–2 to 0–4.

Limerick killed off any hopes of a comeback, though, when they went up the other end and Cliona Ni Cheallaigh found the net at the third attempt. When Rebecca Delee added a fifth goal with a classy finish shortly after, that was that.

Kavanagh and Rebecca Delee added further points to their respective tallies with substitute Dympna O’Brien also making a contribution and although Boyle landed a trio of late scores, followed by a stylish Russell effort, they were scant consolation for the Wee County who, sadly, just couldn’t make an impression on the day.

LOUTH LADIES: Una Pearson; Eimear Murray, Shannen McLaughlin, Michelle McMahon; Aoife Russell (0–1), Ceire Nolan, Niamh Rice; Rebecca Carr, Sinead Woods; Aine Breen, Kate Flood (0–3, 1f), Lauren Boyle (0–3, 2f); Bonnie Fleming, Jennifer McGuinness, Eimear Byrne. Subs: Roisin Kavanagh for J McGuinness, 45 mins; Eilis Hand for E Murray, 50 mins; Michelle McArdle for E Byrne, 57 mins.

LIMERICK: Martina Giltenane; Kristine Reidy, Sarah O’Sullivan, Ava Hartigan; Aine McGrath, Niamh Ryan, Megan O’Shea; Loretta Hanley, Cathy Mee; Cliona Ni Cheallaigh (1–0), Rebecca Delee (2–0), Roisin Ambrose;
Olivia Giltenane, Catriona Davis (0–1, 1f), Mairead Kavanagh (2–2). Subs: Katie Heelin for C Davis, 39 mins; Caroline Hickey for C Ni Cheallaigh, 46 mins; Dympna O’Brien (0–2) for R Ambrose, 50 mins; Michelle Walsh for S O’Sullivan, 55 mins; Kate Geary for A McGrath, 57 mins.

REFEREE: Niall McCormack (Laois).

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