TG4 Leinster Ladies Intermediate Championship Round One
Louth 5–09 Offaly 4–10
Paula Murray helped herself to an incredible four goals as Louth Ladies produced a terrific display to record a shock — but fully deserved — victory over Offaly in their TG4 Leinster Ladies Intermediate Championship opener in Ballycumber on Saturday.
The St Kevin’s forward, who along with clubmate Eimear Murray was named in the Lidl Division Four Team of the Division on Friday evening, put Offaly to the sword with a clinical performance in front of the posts.
Murray, in tandem with St Patrick’s forward, Kate Flood, led the Louth charge. Both players accounted for all but one of the Wee County’s final tally of 5–9.
The two-point win gets Louth’s championship campaign off to the best possible start. Placed in Group One alongside Longford and Offaly, the top two teams from the group will qualify for the semi-finals and with Longford regarded as hot favourites to advance, this victory could ensure Louth a place in the last four on June 25th.
The Wee County began in confident mood and took the lead after just 30 seconds when Flood sent over a wonderful point from 30 metres. Indeed, they could have been further ahead but Murray and Catherine McGlew both hit wides.
Offaly, who finished fourth in Division Three — nine places above Louth who finished fifth in the fourth tier— created their first meaningful attack when Sarah Kehoe evaded a couple of Louth defenders but she was denied by a fine save from Una Pearson.
It took Offaly 10 minutes to get off the mark, a free by Ellie McEvoy splitting the posts. This came after Susan Byrne tested the Offaly goalkeeper. Louth hit back straight from the kickout, Sinead Woods winning possession and picking out Flood who slotted over.
Offaly were let off the hook shortly after when a shot by Aoife Byrne was fisted goalwards by Flood but Lauren Dunne in the Offaly goal scrambled it away at the expense of a ‘45.
Flood continued to wreak havoc and the St Patrick’s star was desperately unlucky to see a shot come back off the post before she fired over from long range to put Louth into a two-point lead, 0–3 to 0–1, after 13 minutes.
The Faithful County were soon level after two well-worked scores from Sarah Kehoe and the game exploded into life with four goals and a point arriving in the next five minutes.
Louth found themselves quickly back in front when a brilliant pass from Flood found Murray who cracked a brilliant low shot to the Offaly net to raise the first green flag of the day.
To their credit, Offaly hit back almost immediately when Meabh Coleman took advantage of some hesitancy in the Louth defence to fire past past Pearson.
The goals continued to rain down and from the subsequent kickout, St Fechins’ player McGlew won possession to find Susan Byrne and she in turn found clubmate Murray who dispatched her shot beyond the reach of Dunne, 2–3 to 1–3.
Flood added a further point when she reacted quickly to turn the ball over the bar after a Murray free came back off the woodwork.
And Murray completed her hat-trick with a vicious shot into the corner of the net, giving the visitors a commanding 3–4 to 1–3 lead after 25 minutes.
Louth almost opened up a sizeable advantage when the impressive Flood worked her way past a couple of defenders only to lose her footing just as she was about to shoot.
That let-off, combined with an Aoife Corbett goal, gave Offaly a major boost just before the break, Louth’s advantage cut to three points, 3–4 to 2–4, at halftime.
John O’Leary’s side started the second half on the front foot with Flood helping herself to another point, followed up by a superb point from Sinead Woods after some great play by Rebecca Carr and Abbi O’Connor.
Louth continued to dominate and when Flood smashed in a further goal to extend the lead to 4–6 to 2–4 after 38 minutes it looked a lost cause for the green and gold.
Offaly, though, refused to lie down and points from McEvoy and Kehoe gave them renewed hope before they found themselves right back in the game when midfielder Ellie McEvoy finished a well worked move to beat Louth goalkeeper Una Pearson.
Full forward Aoife Corbett also found the net soon after to bring the sides level for only the second time in the game, 4–6 to 4–6.
It looked like Offaly had the momentum at this stage but Louth dug deep and Sinead Woods won possession to pick out Murray with a pinpoint pass and the deadly St Kevin’s attacker claimed her fourth goal of the afternoon.
Murray and Flood added further points to make it 5–8 to 4–6 but Offaly replied with two of their own from sub Mairead Daly to leave a goal between them.
Aoife Norris added a further point in the third minute of added time to set up a tense final few moments and even though Roisin Egan hit another effort, Louth held out for a famous win that could well book them a place in the semi-finals.
LOUTH : Una Pearson, Michelle McArdle, Dearbhla O’Connor, Ruth Hanna, Abbi O’Connor, Ciara Nolan, Ciara O’Connor, Aoife Byrne, Rebecca Carr, Paula Murray (4–1), Kate Flood (1–7), Sinead Woods (0–1), Eimear Byrne, Catherine McGlew, Susan Byrne. Subs: Roisin Kavanagh for C McGlew; Sarah Moore for E Byrne.