Galway secure a date with destiny

Suzuki National Ladies Football League Division 3 Semi-Final
Galway Secure a Date with Destiny.
Galway 8-9 Derry 2-5

Galway Juniors qualified for a National League final encounter with Cork after overcoming a dogged and determined Derry challenge in Sligo on Sunday last. Galway struggled for long periods during a tightly contested first half but upped their level of performance to such an extent in the second half that the result became a foregone conclusion long before the final whistle.

The Westerners opened in blistering fashion with two Deirdre Heaverin points inside the first minute. Derry centre half forward Aisling Keeley opened her side’s account on 4 minutes with a well-crafted score. Two minutes later corner forward Melinda Kelly fired over Galway’s third point before an astute pass from Deirdre Heaverin on 8 minutes set up full forward Michelle Delaney for an excellent goal. Galway were well in command at this early stage but inexplicably lost their way over the next twenty minutes during which they failed to register a single score.

In contrast Derry overcame their early nerves to settle into the task. They tightened up considerably at the back and as the half wore on they displayed the greater hunger and confidence. Aisling Keeley’s second point on 14 minutes was followed by an excellent effort from Shauna Valley three minutes later and the Derry renaissance was complete on 20 minutes when a brilliant individual goal by Aisling Keeley levelled the scores by 1-3 apiece. Moments later full forward and captain Mary Joe Wall goaled from close range and her well executed point on 22 minutes extended Derry’s lead to four points. Galway were well rattled and looked in serious trouble over all the pitch. Worse was to follow on 24 minutes when corner forward Niamh Duggan missed a penalty. However the same player made amends two minutes later when she finished superbly to the net after some intelligent build up play. This inspirational score reignited the Galway challenge. Melinda Kelly added goal number three on 27 minutes and moments later set up Michelle Delaney for her second goal as Galway woke from their slumber and found another gear. These late goals left the half time score Galway 4-3 Derry 2-4. The five-point interval lead flattered Galway as they had performed well below par for most of that first half.

However they possess class in abundance and that late trio of goals in as many minutes changed the complexion of the contest completely and came as a crushing blow to a resilient Derry outfit who has shown tremendous character to come back and dominate proceedings after such a poor start. Quick points from Aoife Wynne and Michelle Delaney on the resumption extended Galway’s lead before Mary Joe Wall led by example for Derry with her second point on 35 minutes. This score left two goals between the sides but any faint hopes of a second northern revival were crushed on 36 minutes when impressive Galway midfielder Aisling Fahy crashed home an unstoppable shot to the roof of the net after a powerful run through the middle. Galway’s backs improved dramatically during that second period and kept their northern opponents scoreless for the remainder of the match. Galway were awarded a second penalty on 40 minutes after Ann Heneghan was pulled down in the square and this time Niamh Duggan made no mistake. Her clinical finish left Galway leading by 6-5 to 2-5 and even though there were twenty minutes remaining Derry’s fate had already been sealed. Aisling Fahy added a point on 41 minutes before Michelle Delaney and Niamh Duggan completed their hat tricks on 44 and 48 minutes respectively as Galway reigned supreme.

Derry battled bravely in the face of such adversity but any sporadic attacks they did mount were easily repelled by a tight and tenacious Galway rearguard where corner back Sheila Heneghan and wing back Grainne Egan were particularly outstanding. Late points from Niamh Duggan and Helen Carroll completed the rout but one would have to empathise with the losers who contributed so much to the encounter throughout the opening period only to be ruthlessly run over in the latter stages. They had excellent performers in full back Paula Fleming and Aisling Keeley and Mary Joe Wall up front but in the final analysis they just didn’t have the strength in depth to sustain a serious challenge to the tribeswomen’s national league title aspirations.

The Galway Management team of Pat Gleeson, Michael Ryder and Caroline Delaney will be delighted with such a confident and assured second half performance from their players. This Galway team is brimful of talent and when they play to their full potential the quality of their football can be breathtaking to behold. No doubt management are mindful of this but they will also be equally mindful of the fact that Galway didn’t perform for one third of this match. A similar lapse in concentration could prove very costly against Cork next time out. May 11th will tell its own story.

Reference: Paul Gannon, PRO, Galway Ladies Football Board 2003

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