Leitrim ends Sligo's Connacht reign

Leitrim end Sligo’s reign


TG4 Connacht Junior Championship Final


Leitrim 1 – 14 Sligo 3 – 7


Leitrim regained the Connacht Junior Cup, their first since 1999
and third overall as they recorded a single point victory over
defending champions, Sligo at Mc Hale Park, Castlebar. Sinead
Quinn’s point some 90 seconds from the end was to prove to
be the winner although Sligo did have a chance to take the game
to a replay as they were awarded a 20 meter free out on the right
with just 20 seconds left on the clock.

It was the Aughawillan’s player second point and what a
beauty it was. She picked up possession on the 45 meter line turned
and just kicked, wind assisted the ball sailed between the posts.
At that stage the Leitrim subs were to their feet in the dugout
but one last twist was left in this tale. Roscommon official Vivian
Hardiman awarded Sligo that late free. There was utter silence
as Noelle Gormley lined up to take it. To the amazement of the
attendance, the St Nathy’s player opted to go short, rather
than have a go. It ended up with Bernice Byrne whose effort was
off target and with it went Sligo’s hopes of a fourth title
in a row.

For Leitrim, this victory will be sweet music playing in their
ears as prior to this success they had tasted defeat in 5 of the
6 finals in this decade, having lost to Galway in 2000 & 2002
and the last 3 finals to Sligo, it was also their first success
over Sligo since May 2003. The opening 9 minutes produced 5 points
– 3 to Leitrim – a point blank save from Sligo keeper Katrina
Connolly and a bad wide or two. The losers were first to raise
a flag as Noelle Gormley scored from play after being set up by
Therese Marren in the first minute. Two pointed frees by Ann Marie
Cox and one from play from Sarah Mc Loughlin with one in reply
from Therese Marren had Leitrim ahead by the 9th minute. A minute
earlier Katrina Connolly made a super save to keep out Sharon
Kerrigan’s effort.

By the 13th minute the defending champions were back in front,
thanks to a peach of a goal from Aisling Mc Tiernan. The Cloonacool
player received a pass from Noelle Gormley, spotted that Leitrim
net-minded Louise Loughlin was a yard or so off her line and calmly
planted the ball over the keepers reach and into the net. When
chances like this come off they look great, when they fail questions
are always asked.

The response from Leitrim was 2 points in succession in as many
minutes as Sharon Kerrigan and Clare Owens scored in the 16th
& 19th minutes to restore parity. Sligo was then dealt a blow
in the 23rd minute as Niamh Mannion – daughter of co manager
Pauric – was sin binned. The management’s response to
repair their defence was swift as they sent on Ruth Goodwin and
hauled off Aisling Mc Tiernan a matter of minutes after scoring
that magnificent goal. The sin binning didn’t effect Sligo
as they would go on to score another 1 – 1 through Therese
Marren to go in at the short whistle 2 – 4 to 0 – 6
to the good. Leitrim’s other score of the half was to come
from Ann Marie Cox who sent over from play on the stroke of half

The second half was barely 15 seconds old when Ann Marie Cox
converted a free following a foul on herself. Noelle Gormley opened
Sligo’s account in the third minute with a pointed free.
Points from the Quinns – Maeve & Sinead – narrowed
the gap back to 2 points when the winners pressed the self destruct
button again as Sligo sub Joanne O’ Connell was apprehended
in the square with a penalty duly awarded. Noelle Gormley’s
spot kick appeared to be saved by the keeper but the umpires adjudged
the ball to have crossed the line.

Once again Leitrim hauled themselves back with pointed frees
– 3 in total – from Ann Marie Cox to be just 3 behind
by the 23rd minute of the second half. A minute earlier in the
22nd minute easily the score of the day arrived from Sligo midfielder
Louise Harte as she soloed from midfield and pointed from just
inside the 45 meter line against the gale force breeze. 24 minutes
on the clock and another penalty, this time to Leitrim as a Sligo
back was adjudged to have foot blocked a Leitrim effort. Ann Marie
Cox duly dispatched the spot kick but the puzzling part was that
while Cox was placing and kicking the ball, the Referee had his
back to proceedings trying to usher all the players outside the
21 meter line.

Noelle Gormley slipped Sligo into the lead again in the 26th
minute as she converted a free following a foul on herself. A
brilliant effort from Eimear Mc Glade had Leitrim level again
2 minutes later. Then came the moment of magic from Sinead Quinn
and the final late drama. As the final hooter sounded there were
scenes of joy in the Leitrim quarters as they had finally laid
the Indian sign Sligo appeared to have over them to rest.

Of course it’s not the end of the road for the Yeats County
as they have an All Ireland Quarter Final to look forward to just
like Leitrim. In one sense both counties are as far on in the
Championship as one another apart from the fact that Leitrim are
of course Connacht Junior Champions for 2006. For Sligo its back
to the drawing board and questions needed to be both addressed
and answered. The defending champions could always argue that
had Louise Harte, Angela Doohan and Niamh Mannion been fully fit,
Stephanie O’ Reilly been fit to play any part in the game
and both Karen Maloney and Louise Brett being available to them
the story may be different. As it was, they had to go with what
they had and thus surrendered their Connacht title to worthy Successors.

Player of the Match: while the powers that be may have opted
for a midfielder or a forward, the fielding of Leitrim Full Back,
Sinead Brennan at vital stages during the game shouldn’t
go unnoticed.

Sligo: Katrina Connolly, Martina Keane, Cammie Kennedy, Fiona
Maye, Tracy O’Hara, Niamh Mannion, Etna Flanagan, Louise
Harte (0 – 1), Grainne O’Gara, Bernice Byrne, Angela
Doohan, Helena Haran, Therese Marren (1 – 3), Noelle Gormley
(1 – 3), Aisling Mc Tiernan (1 – 0). Subs used: Caroline
Currid for O’ Gara (14mins), Ruth Goodwin for A Mc Tiernan
(24mins), Joanne O’ Connell for Haran (H/T), Sinead Mc Tiernan
for Currid (45mins), Caroline Benson for O’Connell (59mins).

Leitrim: Louise Loughlin, Emer Kelly, Sinead Brennan, Mairead
Stenson, Mary Mc Keon, Eimear Mc Glade (0 – 1), Teresa Mylott,
Maeve Quinn (0 – 1), Sarah Mc Loughlin (0 – 1), Lorraine
Brennan, Sinead Quinn (0 – 2), Sharon Kerrigan (0 –
1), Ann Marie Cox (1 – 7), Aoife Kelly, Clare Owens (0 –
1). Subs used: Anna Conlon for A Kelly (48mins) & A Kelly
for Kerrigan (58mins)

Referee: Vivian Hardiman (Roscommon)


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