TG4 Leinster Junior championship Semi Final

Leinster Junior championship
Semi Final

Wicklow 1-9 Carlow 1-6
Wicklows saviour Amie Byrne fired home a crucial goal and two points in the third quarter of this semi final game to ensure that Wicklow remain on track to retain their TG4 Leinster Junior title, Byrnes goal was the difference between the sides when Wicklow and Carlow went head to head on Saturday last in Blessington, to decide who would go forward to meet Louth in the TG4 Leinster junior final in Dr. Cullen Park, Carlow, on the 19th of July, and it was the home side that were the victors despite putting in an under par performance on the day.
Games between Wicklow and Carlow have always been close encounter and this game was going to be no different, the sides were level on five occasions, but Byrne’s strike in the third quarter unlocked the sides for the final time and turned the game in favour of the Garden County.
Carlow did not compete last year, they decided to take a year out to regroup and make a fresh assault in this years competitions under the stewardship of Geraldine Maher, and they displayed a renewed vigour through out this game. Wicklow came into this semi final clash as hot favourites to progress, but it has to be said that this performance was not one of Wicklows greatest, particularly in the first half, where their forwards struggled to hit the target on at least seven occasions, in fact they amassed a total of twelve wides for the game against Carlows five.
Carlows top scorer Margaret Murphy got her name on the score sheet inside the first minute with a well struck point, Murphy’s point was cancelled out by Wicklow’s corner forward Mikaela Shelley, but not before Wicklow had notched up their first two wides of the game.
The Floral county look the lead with their second point in the fifth minute, Sinead Doyle tapping over from twenty metres, out to the left of the Emer Mileys posts.
Wicklow were with out the services of their ace midfielder Caoilfhionn Deeney, however the midfield duo of Caitriona Byrne and Monica Lynch worked extremely hard to make life difficult for Carlows Pam Dowling and Cathriona Corcoran .
Niamh Carroll who is back to her best in a Wicklow jersey and Laurie Ahern backed up by Julie Fitzmaurice, Eadaoine Lehinan and Jill Heatley made numerous probing runs through the Carlow defence,but Carlows back line must be credited for frustrating the Wicklow forwards, and forcing them into making uncharacteristic errors.
Carlows Aine Kinsella put in an excellent block to deny Jill Heatley, however Heatley made amends minutes later when she registered her first point, tapping over Jenny O’Neills bar from close quarters, not to be out done Mikaela Shelley tagged on her second point in the tenth minute to put Wicklow ahead for the first time in the game (0-3 to 0-2). Julie Fitzmaurice added a further two points (0-5 to 0-2) to bring Wicklow scoring for the half to a close, however, a factor that will concern Wicklow’s management is that there was still fourteen minutes remaining on the clock.
The Floral Counties number fourteen Margaret Murphy hit the back of the Wicklow net in the twenty eight minute, after an excellent move involving Pam Dowling and Sinead Doyle, Murphy’s strike left the sides level at the break (0-5 to 1-2) and all to play for in the second period.
Wicklow’s mentors were quick to recognised the danger signs and they introduced a number of fresh players into the forward line. Jill Heatley made way for Geraldine Norton, Amie Byrne slotted into the number eleven position, while An Tochars Chrissie Shortt replaced Laurie Ahern and Valleymounts Lizzie Brophy came off the bench for Mikaela Shelley.
Wicklow Manager Mick O’Rourke believes that Wicklows strength lies in the strength of the squad, and having quality players on the line is an added bonus, he went on to say that “this is a dedicated and talented group of players that are starting to believe in themselves, and the fact that they fought so hard as a team today, is testament to their commitment to the Wicklow Jersey”
The second half, saw both team move up a gear, with the new look Wicklow forward line determined to impress and turn the tide in Wicklow’s favour. Carlow, however fired over three further points with out reply, two from Leah Mullins and one from Pam Dowling to give the visitors a three point lead (0-6 to 1-6) going in to the final quarter.
Wicklow needed their experienced players to step up to the mark if they were to stop Carlow inflicting any further damage, and like the committed players they are, Wicklow’s back line of Aisling O’hAnnaidh, Janet Miley, Aoife Heffernan, Lorna Fuisciardi , Cathriona McKeon, Niamh Kelly and Lisa Brady all lead by example, keeping the Floral county scoreless for the remainder of the game.
So, it was the turn of the Wicklow forwards to dig deep to unlock the Carlow defence, and in the forty fifth minute, Wicklow’s Amie Byrne slipped the ball past Jenny O’Neill to draw the sides level 1-6 apiece, Byrne was on hand minutes later to tap over two points in quick succession to put two between the sides and Wicklow into the driving seat.
Lizzie Brophy followed up with a well struck shot that was on its way into the bottom left hand corner of O’Neills net, but the agile Carlow keeper got an out stretched foot to the ball to deny Brophy; with only seconds remaining in the game, the experienced Niamh Carroll brought the game to a close with a curling shot that gave the Garden County a three point winning margin. Wicklow are out on Sunday next the 12th of July, in the first round of the TG4 all Ireland championship series, when they will face Louth, the game will throw in at 3pm at Blessington GAA club. Log onto for more details.
Wicklow scorers: Niamh Carroll 0-1, Julie Fitzmaurice 0-2, Mikaela Shelly 0-2, Jill Heatley 0-1, Geraldine Norton 0-1, Amie Byrne 1-2.
Carlow scorers: Pam Dowling 0-1, Sinead Doyle 0-1, Leah Mullins 0-2, Margaret Murphy 1-1f, Grania Cowman 0-1.
Wicklow team:
Emer Miley (Blessington), Janet Miley (Valleymount) Aisling O’hAnnaidh (Bray Emmets), Aoife Heffernan (Bray Emmets) Lorna Fuisciardi (Eire Og), Caitriona McKeon (C) Kilbride), Niamh Kelly(Eire Og), Caitriona Byrne (AGB), Monica Lynch (An Tochar). Niamh Carroll(Blessington), Julie Fitzmaurice(Baltinglass), Mikaela Shelly (Bray Emmets), Laurie Ahern (Eire Og), Jill Heatley (Blessington), Eadaoine Lenihan (Bray Emmets).
Subs: Amie Byrne (An Tochar) for Julie Fitzmaurice, Geraldine Norton (Baltinglass) for Jill Heatley, Chrissie Shortt (An Tochar) for Laurie Ahern, Lizzie Brophy (Valleymount) for Mikaela Shelly, Lisa Brady (Bray Emmets) for Niamh Kelly.
Carlow team:
Jenny O’Neill, Aoife Kane,Aine Kinsella, Deborah Foley, Karen Doyle, Regina McDonald, Amy Doyle, Cathriona Corcoran, Pam Dowling, Deirdre O’Sullivan, Sinead Doyle, Marion Hayden,Leah Mullins, Margaret Murphy,Grania Cowman. Subs: Marie Kinsella for Amy Doyle, Hillery Griffin for Maria Hayden.
Referee: James Flood (Wexford).

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