Tyrone Ladies suffers League loss to Laois

Tyrone Ladies headed to Ringstown GFC outside Mullingar on Sunday, bidding to add to their Suzuki National League victory over Donegal, where they tackled a very strong Laois outfit writes Ciaran Woods. Played in blustery conditions, the Tyrone girls never really came to terms with the physical strength and powerful attacking play of their Laois counterparts, and two goals inside a first-half minute proved decisive in a 2-13 to 3-06 Tyrone defeat.

Laois opened their account with a Mary Kirwin point inside 30 seconds, after a well-worked surge forward from the throw in. A long-range Tyrone free-kick on two minutes fell to Anne Dooher, whose surging run along the end line produced a good save from the Laois keeper. A Laois free-kick momentarily caused panic in the Tyrone goalmouth as both teams scrambled for possession, with full-back Maura Kelly eventually winning a free-kick inside her own small square.

It was Tyrone however who registered the first major score of the game after seven minutes, with corner-forward Gemma Begley managing to get on the end of a deep Lynnette Hughes free-kick to palm the ball past the Laois keeper. A missed opportunity by Laois in the fourteenth minute following some fine approach play was a sign of what was to follow, as the attacking players found plenty of time to choose their passes, as the Tyrone defenders struggled to cope with the pace and fluidity of the opposition attack. After twenty minutes of play, Laois scored their first goal of the game. From a move originating in their own full-back line, Laois attacked at pace with no fewer than seven players involved, drawing the Tyrone defenders out before finding full-forward Mary Kirwin unmarked in front of goal, who struck low to the corner of the net past Martina Glackin. From the resultant kick-out, Laois earned a free-kick for a foul on midfielder Mary Casey-Gorman. With Tyrone still reeling from conceding the first goal, there was always a risk that another could follow. A short free to the wing and some excellent subsequent passing and support play left the Tyrone defence all at sea. Full-forward Kirwin found herself in an almost identical position to the first, and once again she made no mistake, coolly slotting the ball under the advancing Tyrone keeper.

At this point, Tyrone looked in danger of being routed by a rampant Laois attack, especially when an excellent long range effort from midfielder Kathleen O’Reilly sailed over the bar to leave Laois five points ahead. Tyrone hit back with a good point from Briege Daly somewhat against the run of play, and the Red Hand girls were unlucky not to follow this up almost immediately with another when a long-range Hughes free-kick fell just short of the target and into the arms of the Laois goalkeeper. At this point, Hughes was dominating the midfield sector, and was the orchestrator of all Tyrone’s attacks. After gaining possession in the middle, it was her long ball which sent Anne Dooher through to tag on a further Tyrone point. A pointed free from captain Michaela Doherty cut the deficit even further, as Tyrone continued to dominate possession. However Laois countered with a textbook break, an excellent point from Tracey Lawlor capping the move, and they added a further point soon afterwards from Mary Kirwin A point from play by Tyrone’s Elaine Coyle was levelled by a further Laois point to round off the first-half scoring, with Laois leading by four points, 2-05 to 1-04

Tyrone knew that if they were to stage a comeback then a positive opening to the second half was vital. However it was Laois who again attacked straight from the throw-in, firstly with a Sue Ramsbottom shot rebounding back off the upright before Linda Brennan coolly slotted over an excellent wind-assisted score. When a Gemma O’Connor shot looped over the Tyrone crossbar to open up a six-point cushion, there seemed to be no way back for the Tyrone girls. However Tyrone responded by upping the tempo of their own game, and the introduction of Errigal Ciaran’s Claire Mc Garvey seemed to bolster the Red Hand defence. Ten minutes into the second half a long floated ball into the Laois goalmouth caused problems, with Michaela Doherty challenging well for possession. The ball broke to Briege Daly, who maintained her recent run of form by crashing the ball to the net from close range. This score not only reduced the deficit to three points, but also increased the air of optimism within the Tyrone camp. While pressing forward in search of further scores, Tyrone were always going to be risking exposure at the back. Only a last-ditch Claire Mc Elroy block prevented the lethal Kirwin breaking through for what would have been her third goal, and the sense of relief in the Tyrone rearguard was visible. Laois scored a further point from a free-kick from the boot of Kirwin to again open up a four point difference between the sides with fifteen minutes to play.

With the game switching from one end to the other and neither side able to dominate, Laois broke forward once more with Kirwin’s drive crashing against the base of the post and back out to safety. Luck was once again on Tyrones side seconds later, when from the goal kick Sue Ramsbottom gained possession and unleashed a stinging drive which looped over the head of the retreating Martina Glackin, only to hit the crossbar and go over the bar. From this point on, Tyrone moved up a gear and under the leadership of Hughes at midfield, they basically spent the remainder of the game camped deep in the Laois half. A good effort from Gemma Begley rebounded off a post and into the ‘keepers hands, and despite their possession Tyrone found it difficult to create any clear cut chances. A further Laois point from Mary Kehoe put six points between the teams once more, and with Tyrone too often failing to deliver the telling final pass, Laois appeared to be comfortably dealing with anything the Tyrone girls could throw at them, with Laois adding a further point from play, and Tyrone claiming two more points through Anne Dooher and the hard-working Etoinne O’Kane.

With Tyrone requiring a goal to have any chance it was appropriate that it was midfielder Hughes who delivered. Fielding the ball from a Laois kick-out she embarked on a great individual run, before unleashing a cracking effort over the keeper and high into the roof of the net to leave only two points between the sides once more. It was Laois however who responded most strongly, and to the disappointment of the Tyrone team they managed a further two scores from play before the finish, to give them a hard-fought victory on a scoreline of Laois 2-13 Tyrone 3-06

Managers Hayley Boyle and Aidan Connolly will ultimately be disappointed by the scoreline and what will be seen as two important league points lost. However, the spirit displayed by the team and the courage of their fightback bodes well for their next National League assignment where they face Meath at a home venue on March 2nd.

Tyrone Line-up & Scorers M. Glackin, A. Hagan, M. Kelly, C. Mc Elroy, S. Mc Aleer, C. Fox, S. Mc Garvey, K. Murphy and L. Hughes (1-0), E. Coyle (0-1), B. Daly (1-1), E. O’Kane (0-1), A. Dooher (0-2), M. Doherty (0-1), G. Begley(1-0) Subs: C. Mc Garvey for S. Mc Garvey, E. Kelly for E. Coyle, L. Mc Girr for G. Begley

Laois Team B. Deegan, P. Fogarty, A. Walsh, P. Mulhall, S. Cuddy, A.Casey, G. Dunne, M. Casey-Gorman and K. O’Reilly, T. Lawlor, S. Ramsbottom, L. Brennan, M. Kehoe, M. Kirwin, G. O’Connor

Referee; Jim Shannon (Monaghan)

Ciaran Woods PRO

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