Wicklow have booked their place in the TG4 Leinster junior championship final after they over came Offaly on Saturday last in Hollywood (Wicklow) in a game that was close enough at the end.
This was an important win , not just for ladies gaelic football in Wicklow, but also for the girls who have been the back bone of the team since winning the national football league title back in 2005, Wicklow were in fine form on the day with nine players hitting the target, and the garden county got off to a dream start with two goals within five minutes of the throwin, Wicklow’s full forward Jill Heatley was first to raise the green flag, after latching on to a pass from Mikeala Shelly, minutes later Monica Lynch, weaved through the Offaly defence to drive a low shot to the right of Michelle Claffey, Claffey did manage to get a
finger tip touch on the ball, but the An Tochar girls powerful shot was too hot to handle on this occasion.
Offaly picked up the gauntlet threw down by Wicklow, their number ten Berni Walsh fired a low, goal bound shot across the Wicklow goals, but Wicklow captain Emer Miley had her angles covered and was happy to watch it skim the outside of her left post.

Offaly continued to press, registering their first point in the ninth minute, when midfielder Orlaith Heavey, under pressure from Lisa Brady tapped over, off the outside of her right boot.The Offaly forwards were starting to get a foothold in the game, and their determination paid off with a fine goal from Sinead Taylor, Taylor was quickest to react to a Mairead Kavanagh shot that rebounded off the Wicklow uprite, giving Miley no chance in the Wicklow goals.
Wicklow struggled to work the ball out of the danger area, but the hard working Mikeala Shelly and Caoilfhionn Deeney combined to take a little pressure off the Wicklow back line when Deeney tagged on a point to open a three point gap 2-1 to 1-1. Offaly hit back with a well worked goal from Berni Walsh, to draw the sides level and for both sides it was game on.
For the next five minutes both sides cancelled each other out and it was hard to see where the next score was going to come from, until a Lorna Fuiscardi point opened the flood gates for the home side, Laurie Ahern added a point from an acute angle seconds later, with Geraldine Norton firing over four long distance points, including two frees to keep her side in the driving seat.
Offaly’s top scorer Mairead Kavanagh added two points from frees before referee Patrick Murphy blew for the half time break, with Wicklow leading 2-7 to 2-3.
With just four points separating the sides, Wicklow could not afford to sit back and soak up what ever the faithful county could throw at them, because in most games both teams will hit a golden patch, where they will dominate play, but it is down to which ever team takes full advantage in that period, that will determine who will run out eventual winners, Offaly needed to go for broke from the restart to reel in the Wicklow lead.
Their number thirteen, Mairead Kavanagh, who was causing havoc in the Wicklow back line notched up her third point (out of seven for the game) from the throwin to put a single score between the sides, however Wicklow introduced the versatile Aisling O’hAnnaidh in to the forward line at the break, and the Bray Emmets player wasted no time, hitting the back of the Offaly net with her first touch of the ball, and O’hAnnaidh was unlucky later in the game when she was denied a second
goal by the right hand of the Offaly net minder Michelle Claffey, Wicklows Laurie Ahern added her second point of the game to increase the Wicklow lead to seven points 3-8 to 2-4.
For the next fifteen minutes the sides were deadlocked once again, and although the visitors had the majority of possession, they were unable to take full advantage of the opportunities they had to close the gap on the home side.
Going into the final ten minutes, the teams received great encouragement from both sets of supporters, Wicklow’ s Niamh Coleman drew another good save from Claffey in the Offaly goals, while Berni Walsh was denied a certain goal from the tip of Emer Mileys left boot, as her shot was deflected out for a 45m free.
With only minutes left in normal time, Referee Patrick Murphy awarded Offaly a free on the edge of the square, directly in front of Mileys goal. The Wicklow captain organised her defence as Mairead Kavanagh stepped up knowing that a strike on goal was her only option at this stage of the game, and Kavanagh did not disappoint, her rocket like shot ricocheted off a couple of players in the square before spinning over the goal line and back out again, Wicklow protested, but the goal was
correctly awarded to Offaly to put only two points between the sides and only a minute of injury time left in the game.
Offaly needed another strike on goal to win, Wicklow needed to sit tight and retain possession, all Wicklow eyes were on referee Murphy, but the next time he blew his whistle it was to signal the final point of the game from Wicklows Aisling O’hAnnaidh, to put three points between the sides and to bring the game to a close, and open the pressure valve in the Wicklow camp.
The garden county now go forward to meet an experienced Louth side in the final on July the 13th next.
Wicklow scorers:
Geraldine Norton 0-4(2f), Laurie Ahern 0-2, Mikeala Shelly 0-1, Niamh Coleman 0-1, Jill Heatley 1-0, Aisling O’hAnnaidh 1-1, Monica Lynch 1-0, Caoilfhionn Deeney 0-1, Lorna Fuiscardi 0-1.

Offaly scorers:
Mairead Kavanagh 1-7, Orlaith Heavey 0-1, Sinead Taylor 1-0. Berni Walsh 1-0.

Wicklow: Emer Miley, Capt. (Blessington), Mary Whelan (Blessington), Nicky Donohue (Kilbride), Aoife heffernan (Bray Emmets), Lisa Brady (Bray Emmets), Caitriona Byrne (AGB), Lorna Fuiscardi (Eire Og), Julie Fitzmaurice (Blessington), Caoilfhionn Deeney (Eire Og), Monica Lynch (An Tochar), Gerldine Norton (Baltinglass), Mikeala Shelly (Bray Emmets), Laurie Ahern (Eire Og), Jill Heatley (Blessington), Niamh Coleman (Bray Emmets). Subs: Aisling O’hAnnaidh (Bray Emmets) for Monica Lynch, Marie Kananagh (Blessington) for Mary Whelan, Aine Byrne (AGB) for Julie Fitzmaurice, Chriine Doyle (Clontarf) for Niamh Coleman.

Offaly: Michelle Claffey(Doon/Shannon bridge), Jennifer Kinnaney (Shamrocks), Patrice Stapleton (St. Vincents), Chloe O’Brien (St. Rynaghs), Oonagh Mulligan Capt. (Rhode), Emma Dalton (Rhode), Aine Maguire (Rhode), Orlaith Heavey (Rhode), Maeve Larkin (Shamrocks),.
Berni Walsh (Shamrocks), Lisa Flaherty (Shamrocks), Niamh Malone (Rhodes), Mairead Kavanagh (Edenderry), Amy Kerrigan (Rhodes), Sinead Taylor (Edenderry). Subs: Justine Walsh (Killeigh) for Niamh Malone, Niamh Daly (Shamrocks) for Chloe O’Brien, Threasa Hickey (Rhode) for Berni Walsh, Martina Russsell (Rhode) for Lisa Flaherty.
Referee: Patrick Murphy ( Carlow).

( Mick Forde cumann Peil Gael na mBan, Leinster PRO. Contact. Leinster.pro08@Yahoo.ie mob. 087-6422658)

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