Leinster U14 ‘A’ Ladies Championship

As a consequence of their victory in the 2007 All Ireland U14 ‘B’ Championship, last August, the Wicklow ladies U14 team were promoted to the ‘A’ championship this year.Their first outing took place in a wet, cold and windy pitch in Clane, Co Kildare where they took on Kildare. This was a journey into the unknown and Wicklow supporters feared for their team when Shauna Doyle, full forward for Kildare, had the ball in the back of the Wicklow net within one minute of the throw in. Wicklow were playing against the wind in the first half and excellent play from Naomi Roche and Ciera Callanan repelled the Kildare attacks and gave Wicklow the upper hand in the midfield and half back line.

Wicklow captain Aife Kavanagh steadied her team’s nerves with an excellent free from the right wing after 5 minutes and confidence seemed to flow into the Wicklow game. Great play from Shauna Fleming and Erinne Murphy worked the ball into Aife Kavanagh and she scored a great goal after 8 minutes. Wicklow were now winning all the key duels around the pitch and playing fast and exciting open football.

Within the next 20 minutes Wicklow scored 4 goals and 3 points to Kildare’s 2 points. At this stage Wicklow’s half back line of Laura Allen, Naomi Roche and Calvin Swart were well in control as indeed were the midfield of Ciera Callanan and Suzanne O’Neil. But the main difference was the slick and fast movement of the full forwards. The scorers were Meadbh Deeley – 2 goals. Aife Kavanagh – 1 goal and Kayleigh Crammond – 1 goal with Aife Kavanagh adding a further 3 points from frees.

At this stage one could have been forgiven for thinking that the game was over with Wicklow now leading by 14 points. However it has to be said that the Kildare wing backs of Aisling and Michelle Curley were beginning to get a strong grip in those sections and on one of their rare attacks 2 minutes from half time a defensive lapse resulted in a Kildare goal. Kildare received a futher boost on half time when they ran in a third goal. The score at half time stood at Wicklow 5-4 to Kildare’s 3-2.

Whatever words of encouragement were given at half time by the Kildare mentors it resulted in a dramatic change of performance in the second half. Wicklow playing with the wind started well and got a further two points from captain Aife Kavanagh. After that however Kildare took a strong grip on the game and pinned the Wicklow team into their own half. Wicklow were having difficulty winning any form of possession and the forwards were starved of ball. Kildare piled on the pressure and cracks began to appear in the Wicklow defence. The Wicklow half backs faded dramatically and the full back line was coming under extreme pressure. At this moment of time the full back Hannah Tew performed outstandingly and fought to keep the Wicklow team in the game ably assisted by the two dogged corner backs – Naoise Baker and Niamh O’Donoghue.

Wickow management made a number of substitutions introducing Sarah Kavanagh, Laura Kavanagh, Claire Walsh, Claire O’Rourke and Aine O’Reilly. But the momentum was with Kildare and Wicklow were on the ropes. Kildare notched up 2 goals and three points and with 10 minutes to go the gap stood at 2 points. At this stage Wicklow’s goalie was injured and was replaced in goal by Niamh O’Donoghue and very few punters would have put any money on Wicklow. Niamh made a number of excellent saves and stopped the rot and Wicklow lifted the siege and a good point by substitute Claire Walsh gave Wicklow a 3 point lead with 5 minutes to go. In a helter skelter finish Claire Walsh scored a fortuitous goal that lobbed over the goalies head and gave Wicklow a 5 point winning margin of 6-7 to 5-5.

Wicklow’s fade out in the second half was worrying but it should not be underestimated that this was a big step up for the team and they showed great will and determination to eke out the result. The flowing football of the first half shows what the team is capable of and all the players have gained from the experience. Wicklow’s next outing is against Meath at a Wicklow venue on Saturday 29th March and they will be hoping to build on this initial success.

Wicklow’s team was : Suzie Simpson, Niamh O’Donoghue, Hannah Tew, Naoise Baker, Calvin Swart, Naomi Roche, Laura Allen, Ciera Callanan, Suzanne O’Neil, Emma Byrne, Shauna Fleming, Meadbh Deeley, Erinne Murphy, Aife Kavanagh, Kayleigh Crammond . Subs:Sarah Kavanagh, Laura Kavanagh, Claire Walsh, Claire O’Rourke, Aine O’Reilly. Panel:Anna Fitzpatrick, Anna Kelly, Bridin Geoghegan,Vivienne Walsh, Elaine Keogh, Emily Stephenson, Emma Marshall, Georgina Canavan, Jessica Hurley, Katie Kindlon, Lucy Cushe, Michelle Forde,

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