Kildare Ladies Senior Football League Div3: Semi Final
Robert Emmets 1:08
By Robert Cox @Kilcock GAA
The Kilcock senior ladies recovered from a slow start to turn a five point deficit into a five point win against a gallant Robert Emmets side on Tuesday night last, the 3rd of July, to set up a mouth watering league final meeting with Suncroft. Kilcock had the luxury of home advantage having topped the group after the round robin stages but that didn’t matter a bit to a strong and determined visiting side who turned up to Kilcock GAA with one goal on their mind, to upset the applecart. Kilcock for their part came into the game as favourites having previously defeated the girls from Sallins and Raheens both home and away but the favourites tag is something that seems to weigh heavily around the necks of this bunch of girls and it took a strong start from Robert Emmets to spring them into life. Both managers had near to full strength squads to choose from but Kilcock’s Shane Stone did have to plan without influential midfielder Caoimhe Fagan who picked up a knee injury in the previous round while Ciaran Cuneen of Robert Emmets was glad to have county player Mary Houlgrane available despite a hand injury.
Right from the throw in Robert Emmets looked the more hungary and they shell shocked their more fancied opponents after only two minutes when corner forward Laura Doyle blasted the ball to the back of Eimear Kelly’s net following some good play further out the field. Mary Houlgrane added two points in the space of four minutes to leave five between the sides. The first from play with the second coming from a free albeit from an acute angle. The home side were shell shocked at this stage and it forced Stone into some early positional switches with young Hayley White unfortunate to be replaced when fourteen others were also up for election. White was replaced in the full back line by the experienced Linda Byrne and her return from injury is a timely boost ahead of the final having missed most of the season so far with a broken finger. Credit must go to White though along with Aisling O’Connor and Emma Maguire who all made the return from the gaeltacht especially for the game. It was not until the twelfth minute that Kilcock broke their duck and it is lucky they did or Emmets would have been out of sight but Louise Keane’s well taken point was to be the first of six scores in a row for the hosts as they eat into Emmet’s lead. Wing forward Grace White opened her account a minute later from play before the dangerous Emma Robinson did likewise, again a minute later. Aisling O’Connor was well on top in midfield at this stage and was not only keeping the talented Houlgrane quiet but excelling at her own game as she fed the forward line with precision passes one after another. White got her second point of the night on sixteen minutes before Kilcock’s first guilt edge goal chance fell to Emma Robinson who was clean through on goal and though she did the right thing in hitting it low and hard, the ball struck the bottom of the post and rebounded out. It was all Kilcock at this stage but a three pointer would have put them well and truly in command. As it was Emmet’s were still in with a sniff. Stone made his second change of the half as he again replaced youth with experience by bringing on Emma Hoare for Laura O’Neill. The two replaced players though can hold their heads high because for young girls they both played major parts at opposite ends of the pitch to help get their teams to the semi final. Keane got her second after White gave her a quick free as Emmets slept and she duly obliged by tapping over from twenty yards. White got her teams first score from a free on twenty minutes before Emmets showed their class again in a three minute spell that yielded three unanswered points from Rebecca Dunleavy and Laura Doyle (2). The ever impressive Orla Cagney got a fine individual point in response for Kilcock. Cagney who this year made the switch to wing forward from wing back in relishing in her new role and once again she put in a faultless display at number 10. The last score of the half came from Kilcock’s Noelle Conlon who pointed well while on the run. Sandwiched in between Cagney and Conlon’s points was another goal chance for the girls in green and yellow and again it fell to Robinson. It is testament to Robinson that she can create these chances by peeling away from her marker and find space but once again she was denied by the woodwork with the goal at her mercy. After a bad start, Kilcock could have been out of sight at half time but they weren’t, in fact the half time score saw the teams level on a scoreline of Kilcock 0:08 Robert Emmets 1:05
With the game finally balanced both sides returned to the pitch unchanged and as referee Garryowen McMahon threw the ball in the game remained on a knife edge. It took four minutes before the first score and just as she ended proceedings in the opening period, Noelle Conlon began them in the second. Kilcock regained their lead and would not relinquish it for the rest of the game. Emma Robinson helped their cause by raising the white flag almost immediatley before Houlgrane responded with a free for the girls in red and White. In fairness to both sides they served up a great game of football on the night, something the decent sized crowd were only to well aware of. Caitlin Ni Mhuiricu replaced the injured Conlon midway through the second half and in doing so she brought a different dimension to Kilcock’s attack. You will search the county long and hard for a girl with the natural ability and footballing brain that Ni Mhuiricu possesses and this meant Kilcock could now play a long ball into the corner forward who was feeding the players running off her.
Robert Emmets were never going to lie down easy though and once again had a purple patch of their own that resulted in two points, the first a free from the ever accurate Houlgrane and the second from full forward S.Delmer. At this stage gaps were starting to appear in the Emmets’ defence as they pushed forward and tried in vain to get back into the game and Kilcock punished them for this with the score that ended the game as a contest. And what a score. When it looked like there was no way through, Grace White found the slightest of gaps and hit the ball through the eye of a needle with the outside of her right boot and to the back of the net. A better goal you will travel a long way to find this season. This was a hammer blow to Emmets who battled so hard throughout and even though the clock showed fifteen minutes remaining, I think their challenge ended there. Caithlin Ni Mhuiricu scored a fine point from a difficult angle to get the score her work deserved while at the other end Laura Doyle wrapped up the the scoring for Emmets with a consolation point. There was still time however for White and Conlon to add on two more points for Kilcock, with Conlon now back on having got over her injury scare.
There was a mixture of excitement and relief for the hosts as McMahon blew the final whistle and they now march on to their second division three league final in a row, where they will look to avenge for last year’s defeat at the hands of a strong Ballykelly side. It is nine years since they last brought the division three cup back to Branganstown. So here is hoping. As for Robert Emmets, they can be delighted with their year so far having just been promoted to this level as division four winners last year. Their focus can now turn to the championship and on behalf of Kilcock Ladies I would like to wish them all the best of luck for the remainder of the year. Best for Emmets on the night were Mary Houlgrane in midfield, Shelly Campbell at centre forward and Laura Doyle who caused Kilcock many problems all through the game at corner forward. For the winners Fiona Campion was as solid as ever at corner back while Paige Byrne battled well with Doyle all night and won on her fair share of occasions. Captain Shona White once again lead by example from centre back and with Therese Macken to her right and young Emma Maguire to her left, they formed a solid half back line. Sheena Byrne got through a Trojan of work in midfield when asked to move there from centre forward in place of the injured Caoimhe Fagan and her ball into the forwards was at times flawless. The forwards on the night may feel they missed more chances than they should have and know that must improve if they are to put it up to Suncroft in the final but they still performed well and in White and Robinson they possess two dangerous forwards. Orla Cagney had another fine game in her new adopted position at wing forward, once again chipping in with a point while Louise Keane and Noelle Conlon played their part in keeping the score board ticking over. What will please Stone and his selectors most is the performances of his subs with the Linda Byrne looking like she never left full back. She reads the game like any experienced and talented no.3 should and her introduction helped shore up any leakages in defence. Shanon Byrne too can be happy with her nights work when sprung from the bench and put in on the half back line while upfront Ni Mhuiricu was on top form when she too was brought on.
Only one player can receive mly player of the game though and this was an easy choice. In Aisling O’Connor Kilcock have one of the hottest properties in the county and she showed again why on Tuesday night as she not only kept county player Houlgrane relatively quiet but also excelled at her own game. A player you could play anywhere on the pitch and she would not look out of place, O’Connor never stopped working both in attack and defence. One of the quietest players you will meet, she went about her business in such a professional manner and though it was truly a team effort, O’Connor’s performance is made all the more special as she togged out having travelled most of the day from the Gaeltacht to get there. Add to that her granny been very ill and it can’t have been easy for her but someone helped her through. Sadly Aisling’s granny passed away the next morning and on behalf of all at Kilcock ladies I give my sincere condolences to Aisling, her mam Irene, her sister Megan and all of the O’Connor and O’Keeffe family. May she RIP. We will win the final for her Aisling.
So as the light faded and the crowd dispersed, the scoreboard read
Kilcock 1:13 Robert Emmets 1:08
Grace White 1:04 (1f)
Noelle Conlon 0:03
Louise Keane 0:02
Emma Robinson 0:02
Orla Cagney 0:01
Caithlin Ni Mhuiricu 0:01
Robert Emmets Scorers:
Laura Doyle 1:03
Mary Houlgrane 0:03 (2f)
Rebecca Dunleavy 0:01
Linda Byrne for Hayley White
Emma Hoare for Laura O’Neill
Caithlin Ni Mhuiricu for Noelle Conlon
Shanon Byrne for Therese Macken
Noelle Conlon for Louise Keane
Robert Emmets Team:
6:Sally Ann Hamil
Wides: Kilcock (11) Robert Emmets (5)
Frees Conceded: Kilcock (16) Robert Emmets (20)
Player Of The Game: Aisling O’Connor