Kildare Ladies Senior Football League Division3: Final
By Robert Cox @Hawkfield
A strong second half performance rescued victory from the jaws of defeat for the Kilcock Senior Ladies against a well organised and gallant Suncroft side in the Kildare Senior Football League Division Three Final at Hawkfield on Saturday the 14th of July. On a day which can be best described as a feast of ladies of football, the girls from North Kildare joined Confey, Castlemitchell, Moorefield and Monasterevin in bringing silverware back to their respective clubs. For manager Shane Stone and his charges this is becoming a bit of a habit as they added the league title to last years triumph in the Junior B Championship and with the average age of Saturday’s starting line up at twenty one years of age they will hope to continue their meteoric rise up the ranks in the coming years. Already focus has turned to their assault on the Junior A Championship but they know that anything like the performance given in the first half of Saturday’s final will not be good enough to live with some of the bigger teams.
At the end of the day though for all my saying how poor a first half the team had, they ground out the win and as someone said to me afterwards ”never judge a performance in a final” and on reflection I would have to agree with them. Kilcock were nervous coming into this decider and for young players Paige Byrne and Emma Maguire, it was their debut in a county final. Add to that the loss of influential county minor Caoimhe Fagan due to a knee injury and Shanon Byrne, Laura O’Neill and Aoife Divily through holidays and work commitments, numbers were scarce on the ground. They did however welcome back Linda Byrne to the full back line after a long lay off with a broken finger. The return of Byrne helped add some experience steadiness to the defence. Suncroft for their part were missing star player Paula Browne.
When the game got underway, it was the girls from the Curragh that seemed to settle much quicker and aided by the breeze, they opened the scoring with a point after only two minutes. This only settled them even more and where as Kilcock were making numerous handling and kicking errors, Suncroft were well organised and their mistakes were minimal. Corner forward Ellen Dowling who got the games’ opening score, was wreaking havoc in Kilcock’s defence early on, forcing Stone and his management team to switch Paige Byrne onto her. Dowling’s pointed effort came from play after a good move involving no less than six of her team mates. It was seven minutes before Kilcock opened their account through Louise Keane and they had to work hard for it too. Keane got on the end of a laboured attack and raised the white flag from an acute angle, to the delight of the large following in the stand. This was to be the games last score for fourteen minutes but in fairness in that period Suncroft should have had the game wrapped up and one hand on the trophy. They camped themselves in Kilcock’s half and did everything bar score. The aforementioned Dowling was guilty of some easy misses from placed balls while it began to rub off on her team mates as the wide count mounted up. Kilcock can be grateful the Suncroft attack had a off day. Dangerous wing forward Trina Duggan did end the scoring drought on twenty one minutes with a point her good play deserved. Duggan along with Dowling were the main threats to Kilcock in the first half and even though Kilcock knew this would be the case coming into the final, they still found it hard to deal with the talented pair. Emma Hoare levelled things up soon after with a point from thirty yards. Hoare was one positive from the poor start and while some others around her took a long time to settle, she showed her experience and talent to keep her side in it. Duggan restored Suncroft’s lead three minutes later from a fourteen yard free off the ground before Kilcock’s dead ball specialist Grace White equalised a minute later to leave the sides level for the third time. For all of Suncroft’s dominance, Kilcock were still in the game and while they were grateful to their opponents forwards earlier on, they were thankful to their goalie Eimear Kelly on twenty nine minutes. After Linda Byrne was fouled in possession and no free was awarded, Suncroft full forward Amy Dunne pounced on the loose ball and found herself one on one with Kelly and though she placed the ball low and hard to the right corner, Kelly got down and pulled off a magnificent one handed save to put the ball out for a 45′. Looking back this was a massive moment in the game and it seemed to finally wake Kelly’s team mates up. This would have been a hammer blow going in at half time and from the resulting kick out the girls in green and gold worked the ball up the field to Emma Robinson who found herself with only one defender to beat and team mate Louise Keane if she needed her. Robinson decided to settle for the point and in hindsight it was the sensible option with the game in the melting pot. One point takes two to beat it remember!! Suncroft must have heard that saying before because just before half time they hit back with two points from play through Duggan and centre back Aine Conway to insure they went into the break the happier of the sides and with a one point lead. Kilcock though knew they could not play as bad again and had been in this position before but they also knew they had to cut out the silly mistakes that had ravaged their first half performance. Linda Byrne and captain Shona Cagney had set the tone in defence with their work rate while Sheena Byrne and Aisling O’Connor were giving as good as they got in midfield but Kilcock’s Achilles heel was not switching the play as they came forward and this restricted the dangerous Grace White from having much of an impact in the opening period. Orla Cagney was well marshaled after her fine display against Suncroft in the last game of the round robin series but Emma Hoare was leading by example with a fine first half in corner forward. Over all Suncroft were the happier of the two teams at the break but had they thrown all they had at Kilcock only to lead by the minimum?
Half Time Score: Suncroft 0:05 Kilcock 0:04
Both sides returned unchanged for the second half and just as they did in the first, Kilcock opted for Noelle Conlon to join O’Connor for the throw in in place of Sheena Byrne and this time it reaped dividends as the former cleanly won the ball and went on a solo run down the pitch. Though Conlon did not get a score from that particular attack, she sent a warning shot out that Kilcock meant business. Suncroft seemed to change up their tactics for the second period, leaving just two girls inside on the full forward line and bringing the dangerous Dowling out around the middle of the park. This seemed to suit Kilcock who were now getting on top. This dominance resulted in a stunning two minute spell that resulted in two quickfire goals that changed the whole complexion of the contest. Just before those scores though Kilcock lost Louise Keane to the sin-bin for ten minutes for tugging the jersey of her opponent. Keane can feel aggrieved as the punishment in no way matched the crime, where as many other hard tackles went unnoticed later in the game. Losing Keane was a blow but Kilcock pulled together and it was Conlon who drew first blood as she tapped the ball home to an empty net after Orla Cagney had hit the post and the ball fell kindly into the path of the centre forward but no matter how easy the finish, you still have to put yourself in those positions and that’s what Conlon did. No sooner had the celebrations ceased from the first three pointer when they began for the second. This time Sheena Byrne struck for her second goal of the league campaign. Byrne showed great opportunism as she made a smart run to receive a fisted pass from Grace White and somehow she found a gap in the Suncroft defence to put the ball through the eye of a needle and into the bottom corner. In fairness to Rebecca McGuirke in the Croft goal, she had no chance for either score. If Kilcock thought they were going to cruise to an easy league at this stage they were brought straight back down to earth with a bang as first Amy Dunne pointed from play and secondly Ellen Dowling finally beat Kelly for a goal as she put the ball low and hard into the net to once again level matters up. At this stage Keane had served her time on the line but upon return to the game was substituted by Caithlin NiMhuiricu.
The Kilcock defence that had struggled badly was now getting on top and their fitness and experience was beginning to show through. Players such as Therese Macken, Fiona Campion and Paige Byrne who by their own admission struggled a bit in the first half were now flying and winning every ball that came their way and with fifteen minutes remaining their side finally put on the after burners and pushed for home. First Sheena Byrne scored a fine right footed point from twenty five yards before Emma Robinson got her second point, showing great awareness in fisting the ball over the bar when her path to goal was blocked. Then came the killer blow and the score of the game. Time and time again Grace White comes up with a score of this magnitude and once again she did not disappoint. Seeing the keeper off her line, White lobbed the ball in over her head and into the top corner. It was White’s fourth goal of the league and add to that her tally of forty points, she secured her place at the top of the pile her sides top scorer chart. At this stage the game began to get messy with a lot of stopping and starting due to injuries. Suncroft did lose two players to bad knocks and Kilcock picked up their fair share too. Thankfully for them all year and today they have had physio Gerry Long to the rescue and at times I had to tell him to slow down as he sprinted across the fine playing surface at Hawkfield. There was still time for the two sides to trade scores before the end with Trina Duggan pointing a free for Suncroft and the impressive Emma Hoare splitting the posts in injury time for Kilcock. Duggan must be mentioned for her fine place kicking off the ground. A dying trade in men’s football and something you do not see too. often in ladies. When the referee blew the final whistle there was a mixture of relief and excitement for Kilcock. They certainly stuck to the age old adage of a game of two halves but they got there in the end to bring to an end a nine year wait to win the division three of the league. Suncroft may be disappointed but this time last year they did not field a team so for them they can build on this and take their good form into the Junior B Championship. Kilcock know they must improve to put it up to teams such as Naas and Carbury in the Junior A and improve we all know they are well capable of doing.
Best for Suncroft on the day were Aine Conway and Rebecca Johnson in defence, Chloe Foy in midfield and Trina Duggan and Ellen Dowling up front. For Kilcock most of the team struggled in the first half but that is history now and their second half display more than made up for it. Eimear Kelly was unlucky not to get player of the game for her performance between the sticks and her first half save alone was worth the entry fee. Linda Byrne was solid in full back while Fiona Campion had a good second half in the corner. Sheena Byrne showed her forwards instinct to get 1:01 from midfield while upfront Grace White had a good game when fed the ball but it is Emma Hoare who gets the nod for player of the game for her pure hard work especially in the first half when the chips were down. She also added a point in either half to that work and brought an experience in gaining and keeping possession throughout. It is a team effort though and the remainder can be proud of their performances mainly in the second half. Captain Shona Cagney received the cup on behalf of her team and went on to thank her team mates, manager Shane Stone, selectors Seamus Kane and Robert Cox, physio Gerry Long and backroom team Nicky O’Connor and Breda Byrne. Kilcock now head for a crack at the Junior A Championship and the heights of Division Two of the League next year.
Full Time Score: Kilcock 3:07 Suncroft 1:07
Sheena Byrne 1:01
Grace White 1:01
Noelle Conlon 1:00
Emma Hoare 0:02
Emma Robinson 0:02
Louise Keane 0:01
Ellen Dowling 1:01
Trina Duggan 0:04
Aine Conway 0:01
Amy Dunne 0:01
6:Shona Cagney (c)
Caitlin NiMhuiricu for Louise Keane
Laura Ward for Emma Maguire
15: Ellen Dowling
16:Emma Jane Vaughan
Wides: Kilcock (3) Suncroft (10)
Frees Conceded: Kilcock (23) Suncroft (26)
Player Of The Game: Emma Hoare (Kilcock)