Longford GAA are enjoying a lot of success this season and another National Football League title was captured at O’Connor Park in Tullamore on Sunday last when the county ladies produced a strong finish to beat Limerick in the Division 4 decider with the comfortable margin of seven points to spare at the final whistle.
However, the Longford girls struggled to assert their superiority and after squandering several scoring chances in the first half the sides were actually all square with just ten minutes of normal time remaining after Limerick substitute Stephanie Carroll shot over the bar.
That was really putting it up to Longford but they eventually stepped up another gear to dominate the rest of the league final, firing over seven points without reply to clinch promotion to Division 3 next season.
Claire Greene converted another couple of frees to bring her total to a most significant 0-7 while Aisling Reynolds, Anne Marie Bratten, Paula Kenny (2) and Lauren Farrell were also on target to make sure of the victory, although there was a late scare for Longford when it took a brilliant save by keeper Michelle Kilkenny to keep out a goalbound shot from Limerick midfielder Joanne O’Gorman.
Former Mayo player Diane O’Hora is certainly making the desired impact in her first season as manager of the Longford ladies squad after blending together youth and experience to fine effect but there is still plenty of room for improvement for the much more difficult tasks ahead in the Leinster and All-Ireland Intermediate Championships.
When the going got really tough in the league final on Sunday last, it was wing back Sharon Treacy who really came to the fore to provide the inspiration while the introduction of substitute Paula Kenny in the early stages of the second half proved to be a shrewd move by the selectors as the Rathcline girl landed three vital points – all from play.
That fact that Longford still manage to emerge victorious without playing to the best of their overall ability is certainly not a bad complaint and they can look forward to the championship campaign with a certain degree of confidence.
But their finishing was extremely poor, particularly in the first half when at least six scoring attempts dropped short into the arms of the Limerick keeper Martina Giltenane, while early goal chances were wasted by Anne Marie Bratten and Edel Quinn – although Quinn appeared to be fouled and a penalty might have been awarded in the 4th minute.
Roscommon referee Seamus Regan was rather harsh on Longford with his strange decisions throughout the game and they ended up trailing by 0-6 to 0-5 at the break when they should have been in front.
Anne Marie Bratten and generally prominent midfielder Jacinta Brady raced through to fire over early points while the other first half scores all came from frees converted by Claire Greene. Longford led by 0-5 to 0-2 at one stage with Catriona Davis and Caroline Hickey on target for Limerick who gradually closed the gap.
Four points in a row through Dymphna O’Brien (two frees), Claire O’Riordan and Joanne O’Gorman in a dominant spell between the 25th and 30th minutes left them in a slender lead going into the second half but Longford now had the advantage of the wind.
Limerick were unlucky not to score a goal with just 20 seconds gone on the changeover when Niamh Richardson hit the crossbar and after another influential Longford substitute Michelle Farrell then shot straight at the opposing keeper, there was a second lucky escape for the midlanders when keeper Michelle Kilkenny came to the rescue in saving a close range shot from Catriona Davis.
Longford eventually got back on level terms when the accurate Claire Greene fired over a free in the 40th minute and soon after the effective Michelle Farrell showed a quick turn of foot in racing through to fire home a cracking goal.
But Limerick recovered quickly with a goal from corner-forward Dymphna O’Brien in the 45th minute and they then regained the lead with a point from substitute Roisin Browne. Back came Longford with a point apiece from Paula Kenny and player-of-the-match award winner Claire Greene (free) and they proceeded to pull away in the closing stages for a fairly emphatic win in the finish.
LONGFORD: Michelle Kilkenny (Dromard); Sinead Farrell (Rathcline), Elizabeth Brady (Killoe), Mairead Moore (Clonguish); Michelle Noonan (Carrickedmond), Lauren Farrell (Rathcline, 0-1), Sharon Treacy (Killoe); Jacinta Brady (Killoe, 0-1), Aisling Reynolds (Ballymore, 0-1); Edel Quinn (Killoe), Ann Marie Bratten (Killoe, 0-2), Sarah Tierney (Edgeworthstown); Orla Noonan (St. Helen’s, Drumlish), Anna McDonnell (Killoe), Claire Greene (Rathcline, 0-7, all frees).
Subs:- Michelle Farrell (Colmcille, 1-0) for A McDonnell (24 mins); Paula Kenny (Rathcline, 0-3) for E Quinn (34 mins); Yvonne Barden (Clonguish) for O Noonan (43 mins).
Subs:-not used: Kerrie Donnelly (St. Helen’s); Geraldine McManus (Miltown, Westmeath); Patricia Reilly (Colmcille); Mairead Reynolds (Dromard); Jo Donlon (Rathcline); Marie Brady (Clonguish); Louise Monaghan (Edgeworthstown); Genevieve Reilly (Colmcille); Caitriona Moore (Clonguish); Leah Donnelly (St. Helen’s); Monica Bannon (Carrickedmond).
LIMERICK: Martina Giltenane; Emma McGuire, Alva Neary, Rose Giltenane; Janet Garvey, Yvette Moynihan, Carla Sheehy; Niamh Richardson, Joanne O’Gorman (0-1); Paula Donnelly, Caroline Hickey (0-1), Mai Kennelly; Catriona Davis (0-1), Claire O’Riordan (0-1), Dymphna O’Brien (1-2, points from frees).
Subs:- Olivia Giltenane for R Giltenane (half-time); Stephanie Carroll (0-1) for M Kennelly (37 mins); Roisin Browne (0-1) for C Davis (45 mins).
Referee: Seamus Regan (Roscommon).