Longford ladies endured a rigorous challenge from Wicklow in the Leinster Intermediate Football Championship semi-final at the Arklow GAA grounds on Saturday last, eventually emerging victorious after extra-time.
While Longford dominated on the score sheet for the most part of normal time, they struggled to put the game beyond doubt and defending their 3 point lead tirelessly in the dying minutes proved fruitless when Wicklow’s Loretta Gilbert blasted a 14 yard free to the back of the net to force extra-time, 1-9 to 2-6.
But any sense that the Wicklow girls had given themselves a lifeline was soon quashed as Longford turned on the style in extra-time, outscoring the garden county 2-5 to 0-2 to send them packing.
It took both sides a while to settle into this game but it was Longford who opened the scoring with a well taken goal from championship debutant Emma Farrelly.
The Longford defence made it difficult for Wicklow to open their account with Leanne Keegan, in particular, hard working. Wicklow eventually got their first point in the 8th minute and would outscore the Longford ladies 4 points to 3 during the remainder of the first half.
Longford could have enjoyed a greater half-time lead (1-3 to 0-4) had Michelle Farrell been given advantage when she was fouled straight through on goal, instead they were awarded a 14 yard free which Aisling Reynolds coolly slotted over the bar.
Wicklow came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders in the second half and looked like they would cause Longford big problems when Molly Cullen pointed from the throw-in while Longford defender Geraldine McManus was forced to make a goal saving block in the opening 5 minutes.
The energetic Anna McDonnell then landed a point for the visitors but Longford were facing mixed fortunes when Orla Noonan was somewhat dubiously sent to the sin bin. However, Michelle Farrell, having moved out to the half forward line, became a serious threat to the Wicklow defence. Longford reasserted their dominance when midfielder Siobhan McGowan placed the ball perfectly into space for Anna McDonnell who laid the ball off to Michelle Farrell who slotted home a goal for a 4 point advantage.
Longford fought to maintain their lead for the remainder of the second half and looked like they would hold on when given a number of consecutive frees.
But Wicklow’s Loretta Gilbert found herself with a free on the 14 yard line in injury time and with nothing to lose she blasted the ball at the packed Longford goal line and had her shot deflected into the back of the net to leave the sides all square at the end of normal time,
Claire Greene gave Longford a dream start in extra-time as she netted within the first minute and Michelle Farrell followed up with a point before Wicklow scored their only point in the opening exchanges of this period.
Longford blew Wicklow away in the second half of extra-time with well-taken scores from Claire Greene (2), Anne Marie Bratten and Gemma Kenny to establish a commanding 7 point lead. Wicklow then scored just their second point in the extra-time period before Claire Greene got her second goal to put the issue beyond all doubt.
The Longford ladies now march on to the Leinster intermediate final against Offaly in a couple of weeks time.
LONGFORD: Michelle Kilkenny; Leanne Keegan, Geraldine McManus, Michelle Noonan; Claire Farrell, Sinead Farrell, Orla Noonan; Siobhan McGowan, Anne Marie Bratten (0-1); Claire Greene (2-2), Aisling Reynolds (0-3), Anna McDonnell (0-2); Emma Farrelly (1-0), Michelle Farrell (1-2), Gemma Kenny (0-1).
Subs used:- Emer Heaney for E Farrelly; Aisling Greene for C Farrell.