There is an old cliché that goals win games and that was the case in the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship semi-final at St. Brendan’s Park in Birr on Saturday last as Longford ladies fell to their first defeat of the year as their title hopes were dashed by a strong Armagh side.
The goals came at crucial stages in the game and they were real blows for Longford. In the first half they had enough chances but failed to show their dominance on the scoreboard. It was always going to be a huge task for Longford against an Armagh side who were playing senior until this year and on this evidence they definitely wouldn’t have been out of place back in the senior championship.
Longford didn’t put in a performance that they are capable of and made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes. But overall it has been a terrific year for Diane O’Hora’s charges; winning promotion to Division 3 and claiming the Division 4 league title, winning the Leinster Intermediate Championship and then topping their group to get to the last four of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship. It is a young side and the future looks bright.
It was one of the rising young stars, Aisling Reynolds, who opened the scoring in the 2nd minute but Armagh replied with a point from Mags McAlinden after a neat move.
Longford then enjoyed a lot of possession but failed to convert their chances. The Armagh defence held firm on a few occasions and forced Longford into making mistakes. Longford could have grabbed a goal in the 11th minute after Sharon Treacy played a nice ball into Anne Marie Bratten but the pass evaded the Killoe girl and Armagh keeper Katie Daly was able to gather.
Totally against the run of play Armagh then got a goal when Shauna O’Hagan finished off a nice move and minutes later Longford defender Elizabeth Brady had to be alert to prevent Armagh getting another goal.
After 13 minutes without a score Claire Greene got Longford’s second point in the 15th minute, an excellent effort, but Armagh replied with a point from midfielder Caroline O’Hanlon.
Greene had chances to register more scores but she hit two bad wides in quick succession. Claire finally got another score in the 20th minute when converting a free. The momentum was with Longford now but then Armagh hit them with a sucker punch when Kelly Mallon fisted the ball to the back of the net.
Longford got a fourth point in the 24th minute from another Greene free but McAlinden tagged on two more points for Armagh to give them a six point advantage going in at the break, 2-4 to 0-4.
One minute into the second half Longford could have grabbed a much needed goal. Michelle Farrell’s effort came off the upright but there was no-one there to grab the rebound. Armagh went down the other end and a free from McAlinden stretched their lead. Then in the 36th minute a badly needed goal finally materialised for Longford when Jacinta Brady shot to the back of the net. But instead of giving Longford a lift it spurred Armagh on instead and they added two points from Fionnula McKenna.
Armagh midfielder Sinead McCleary was lucky not to be punished for a foul on Sharon Treacy in the 39th minute before Caroline O’Hanlon pointed for the Ulster county in the 41st minute.
The game was over as a contest midway through the second half when Armagh got their third goal through Kelly Mallon. It was a shattering setback that Longford could not recover from and Niamh Henderson got another point for Armagh in the 46th minute.
In the 48th minute Longford got their first point of the second half when Sharon Treacy fired a shot just over the bar when going for goal and substitute Michelle Farrell landed a consolation score for the gallant losers in the 57th minute as Armagh ran out convincing winners to clinch a place in the All-Ireland Intermediate Final at Croke Park on Sunday September 30th.
ARMAGH: Katie Daly; Clodagh McCann, Laura Brown, Sarah Marley; Sharon Reel, Niamh Marley, Niamh Henderson (0-1); Sinead McCleary, Caroline O’Hanlon (0-2); Marian McGuinness, Mag McAlinden (0-4, two frees), Fionnula McKenna (0-2); Ciara Lennon, Shauna O’Hagan (1-0), Kelly Mallon (2-0).
Subs:- Caroline O’Hare for M McGuinness (40 mins); Aisling Hughes for C Lennon (52 mins); Mairead Tennyson for F McKenna (55 mins); Caitlin Malone for S O’Hagan (58 mins); Siobhan Mackle for M McAlinden (59 mins).
LONGFORD: Michelle Kilkenny; Leanne Keegan, Elizabeth Brady, Mairead Moore; Marie Brady, Lauren Farrell, Sharon Treacy (0-1); Jacinta Brady (1-0), Aisling Reynolds (0-1); Michelle Noonan, Anna McDonnell, Edel Quinn; Claire Greene (0-3, two frees), Anne Marie Bratten, Orla Noonan.
Subs:- Aoife Darcy for O Noonan (20 mins); Michelle Farrell (0-1) for A McDonnell (27 mins); Paula Kenny for C Greene (36 mins); Patricia Reilly for A Reynolds (41 mins); Sarah Tierney for M Noonan (56 mins).
Referee: PJ Rabbitte (Galway).