Longford ladies lost out to Donegal in the final of the Aisling McGing All-Ireland Under 21 ‘B’ Football Championship at Markievicz Park , Sligo on Sunday last with the wide margin of 11 points separating the sides in the finish.
But the scoreline was a complete injustice to the huge effort that the gallant losers put in as at one stage of the second half Donegal were leading by just a solitary point (1-6 to 1-5) and Longford would have been on level terms had Aisling Reynolds not missed a free in the 38th minute.
The pressure was eased on the Ulster county when their outstanding corner-forward Amber Barrett fired over a free moments later before Longford squandered another costly chance after Aoife Darcy was off target from a free.
Having said that, it was the big influence of Reynolds at midfield and Darcy at centre-half-forward that kept the midlanders in contention Corner-back Aisling Cosgrove also figured prominently for Michael Mulvey’s team who were forced to field without their top scorer, Colmcille ace Michelle Farrell, who was away on charity work in Honduras and her absence was a major blow.
The main difference between the teams was undoubtedly Amber Barrett, who clocked up the most impressive total of 2-9 and was the obvious choice for the player-of-the-match award.
While the brilliant No. 13 Barrett inflicted most of the damage for a physically stronger Donegal side, there was a great deal of luck about her first goal in the 41st minute.
Longford were only two points down at that time, 1-7 to 1-5, but Ellie Columb suffered the misfortune of deflecting a shot from Barrett into the back of the net.
Two more points (play and free) followed from the unstoppable Barrett but Longford were not done for yet in making a determined stand. Aisling Reynolds (sister of Longford senior footballer Dessie) converted a free in the 52nd minute and almost immediately there was a glimmer of hope when Emer Heaney got through for a badly needed goal.
Donegal were now just 2-9 to 2-6 ahead but they refused to panic and Amber Barrett registered another brace of points along with a cracking goal in the 58th minute to put the issue beyond all doubt.
Longford, to their credit, battled it out to the bitter end with Aoife Darcy kicking over a consolation point. During the lengthy stoppage time of over 8 minutes, Donegal were awarded another goal when the umpires adjudged that full-forward Aisleen Cunningham got a touch to a fisted pass from Barrett.
Longford felt that Cunningham made no contact with the ball but the score was allowed to stand and with virtually the last kick of this entertaining encounter Donegal midfielder Shannon McGroddy converted a close range free.
While the first half was largely dominated by Donegal, they were guilty of kicking seven wides as compared to just two for Longford who were lucky to be only three points down at the break, 1-6 to 1-3.
The sin binning of wing forward Gemma Glackin in the 23rd minute was a blow for Donegal, who had stormed into a 0-6 to 0-1 advantage with Amber Barrett (4) and Roisin Curran (2) sharing the points.
The solitary Longford score came from Aisling Reynolds (free) in the 6th minute but they were thrown a lifeline in the 17th minute when a terrific move, launched by attacking defender Aisling Cosgrove, was finished off by Laura Burke.
But this was cancelled out soon after by Aisleen Cunningham, who cut in from the right to fire home a great goal in the 20th minute. Longford battled back with a brace of points from Aoife Darcy (play and free) before the break and closed the gap to the minimum of margins with Aisling Reynolds converting a couple of frees in the early stages of the second half.
But mainly due to a gift goal Donegal got back on top on their way to becoming the first winners of the Ladies All-Ireland Under 21 ‘B’ Championship and their success was unquestionably deserved.
DONEGAL: Ciara Gallagher; Niamh Carr, Emer Gallagher, Rose Boyle; Roisin Curran (0-2), Kaneshia McKinney, Blathnaid McLaughlin; Shannon McGroddy (0-1, free), Evelyn McGinley; Nicole McLaughlin, Emer Lafferty, Gemma Glackin; Amber Barrett (2-9, three points from frees), Aisleen Cunningham (2-0), Emma McCrory.
Subs used (in the second half):- Sadhbha Medlar and Laureen O’Connell.
LONGFORD: Dervila Murphy (Killoe); Aisling Cosgrove (Longford Slashers), Leanne Keegan (Mostrim), Rachel O’Farrell (Carrickedmond); Aedin Mimnagh (Dromard), Michelle Noonan (Carrickedmond), Amy Creegan (Ballymore); Claire Farrell (Longford Slashers), Aisling Reynolds (Ballymore, 0-4, all frees); Sarah Shannon (Carrickedmond), Aoife Darcy (Clonguish, 0-3, one free), Laura Burke (St Helen’s, Drumlish/Ballinamuck, 1-0); Ellie Columb (St. Helen’s), Emer Heaney (Ballymore, 1-0), Shauna McCormack (Carrickedmond).
Subs:- Sinead Noonan (Mostrim) for L Burke (half-time); Loren Katie Logan (Mostrim) for S Shannon (58 mins); Elaine Murphy (Longford Slashers) for S McCormack; Muireann Mulcahy (Killoe) for A Creegan; Ailish Noonan (St Helen’s) for R O’Farrell (all in stoppage time).
Referee: John Niland (Sligo).