It was a terrible heartbreak for the Wicklow Minor footballers on Wednesday evening as they were dropped by one point in the Zookar All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship Minor ‘C’ final against Clare in Keenegad.
In a game that had everything you could possibly want in terms of football action, the Garden County side didn’t win by fire at the end of a fight that saw them lose three key players to injuries on the course. Gave. A wonderfully entertaining second half.
Dominic Leach’s charges recovered from a poor start, which saw them return to parity at the break after 10 minutes to go 1–2 0–0 and lead five points on two separate occasions in the second half. Only had to retreat again before taking it. AB Downs excellent both times by an impressive banner side caught the winner in a second half in 39 minutes.
The reasons for this defeat and how many more are multi-layered.
The break missed by the immensely talented Saabh Fischer could be suggested as a pivotal moment, but the Blessington footballer should be rest assured that a moment in a game that saw his score eight points and a helping hand after a horrific bang. Put in a big innings first. The head is certainly not the cause of this painful damage.
On a fairly simple level it would be fair to sum up the game by saying that a very talented Claire side was able to drop down five points on two occasions and battle back within reach before finally taking the lead late.
Wicklow’s poor start to the game was another factor. Wicklow looked flat and nervous, and it took them a while to settle down, but when they did, they were so impressive, including Emily Rose O’Toole, Aba Harmon, Seofra Adams, Abby Maggie, Sadhbha Fischer, Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne And with Lacy Jane. Shannon is taking the game up to Claire in a big way.
While Holly Wright’s kick-outs were excellent for the most part, Wicklow had little success under Claire’s restart and gave Banner a platform to lift the siege of the Gardens several times, but to attack a defense. was also a serious issue. Threat from Abbie Downs, Adele McNamara and Grene Burke despite best efforts from Zara Fennell, Orleith née Galchobhayer, Alana Carroll, Ciara O’Brien and Grace Murphy.
Lizzie Bourke and Eimear O’Sullivan worked hard to counter a busy and creative Joanna Doohan and Eimear Cloon in the middle of the field and held their own for this fiercely competitive encounter.
Missing chances during the game and injuries to Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne, Abha Harmon and Sadhbha Fischer were also significant.
Six wides were collected during the game by Wicklow, while he also hit the post, left a shot short and made a fine save from Katie McMahon.
That save came from the boot of Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne in the 52nd minute, where a goal put Garden County four points clear. The loss of the Valleymount footballer was significant. When the game came down to those last few frantic moments, his menacing presence in the inner line was badly missed.
A very decent crowd of Wicklow supporters visited what is now regarded as a cemetery for Garden County teams in Keenegad, but they had little to cheer as Clare went from 1–2 to 0–0. Going forward, Downes’ goal after nine minutes was played a ball past Holly Wright’s goal.
Sadhbha Fischer drilled at Wicklow’s opening 60 seconds later, but it was 1-5 to 0-3 after 17 minutes, with Fischer coughing well into the game between Clare Points in Dominic Leach’s side.
Points from Fischer, Abby Magee and Electric Eobha Harmon made it 1-7 to 0-6 for Claire, but they increased by a point by Downs, who could easily have been a goal with 27.
Then a Super Holy Right kick-out found the hard-hitting Orleith née Galchobhayer and went on an attack to Wicklow that ended with 45. Fischer finds Harmon with a placed ball and the Tinley star scored a brilliant goal to pull Wicklow back. within two points.
Fine work by Lizzie Bourke brought turnover and Lacy Jane Shannon fed Harmon who flung on a Stunner.
Ciara O’Brien scored a free win in the next passage of the game and the ball was worked through Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne and Sioffra Adams before ending up with Harmon and another white flag to level Wicklow to 1–8. Having left on the break at 1-8 and the wind behind them in the second half.
Two fissures went free and a cracking Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne goal had put Wicklow five clear after 35, but a lost possession five minutes later left Claire on the ground and set fire to the house behind Holly Wright. Pulled back within two.
Wright had a super game and was called into action when Sophie Daly fired a rocket towards the Wicklow goal, while Alana Carroll thwarted the Banner Ladies in the next move when another Wicklow move hit the far end. was broken.
The lead was back to five when substitute Charlotte Nagle assembled a virtuoso Fischer who came back from Claire Post in a perfect finish before finishing home in the back of the net, as the Killcool Footballer did against Leitrim in the semi-final. .
A Wicklow wide and a stray free that ended with Claire pointing at Adele McNamara’s boot, followed by another brilliant save from Holly Wright, this time from AB Downs, the last player of the match.
But the pressure was mounting. Another stray Wicklow was picked up by the free Amelie Malis and two passes later the ball was in the hands of McNamara, leaving Wright behind with no hope.
It’s hard to put into words the frantic pace of the second half, but these Wicklow players never stopped working, never found wanting to try or bravery, and it proved costly in the very next attack when Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne is set on goal. Sadhbha Fischer only to save his shot and the talented attacker to crash to the ground and suffer a suspected broken collar bone.
A McNamara point left it 3–10 and Claire took the lead with points from Downs (free) and Eimar Cloon, but credited to this excellent Wicklow side, they made their way through two Fischer frees, which took Arnold. O’Reilly and Lizzie Bourke won.
Sadhbh would have had a chance to pursue Wicklow 37 minutes after the second half when Abha Harmon was fouled, but his effort was wide enough.
At the other end, Downs carried Claire after being picked up by Clune and despite Alana Carroll’s best efforts, but you thought this Wicklow side still had another score.
And then disaster struck. Pure bravery saw Aobha Harmon suffering a shoulder injury and moments later when Sadhbha Fischer was stopped, when she went to equalize late, she made a nasty bang on the head and took her back. was forced to.
Wicklow would have one last attack, which began with Lacy Jane Shannon winning a turnover she had no possession of, but the ball was lost to Kaoim Cahill in the Claire defense and the horrific sound of the final whistle was late in the Keenegad. The evening air had entered.
Heartbroken for Wicklow but what a game of football, and what a journey these players have given us all.
There’s no shame in losing to a quality side, and this game’s wins and losses were right in the mix until the very end.
Claire: Katie McMahon; Katie Callaghan, Kaoim Cahill, Perpetual Blood; Emer Hines, Hannah Doyle, Emily Malis; Joanna Doohan, Eimer Klun (0-1); Abbie Downs (2-6, 2f), Adele McNamara (1-4), Sophie Daly; Lauren Conway, Grene Burke (0-2), Keelin Fitzgerald. Members: Jenna Murphy for Kay McMahon (35, inject), Caitlyn O’Connor (36) for G Burke, Elisha Tomei (60+7) for S Daly.
Wicklow: Holly Wright; Zara Fennell, Orlath nee Galchobhair, Alana Carroll; Grace Murphy, ER O’Toole, Ciara O’Brien; Lizzie Bourke, Imier O’Sullivan; Aobha Harmon (1-3), Lackey Jane Shannon, Seofra Adams; Poppy Rose, Cullen Dunne (1-0), Sadhbha Fischer (0-8, 5f), AB Magee (0-1). Members: Charlotte Nagle (1-0) for A Maggie (44), Lia Arnold O’Reilly (54, inject) for PR Cullen Dunne, Emer Cullen for C O’Brien (55), Molly for A Harmon Sweeney (60+ 13, inj), Grené Flynn (60+15, inj) to S Fisher.
Referee: Paul Burke (Louth)