All Ireland U14 Blitz
The All Ireland U14 Blitz was held in KinnÓgad on Saturday last and after a gruelling days competition Leitrim claimed the All Ireland Div 3 crown. This is a tremendous achievement by the team and shows the work being done with the underage in the County. Leitrim ensured the title stays in Connacht following Roscommons victory last year.
It took Leitrim a nerve tingling penalty shoot out to become All Ireland Champions over a brave Offaly side in the final.
After a poor performance in their first game against Fermanagh there was little sign that Leitrim would emerge as All Ireland Champions by the end of the day. Niamh Tighe got the first score of the match when she soloed from midfield to slot over. A minute later Laura O Dowd combined with Clare Rowley to score well. AgainÓgood work by Claire Rowley put Roisin Fowley through. Fermanagh carried the game there after but tenacious defending by Orlaith Heslin and fullback Chloe Gilligan kept Fermanghs lively forwards at bay. Niamh Tighe finished off the first half Scóring, a move involving several Leitrim players including Michelle McNama.
That was to be Leitrims last score of the match, Fermanagh piled on the pressure and a goal after 5 minutes to leave the minimum between the sides. Leitrim only managed a few sallies into the Fermanagh half and no real opportunity was created. Goalkeeper Katie Byrne was kept busy and showed her adept handling on numerous occasions. Fermanagh went in front when they goaled from close range. Fermanagh had the final say with the closing score to win by 2-01 to Leitrims 4 points. Best for Leitrim was Grainne O Malley, Patricia Ford and Katie Byrne.
It was a much improved Leitrim that took to the field against Armagh. After 2 minutes a Niamh Tighe free was played into Laura O Dowd who beat 2 players before firing into the net. A Niamh Tighe free was added in the 5th minute but play was up and down the field but Deirdre Davitt and Kelly O Brien kept Armagh at bay until the last minute when Armagh goaled.. Armagh equalised in the first minute of the second half, but Leitrim raised their game another notch. A brilliant move initiated by Caoimhe Quinn was finishing expertly to the net by Roisin Fowley to put Leitrim in front. Emma O Hagan was through onÓgoal but was fouled and Niamh Tighe put over the resulting free. Back came Armagh with an excellent goal of their own they soon equalised and Leitrim needed a wining score if they were to stay in the competition. Laura O Dowd duly obliged with seconds remaining and Leitrim held out on a score line of 2-03 to Armaghs 2-02.
Offaly were the opposition in the next game and in was one of Leitrims best performances of the day. With Anita Conefrey and Ciara Gaffney dominating on the 40 and Shauna McLoughlin sweeping up the breaks Leitrim enjoyed lots of possession. Niamh Tighe carried the ball deep into the oppositions 40 and on one such run set up Roisin Fowley for the first score. A goal by Emma O Hagan and Leitrim went 4 up but Offaly showed they had lively forwards when a ball over the top caught out the Leitrim back line and Katie Byrne was given no chance. On the stroke of half time Offaly drew level, both teams locked on 2-01 a piece.
On the resumption the pace quickened and Roisin Fowley scored a vital goal but back came Offaly with 2 points. The play seesawed with Chloe Gilligan sweeping up at the back and excellent assistance from Kelly O Rourke and Ciara McWeeney keeping Offaly at bay. A sweeping move from Leitrims fullback line and where Catherine BohanÓgave the final ball to Laura O Dowd to score a rasper from 12 metres was crucial. O Dowd was the provider as Claire Rowley finished the Scóring with stunning shot to the net a minute later. The final whistle blew shortly with Leitrim with 4-02 and Offaly with 2-03.
The final proved a very exciting affair as Offaly worked their way back into final on a penalty shoot out. This was the best match of the day. Leitrim dominated possession thanks in the main to the twin towers Anita Conefrey and Ciara Gaffeny in the half forward line. Despite all the possession in the first half Leitrim only led by 2 at half time.
Niamh Tighe captain for the final scored on one of her many runs at the heart of the defence. Emma O Hagan beat 2 players before Claire Rowley slotted over. In the 6th minute Shauna Clancys shot was saved but Claire Rowley scored from the rebound. Caoimhe Quinn and Laura O Dowd combined for Niamh Tighe to point. Offaly opened their account with a free and then on the 15th minute they goaled which gave them a huge boost going into the half time interval despite being outplayed for 80% of the first half as Leitrim failed to convert their chances.
On the resumption Offaly took the game to Leitrim and pointed a free before Roisin Fowley went passed 3 Offaly players to score from 15 metres. The Offaly full forward then buried the ball from close range as Offaly upped their performance to take the lead for the first time in the match. A goal from a dubious free put Offaly 4 up and Leitrim had it all to do. Laura O Dowd broke through the Offaly cover and passed to Roisin Fowley but as she was about to kick for goal she was fouled, Niamh Tighe scored the free. Leitrim were now attacking in droves and a minute later Fowley scored the equaliser with Scórtcher to the roof of the net. Offaly replied with a point of their own as they led 3-03 to Leitrims 2-05. Several Leitrim attacks came to nothing as Leitrim looked for the equaliser and it came with a minute to go. Offaly backs had blocked several kicks for a score around the 20 metre line but eventually Roisin Fowley hooked the ball over the bar to draw Leitrim level and send us into a dramatic penalty shoot out. The score at the end of normal time was Leitrim 2-06 Offaly 3-03
Shauna McLoughlin was first up for Leitrim but the Offaly keeper saved to put them into the driving seat. Offaly scored first with a well placed shot low and to the corner. Roisin Fowley levelled with fine finish giving the keeper no chance. Offalys second penalty was well struck but the ball hit the outside of the post and went wide. Caoimhe Quinn was next up for Leitrim; her shot was firm but down the middle as the keeper stayed. Leitrim keeper Katie Byrne with great determination saved Offalys next. Deirdre Davitts penalty was saved by the Offaly keeper but a brilliant block by Katie Byrne kept Leitrim in touch.
Shauna Glancys penalty put Leitrim in the lead and Offaly had to score their last penalty if they were to stay in the hunt for the cup. Offaly were denied by Katie Byrne as she dived to her left to save and send the Leitrim team were into raptures.
While Katie Byrne was the hero at the death, Leitrim had 23 heroes on the field as this team showed great character time and again all through the season. This team captured the first underage silverware for Leitrim for some time. A Special thanks to the management of Pat McWeeney, Bernie McLoughlin and Kieran Moran, and also the assistance of physios Geraldine McWeeney and Mary Bohan. Also thanks to the team sponsors Supermacs of Carrick for their generosity where the team enjoyed a lovely meal afterwards.
Katie Byrne, Patricia Forde, Chloe Gilligan, Caoimhe Quinn, Grainne O Malley, Deirdre Davitt, Ciara McWeeney, Shauna McLoughlin, Niamh Tighe, Ciara Gaffney, Laura O Dowd, Anita Conefrey, Claire Rowley, Róisín Fowley, Emma O Hagan.
Shauna Clancy, Kelly O Brien, Catherine Bohan, Michelle McNama, Orlaith Heslin, Ciara Maguire, Kelly O Rourke and Niamh O Malley
14-May-08 by Kieran Moran – Ladies – Acting PRO