Leitrim took a giant step forward in the All Ireland Intermediate Championship with a courageous display against Leinster Champions Wexford on Sunday morning in Wexford Park. The win now puts Leitrim on top of Group two and a win or a draw against Louth on Friday evening in the final group game will earn Leitrim an automatic semi final place at the end of August. Played in near perfect conditions, Leitrim showed many of the qualities they displayed last year in reaching the final of the Junior Championship. Following an indifferent League campaign, and despite a good win over Westmeath earlier in the Championship, added to the disadvantage of not having a Provincial title to defend, it was difficult for the team to measure their progress this year until Sundays game. Forced to lineout without a key forward in Eileen Donohue, there were many fine performances throughout the team including Sinead Brennan, Mary McKeon and Teresa Mylott who led the defence superbly. Maeve Quinn, Eimear McGlade and Sarah McLoughlin all contributed magnificently in both defending and attacking and the hard working Aisling Brennan, Ann Marie Cox, Sinead Quinn and Clare Plunkett combined well to create plenty of Scóring opportunities. However the player of the match was Louise Loughlin who made two magnificent saves and commanded her square with great confidence under increasing pressure from Wexford particularly in the final quarter. While Leitrim will find plenty of room for improvement over the coming weeks, their attitude and hunger for the game on Sunday and the manner of their victory will give the team some confidence for the challenges ahead.
Wexford dominated the early exchanges and but for some wayward shooting could have scored the first three points of the game. After a Sinead Quinn wide Leitrim scored first with a break from the middle of the field as Eimear McGlade powered through to point after seven minutes. Wexford responded immediately when a ball over the top eluded the fullback line and Josie Dwyer pointed. Two minutes later Maeve Quinn and Sinead Quinn combined well but after Maeve was fouled, Ann Marie Cox’s free was off target. In the tenth minute Wexford again broke through following a poor Leitrim clearance and Dwyer shot hard and low to the left but Louise Loughlin brilliant saved to deflect the ball for a 45. The resulting free was hit short to Kate Kelly who pointed to give Wexford the lead. For the next ten minutes there was stalemate as both defences played well to stop Scóring opportunities. Michelle Reynolds hit a wide from a Scórable distance and at the other end a great catch under pressure from Mairead Stenson was poorly cleared and Dwyer hit another point to extend Wexford’s lead after twenty minutes. Louise Loughlin was called on to make a great catch and clearance under pressure as Wexford mounted another attack. Sinead Quinn and Ann Conlan combined well as Leitrim mounted another attack but Quinn missed the target. Aisling Brennan followed almost immediately with a wide following good work from Eimear McGlade and Ann Marie Cox but Leitrim were beginning to assert themselves more in the game. The ever dangerous Dwyer again breached the Leitrim defence but was brilliantly blocked down by Mary McKeon as she went through onÓgoal. Struggling in midfield Leitrim made a double substitution and a number of positional changes with five minutes left in the half, Maeve Quinn moved to midfield and Clare Plunkett went to full forward having replaced Erin Farrell. Sarah McLoughlin came on at midfield to replace Mairead Stenson whose place at cornerback was taken by Mary McKeon while Eimear McGlade moved to centre back, Lorraine Brennan to the wing and Aisling Brennan to half forward. All of the changes had an immediate impact as Sarah McLoughlin pointed almost immediately as Michelle Reynolds and Aisling Brennan worked well to set up the score. Sinead Quinn hit another wide but with three minutes left a great ball down the wing from Ann Marie Cox to Anna Conlan created another Leitrim attack. Conlan was fouled and Maeve Quinn took the resulting free from forty meters. Sub Clare Plunkett rose majestically at the edge of the square to claim the ball under pressure and turned and shot low and hard to the far corner of the net despite the best efforts of the otherwise solid Mary Rose Kelly. Wexford tried to reduce the lead but Tara Maloney sent the ball wide and in the last attack of the game Caroline Murphy hit the outside of the post and her effort also went wide to leave Leitrim leading by 1-2 to 0-3 at the break.
Within a minute of the restart Leitrim were dealt a blow as Michelle Reynolds was sin binned for ten minutes for a tackle on Leona Tector but the Wexford team failed to utilise their extra player during this period leaving the full back free. Three minutes later Louise Loughlin was again called into action as a dangerous ball in was flicked on by Dwyer towards the corner but Loughlin went down again magnificently to palm the ball away. Dwyer dislocated her finger in her effort and was replaced by Bridget Curran. However they reduced the lead with a point from Curran from play. Leitrim responded immediately with another sweeping move and Eimear McGlade finished the move with a point. Ann Marie Cox then sent in a dangerous ball that was well saved by Kelly. With thirteen minutes gone Maeve Quinn won a ball well in the Leitrim half and set up another Leitrim attack. Michelle Reynolds was blocked well as she tried to point but immediately Sarah McLoughlin pointed following a good pass from Plunkett. Marve Quinn again cut out another Wexford attack and on the counter McLoughlin pointed following a fine pass from Aisling Brennan. Eighteen minutes in, Leitrim extended the lead to five points when a long range pass from McLoughlin set up Sinead Quinn who beat the defence to point from play. Wexford reduced the gap with a point from midfielder Deirdre Fox with seven minutes remaining as Wexford increased the pressure on the Leitrim defence. LoughlinÓgathered a dangerous high ball and again two minutes later as Wexford became increasingly desperate for a goal to save the game. However despite the pressure the back line held firm and gave no shooting chance to their opponents with a number of blocks and tackles. Leitrim did manÓge to create a second goal chance with two minutes remaining but Clare Plunketts effort was disallowed for a challenge on the keeper. Leona Tector moved forward as Wexford again pressurised the Leitrim defence. Loughlin was yet again alert to save from Tector but Michelle Hearne hit a goal effort wide. As the game moved to injury time Leitrim fought hard to maintain their lead and the pressure was relieved when Eimear McGlade moved forward purposefully but was fouled with Cox pointing the free to regain their five point lead. Deep into injury time Wexford had one last goal chance as Tectors shot hit the crossbar but fell kindly to Kate Kelly who hit the net to reduce the gap to two points. It was imperative that Leitrim won the resulting kickout and did so and as they set up an attack the referee blew the final whistle to the signal a great two point win for the Leitrim girls.
Leitrim: Louise Loughlin, Catherine Holohan, Sinead Brennan, Mairead Stenson, Mary McKeon, Lorraine Brennan, Teresa Mylott, Emer McGlade Aisling Brennan, Anna Conlan, Sinead Quinn, Erin Farrell, Ann Marie Cox, Maeve Quinn, Michelle Reynolds. Subs: Clare Plunkett for Erin Farrell, Sarah McLoughlin for Mairead Stenson (25 mins) Sinead McWeeney for Michelle Reynolds (65 mins)
Wexford: Mary Rose Kelly, Marina Murray, Leona Tector, Aoife Waters, Mags Kelly, Caroline Murphy, Karen Morris, Deirdre Fox, Michelle Doyle, Josie Dwyer, Ciara Scallon, Michelle Hearne, Tara Maloney, Kate Kellly, Sharon Kehoe.
Referee: CiaranÓgroome (Offaly)
30-Jul-07 by Patricia Bohan – Ladies PRO