McDon­ald the star as Ark­low win thrilling tie

LADIES’ FOOT­BALL LE­IN­STER I.F.C.

Bray People - - Sport -

Ark­low Geraldines Bal­ly­money 54, Gar­rycas­tle (West­meath) 3-8: On what turned out to be atro­cious con­di­tions the ladies of Ark­low trav­elled on Sun­day last to the out­skirts of Athlone to play the West­meath county cham­pi­ons Gar­rycas­tle in their fine home venue.

The stand in Gar­rycas­tle was never more wel­come for the spec­ta­tors and the shel­ter it pro­vided helped the en­joy­ment of what turned out to be a grip­ping en­counter.

As one would ex­pect the ground was very wet and with the con­tin­u­ing driv­ing rain the ball was hard to han­dle. In the first five min­utes Gar­rycas­tle, no doubt tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Ark­low girls long jour­ney, led with a fine goal from Denise Murtagh to­gether with two points from Sarah Dolan from frees which left the seasiders 1-2 to no score in ar­rears.

The Ark­low de­fence re­or­gan­ised it­self and He­len Hur­ley, who played an in­spi­ra­tional part through­out the game, to­gether with her ma­raud­ing de­fend­ers ex­celled in cut­ting out the sup­ply of ball to the danger­ous Murtagh and Dolan. The re­sult be­ing that for the rest of the half Gar­rycas­tle were re­stricted to a sin­gle fur­ther point from the boot of Denise Murtagh.

At the other end Jessie McEleron and Tanya McDon­ald in par­tic­u­lar were start­ing to get some fine ball de­liv­ered from the cen­tre field by Ailbhe Car­ney and Catriona Byrne.

It was at the end of one of those prob­ing de­liv­er­ies that Tanya McDon­ald slipped her marker and hav­ing pre­vi­ously scored two points the Ark­low Rocket buried the ball in the green and red net to bring Ark­low within a point with half- time ap­proach­ing.

The Gar­rycas­tle girls had barely re­cov­ered when McDon­ald took on the Gar­rycas­tle cen­tre- back, Aoife McCormack, and yet again a three­p­ointer re­sulted.

The ref­eree, Ciarán Groom, from Of­faly then sig­nalled the half-time break with Ark­low lead­ing 2-2 to 1-3, a pre­car­i­ous lead which the girls would need to de­fend with vigour when Gar­rycas­tle turned with the wind and the rain at their backs.

The sec­ond-half started as did the first with Gar­rycas­tle press­ing but the Ark­low girls held firm with Sam Kelly and Naomi Ry­der par­tic­u­larly to the fore.

Af­ter a fine run Murtagh equalised for Gar­rycas­tle. Then came what many an­tic­i­pated would be the turn­ing point on the game.

Af­ter 11 min­utes Tanya McDon­ald re­ceived a ball from Aine Byrne and sprinted past a hap­less Aoife McCormack who af­ter un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously haul­ing her to the ground re­ceived a yel­low card and with it a sin bin of ten min­utes.

McDon­ald then worked a very good open­ing fol­low­ing good work by Lor­raine Byrne and took a goal to put the Ark­low girls in front yet again.

How­ever, as is so of­ten the case when down a player, the green and red girls rose their game and in the en­su­ing ten min­utes points from Ali­son Smith (an in­ter­na­tional bas­ket­ball player), Murtagh with a goal (when the Ark­low de­fence for once stopped fol­low­ing a quick kick- out from Dempsey) and two points and Dolan with a point left Gar­rycas­tle in front by 3-8 to 3-3. The Ark­low goal was un­der siege at that time and tremendous work by Linda Dempsey in goal and Ais­ling and Rachel Byrne held the Ark­low team to­gether.

Un­der eight min­utes to go and the ster­ling work by Catriona Byrne and Ailbhe Car­ney in the mid­dle of the park started to pay off. The ball was worked for­ward to McDon­ald who yet again went on a mazy run be­fore fir­ing to the net.

The Wick­low cham­pi­ons had the bit be­tween their teeth and when McDon­ald pointed a free the Ark­low girls scented victory, al­though as yet a point be­hind at 4-4 to 3-8.

Then came the winning score. The ball was won at mid­field and went though the hands of McEleron to McDon­ald and never one to shirk a chance she fin­ished with her left foot to leave Ark­low ahead by one point. The tale did not end there be­cause in the last minute and with Ark­low de­fend­ing a free was awarded to Gar­rycas­tle. Up stepped Sarah Dolan, a cousin of West­meath and In­ter­na­tional Rules star Dessie Dolan, to take the 20-me­tre free but un­be­liev­ably yet de­light­edly for the Gar­den County cham­pi­ons she pulled her shot to the left and wide – and with it Gar­rycas­tle’s chance of a re­play.

A fan­tas­tic per­for­mance by all the Wick­low girls in such con­di­tions. In­deed it was a trib­ute to both teams that at no stage was fit­ness an is­sue de­spite the heavy ground con­di­tions and the fact that both teams had only won their re­spec­tive cham­pi­onships the week pre­vi­ously.

It would be hard to sin­gle out a player on the Ark­low team as play­ing well be­cause ev­ery­body in the green, royal and white raised their game.

Ob­vi­ously Tanya McDon­ald would get the plau­dits hav­ing scored 5-4 (Ark­low’s en­tire score) but that would be un­fair on the work done through­out to get her the ball and the gutsy de­fend­ing by all the Ark­low backs and mid­field.

Gar­rycas­tle were best served by Aoife Smith, Denise Murtagh and Sarah Dolan. Ark­low now play in the quar­ter-fi­nal on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 5, against the Car­low cham­pi­ons who had not yet been de­cided at time of writ­ing.

The Ark­low girls should be con­fi­dent of their abilty and who knows how far this team can go in this com­pe­ti­tion now that they have the bit be­tween their teeth.

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