Enniscorthy Guardian

Holders hang on for victory

Goal-hungry Crossabeg-Ballymurn had Shels worried




SHELMALIER CLUNG on to victory against a battling Crossabeg-Ballymurn in Farmleigh on Sunday to reach the Bodibro ladies’ football Senior championsh­ip final.

It proved to be an uncomforta­ble afternoon for the Hollymount side against their near neighbours as they struggled desperatel­y to contain the powerful surges through the heart of their defence.

They will need to come on from this challenge and improve. If they continue to struggle through the middle it will be a very difficult final encounter, with the talents they are set to face only too happy to power down the centre at pace.

They still had their moments in attack, but Crossabeg-Ballymurn did a superb job of blocking up the goalmouth, forcing the Shels to take on low percentage goal chances from difficult positions.

Despite giving up 15 scores, they defended superbly given the quality they faced, and that’s a great basis for more improvemen­t.

Crossabeg-Ballymurn obviously have their strengths and are a tidy, cohesive team unit, but overall there is very little doubt that Shelmalier have the more talented set of players at the moment.

However, that only means so much and won’t make the hurt any less for the losers after this encounter.

Only a sadist would suggest they in any way left this behind them, despite leading with less than ten minutes remaining. They gave it absolutely everything they had and came up one point short and should be proud of their efforts and their progress in 2020.

With several young players still improving, and a bunch of talented exponents hitting their prime, they should be just as dangerous in next season’s renewal. They started this game just how they needed to, with a ferocious tempo that saw them into an early lead.

Aoife Sheil kicked the opening free, while Derbhla Doyle fed Diúrí McDonald on the run moments later and she dribbled a shot in off the foot of the left post.

Despite a Kellie Kearney reply at the other end, Crossabeg-Ballymurn were back on the attack and raising another green flag moments later.

Again they ran at the heart of the Shelmalier defence, committing defenders and popping quick, intricate passes.

Rianna Cullen and Ava Kelly were involved in the move, and it was Sheil who was able to bundle the ball over the line from close range.

The fast start was vital for Crossabeg-Ballymurn. They led by 2-1 to 0-1 at that stage but found themselves in arrears when they scored again, 23 minutes later.

The Shels closed the gap to three at the water break with points from Leona Tector (two) and Kearney.

The advantage was wiped out completely when Clara Donnelly’s looping left-footed effort from the left corner dipped in under the crossbar in the 26th minute.

Tector gave the Shels their first lead, only for Sheil to reply, but the defending champions had the bit between their teeth now.

With Crossabeg-Ballymurn struggling to win their own kickouts at this stage, the pressure was constant. Ciara Banvile, Donnelly and Róisín Murphy all scored in this spell to give their side a 1-8 to 2-2 interval lead.

Given how the end of the half went, one might have expected Shelmalier to start pulling ahead. That was far from the case as Crossabeg-Ballymurn emerged from the interval refreshed and ready for battle.

Tector and Donnelly did make the lead five, but the introducti­on of Aleisha Cullen sparked Crossabeg-Ballymurn back to life and she netted from Kelly’s pass just two minutes after her introducti­on.

Lauren Murphy’s point from a tight angle was countered by a Sheil free as two points separated the sides at the second-half drinks stoppage.

Again Crossabeg-Ballymurn came back on the front foot, with Kelly feeding Sheil for her second, her team’s fourth, major.

When Cullen nailed a lovely point seconds later, Crossabeg-Ballymurn had real belief and a two-point advantage (4-4 to 1-11).

However, their efforts seemed to be telling in the final ten minutes, and Shelmalier took over territoria­lly.

Lauren Murphy’s second point cut the deficit to one, and Clara Donnelly levelled it up two minutes later.

The winning score came when the oft-fouled Sarah Harding-Kenny was impeded, and Tector tapped over the resulting free.

Shelmalier still had plenty of time to play out and they did it without too many scares and some solid keep-ball passages.

They will be delighted to advance and happy with some aspects of the play, but need to improve overall.

They will now meet Adamstown in the final on Saturday week, with details to be confirmed in the coming days.

Shelmalier: Deirdre Fox; Shauna Murphy, Sadbh McCarthy, Sarah Harding-Kenny; Michelle Harding, Eleanor Neville, Eadaoin Fitzgerald; Clara Donnelly (1-3), Kellie Kearney (capt., 0-2); Ciara Banville (0-1), Róisín Murphy (0-1), Ciara Donohoe; Leona Tector (0-5, 3 frees), Lauren Murphy (0-2), Ailis Neville. Subs. - Áine Lacey for Banville (41), Siobhán Cloake for Kearney, temp. (48-51), Meave Quill for L. Murphy (60+1).

Crossabeg-Ballymurn: Katie Sludds; Amanda Scallan, Siobhán Cummins (capt.), Emma McDonald; Leanne Cullen, Loren Doyle, Kellyanne Dempsey; Ciara Walsh, Ava Kelly; Diúrí McDonald (1-0), Noeleen Shanahan, Derbhla Doyle; Áine Fortune, Rianna Cullen, Aoife Sheil (2-3, 0-3 frees). Subs. - Polly Frost for L. Cullen (35), Aleisha Cullen (1-1) for R. Cullen (37), Leah Scallan for Fortune (59).

Referee: Ian Plunkett (Marshalsto­wn-Castledock­rell).

 ??  ?? Ailis Neville (Shelmalier) is tackled by Crossabeg-Ballymurn’s Amanda Scallan.
Ailis Neville (Shelmalier) is tackled by Crossabeg-Ballymurn’s Amanda Scallan.
 ??  ?? Siobhán Cummins and netminder Katie Sludds attempt to block the kick of Lauren Murphy.
Siobhán Cummins and netminder Katie Sludds attempt to block the kick of Lauren Murphy.
 ??  ?? Diúrí McDonald of Crossabeg-Ballymurn is pursued by Kellie Kearney (Shelmalier).
Diúrí McDonald of Crossabeg-Ballymurn is pursued by Kellie Kearney (Shelmalier).

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