Won­der­ful Wick­low’s Le­in­ster joy!

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - BREN­DAN LAWRENCE at O’Moore Park

‘WICK­LOW is ris­ing, def­i­nitely,’ was the re­ac­tion of joint cap­tain of the new Le­in­ster Ju­nior cham­pi­ons Ais­ling Shan­non after her­self and Laura Man­ley had lifted the cup in the stand of O’Moore Park in Port­laoise on Sun­day af­ter­noon last.

There was noth­ing easy about win­ning this pro­vin­cial ti­tle, just like there is noth­ing easy about pulling on the jersey to go out and do your best for the county when there are so many ob­sta­cles placed in your way, but credit to the man­age­ment and play­ers of this tight-knit panel for stick­ing at it and com­ing through a dark and test­ing league cam­paign to emerge into the warm sun­light of O’Moore Park and claim a Le­in­ster crown with the promise of a pro­duc­tive All-Ire­land cam­paign to come later in the year.

An­nacurra’s Ais­ling Shan­non and Gle­nealy’s Laura Man­ley both lifted the cup and said a few well-cho­sen words after the fi­nal whis­tle and both were very much to the fore in this won­der­ful vic­tory with Shan­non bat­tling through in­jury and pro­duc­ing a qual­ity dis­play while the ef­fort­less Man­ley chipped in with five points, one a ma­jes­tic ef­fort into the teeth of a very strong wind from out on the stand side­line in the open­ing half.

Both agreed that opt­ing to play against the wind in the first half was vi­tal in terms of cut­ting loose in the sec­ond.

‘The girls re­ally stepped up, they went for ev­ery ball and they were first to ev­ery ball and I think that re­ally helped to­day,’ said Ais­ling Shan­non. ‘The wind in the first half was re­ally hard for us. We won the toss and we said we’d play against the wind to help us in the sec­ond half if we were tired so we wouldn’t have to run as much, and just fire it into the for­wards,’ she added.

‘I think that worked very well be­cause we were get­ting the ball into Kelly and she had all the space and she was amaz­ing,’ added Laura Man­ley.

It says plenty about the courage and com­mit­ment of this team that they sol­diered through a night­mar­ish league cam­paign against In­ter­me­di­ate level sides and never once waivered in their ded­i­ca­tion to the cause. Laura Man­ley says that com­ing through that cam­paign cer­tainly stood to them in this Le­in­ster Ju­nior de­cider.

‘We were strug­gling to get a team to be hon­est and it was hard work, but the few girls who are out there to­day are the girls who are at ev­ery train­ing ses­sion. We’re just hop­ing that we can get a few more, there are e xcel­lent play­ers in Wick­low,’ she said.

‘The league, you know, we were play­ing teams that are ba­si­cally in­ter­me­di­ate stan­dard and it was tough go­ing, but it did stand to us. We went out there to­day and we said we weren’t go­ing to lose this. We knew we had the ca­pa­bil­ity of win­ning it,’ she added.

Ais­ling Shan­non says that the ap­proach­ing All-Ire­land cam­paign prom­ises bet­ter days.

‘We know that the cham­pi­onship is go­ing to go a hun­dred times bet­ter for us be­cause we won’t be play­ing at that stan­dard,’ she said.

Laura Man­ley said that this Wick­low group are tight and com­mit­ted and that win­ning the pro­vin­cial medal means the world to both her­self and the en­tire squad.

‘We’re the girls who are at train­ing ev­ery week and we want to get Wick­low camo­gie back up and it’s a tight-knit group and we drive each other on.

‘That was my dream, to get a Le­in­ster medal. Two years ago, we got to the Le­in­ster fi­nal and that was dev­as­tat­ing that day and it kind of fell apart after that and this means the world,’ she said.

This was very much a game of two halves in O’Moore Park Port­laoise, dic­tated so by the blus­tery wind that was very strong down at pitch level.

After opt­ing to play against that wind in the open­ing half, Wick­low had it all to do to stay in touch with a Louth side who had sev­eral ca­pa­ble hurlers in their ranks and an ac­cu­rate free-taker in Jane McKeon.

Louth started very brightly and shot out into a two-point lead cour­tesy of the afore­men­tioned McKeon (one 45, one free) as Wick­low showed some nerves in the open­ing ex­changes.

A sweet move be­tween Laura Man­ley, Sheenagh Byrne and Kelly O’Neill saw the Donard-The Glen woman split the posts to get Wick­low off the mark after seven min­utes and three min­utes later the Gar­den County side were 1-2 to 0-2 up after a point from Ciara Kelly from Kil­coole and a goal from Éire Óg’s Grainne Me­gan­nety who showed fine poacher in­stincts to trou­ble Louth keeper Cliodhna Duffy and fin­ish to the back of the net from close range.

Two won­der­ful Laura Man­ley scores an­swered a Louth sin­gle, but the Wee County would fin­ish the half strong with some fine scores and a hor­ri­ble goal after a long ball took a nasty bounce in front of Sara Davis and skip into the back of the Wick­low net. 1-7 to 1-4 for Louth at the break.

The sec­ond half is all about Kelly O’Neill and the Wick­low full­back line. Ob­vi­ously, O’Neill had to be sup­plied with ball and she can thank Shan­nagh Goete­len, Ni­amh Shan­non, Emily Rose Byrne, Laura Man­ley and oth­ers for that sup­ply but the Donard-The Glen woman was sim­ply un­stop­pable de­spite play­ing with an in­jury.

With re­gard to the full-back line of Suzanne Be­han, Katie Daynes and Amy Bar­rett, they were re­lent­less in the face of sev­eral Louth surges that had they been suc­cess­ful would have com­pletely al­tered the com­plex­ion of the game. Time and time again Daynes, Bar­rett and Be­han thwarted at­tack after at­tack and helped launch in­ci­sions up through the field of play.

Leah Car­roll and Laura Man­ley (two, one 45, one free) pulled Wick­low back level within Louth within six min­utes of the restart and then Kelly O’Neill an­nounced her­self to the world with 2-3 in 18 min­utes of pure at­tack­ing dev­as­ta­tion, her sec­ond goal com­ing mere se­conds after Louth had fi­nally got the ma­jor they so richly de­served to close to within two of Wick­low.

Fur­ther points from Sheenagh Byrne and Man­ley (free) were added to by O’Neill whose touch and turn were ex­cep­tional and Wick­low were just not go­ing to be caught. Marvelous stuff!

Scor­ers - Wick­low: Kelly O’Neill 2-5, Laura Man­ley 0-5 (2f, 1 45), Grainne McGan­nety 1-0, Ciara Kelly 0-1, Leah Car­roll 0-1, Sheenagh Byrne 0-1.

Louth: Jane McKeon 0-4 (3f, 1 45), Aoife Gre­gory 2-1, Alanna Dowl­ing 0-1, Rita Mullen 0-1, Linda Fa­gan 0-1.

Joint cap­tain Laura Man­ley and Ais­ling Shan­non lift the cup.

Pho­tos: Dave Bar­rett

The Wick­low man­age­ment team of Kevin Byrne, Breda Don­nelly and Ger Red­mond.

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