Peerless Parke on song for Baltinglass
BALTINGLASS and AGB served up an absolute cracker of a game in the first of three ladies football county finals in Blessington on Sunday with the Slaneysiders emerging victorious by two points after a scintillating battle.
It’s the performance of full-forward Ella Parke that will correctly grab the headlines as she totally dominated this game despite the very best efforts of AGB full-back Ciara Forde and centre back Méadbh Ní Chonchubhair when Forde was in the sin bin.
But while Parke was ruthless in front of the posts it was her colleagues all over the field who really shone againsta youthful and ambitious AGB side who twice dragged themselves back to within a single point of the Baltinglass women who at one stage had opened up 0-10 to 0-4 lead close to the end of the first half.
The talented Parke was ably assisted by team captain Julie Fitzmaurice who admitted after the game that coming back to football for another year was a great decision and that the victory was one she was savouring the most after a long and fruitful career.
The ageless and imperious Ann Marie Doran was superb, Katie Edwards relentless, Chloe O’Neill busy throughout. Ciara O’Brien and Emma Fleming enjoyed a fierce battle with Leah Hersee and Aoife Kavanagh in the middle of the field while Hannah McHugh, Emily Hannifin and Niamh O’Brien formed a very strong half-back line for the Baltinglass side.
Corner-back Jessica Moore was excpetional in this game and cleared any amount of dangerous ball. Anna Fitzpatrick had the not insignificant job of trying to curtail the very impressive Carlene Doyle and kept her to three points from play while Chloe Humphries was very capable in the corner.
Baltinglass goalkeeper Aideen Foley was beaten twice but turned in a very commendable performance with some good saves and quality kick-outs.
AGB had some immense performances throughout their side and were gutted at the final whistle when they came up two points short.
Abbie Healy were very competent in goals. Nicole Byrne and Zoe Tackas were impressive in the corners and Ciara Forde, who to be fair was given the toughest task of anyone across the three county finals, tried valiantly to slow Parke down and fell foul of referee Jee Brennan at the end of the third quarter and was sent to the sin bin with the scores reading 0-11 to 1-6 in favour of Baltinglass.
AGB’s half-back line of Becky Birminghan, Méadbh Ní Chonchubhair and Isobel Carr worked tirelessly throughout this game as did midfielders Leah Hersee and Aoife Kavanagh with Kavanagh really impressing with her strong running and hunger for work.
Muireann Ní Chonchubhair worked her socks off while Áine O’Reilly and Niamh Geoghegan were a thorn in the Baltinglass defence over the course of the hour.
Carlene Doyle was AGB’s biggest threat in their full-forward line, but Lucie Kindlon and Grace Kelly worked hard.
AGB opened the scoring through Áine O’Reilly off her left boot and this was followed by a wide from a free from Niamh Geoghegan.
Amazingly, that was the only time AGB would lead in this game because from here on in for the majority of the first half Ella Parke took control of proceedings.
The Baltinglass full-forward had their opening three scores, the first off her right, the second off her left and the third after a poor AGB kick-out. She might be young but there’s absolutely no doubt that this talented footballer will play for Wicklow at some stage in the very near future.
Katie Edwards swung over the fourth point for Baltinglass after a ball from the hard-working Grace Kelly before Parke resumed scoring duties with six more points before the half-time break with AGB grabbing two more in between through Carlene Doyle (one free) with missed chances being worryingly gathered by AGB in that opening 30.
But AGB were given a huge boost right on the death of the first half when a long ball from Carlene Doyle to midfielder Aoife Kavanagh saw Kavanagh fire home to the back of the Baltinglass net to trasnform a six-point deficit to a three-point deficit or in lay man’s terms a small mountain to climb to a gentle hillside.
And that momentum from that late goal in the first half returned at the start of the second when AGB reduced the Baltinglass advantage to a single point thanks to two fine efforts from Áine O’Reilly.
Carlene Doyle was presented with a goal chance shortly afterwards but the chance was lost and the Arklow women followed that wayward shot up with two more wides and where they should now have been leading by a healthy margin their remained in the wake of Baltinglass who caught their breaths and began to fight back.
Parke, Julie Fitzmaurice, and Katie Edwards pushed the Baltinglass lead out to 0-13 to 1-6 before the excellent Niamh Geoghegan stopped the rot with a fine score after superb play from Muireann Ní Chonchubhair.
Grace Kelly followed up a Katie Edwards wide with a quality score to return that lead to four points before AGB were given a mighty boost when referee Jess Brennan, who it should be noted had an excellent game in the middle, pointed to the spot after a foul in the square and Carlene Doyle drive it low and hard past Aideen Foley to leave the minimum between the sides.
With three to go it was out to two thanks to a wicked score from Grace Kelly after a short free from Parke as the action ebbed and flowed up the field.
Carlene Doyle made it a onepoint game with a decent score, but substitute Leah Arnold returned Baltinglass out to that twopoint cushion and AGB ran out of steam and time as Jess Brennan sounded the full-time whistle to herald joyous scenes among the Baltinglass players, mentors and supporters.
This was a magical win for the Baltinglass women, fully deserved, hard-earned and one that should serve the club well as they move forward into 2020.
Scorers – Baltinglass: Ella Parke 0-10 (3f), Katie Edwards 0-2, Julie Fitzmaurice 0-1, Grace Kelly 0-2, Leah Arnold 0-1.
AGB: Carlene Doyle 1-4 (1f, p), Áine O’Reilly 0-3, Aoife Kavanagh 1-0, Niamh Geoghegan 0-1
Baltinglass Junior ladies football team celebrate after the county final with AGB in Blessington last weekend.
Baltinglass footballers show their delight after the final whistle in Blessington.