LGFA All-Ireland Minor ‘B’ Final
In a tight game of such importance major incidents are always crucial and Roscommon will point to the controversial award of a penalty to Longford with eight minutes remaining at Duggan Park in Ballinasloe last Saturday as a major turning point in this All-Ireland Minor ‘B’ Final.
With Roscommon leading by a point, Longford’s Lauren McGuire’s route to goal was stopped by Megan McKeon and referee Kevin Corcoran blew immediately to award a penalty. It looked a harsh judgement, and to rub salt in the wound, Corcoran brandished a yellow card to McKeon which reduced Roscommon to 13. Ciara Healy tucked away the penalty and Longford kicked on to take the title.
Roscommon manager Ollie Colgan couldn’t hide his disappointment at full-time.
“I know it’s a very tough job and it is straight after the game, but it all hinged on one decision (the penalty) and at best it was a controversial decision. The linesperson beside us said it was no penalty but the man in the middle is all that counts. It gave them the lifeline they needed, they were struggling up to that, and if we had got one or two more scores we would have been all right. But hats off to them, they did their work in the first half. We were slow to get into the game and that’s what cost us in the end,” he said.
In the cold light of day, when the Roscommon management and players pick the bones out of this, they’ll know their poor first-half performance cost them dearly. Their stirring revival in the second half was hugely impressive but overall Longford were marginally the better side.
In front of a big crowd, it was Longford who started best. With Orla Nevin, Grace Shannon, Ciara Healy and Clodagh Lohan outstanding, they had the lion’s share of possession and were 1-2 to no score up after ten minutes. Deirbhle Rooney and Ciara Healy (free) points were followed in the 10th minute by a tremendous Clodagh Lohan goal following a superb Longford move. Roscommon did get into the game after that but some poor shooting and the fact that four balls were kicked into the Longford goalkeeper’s hands didn’t help their cause.
Aimee O’Connor opened the Roscommon account with a free in the 17th minute and two minutes later Ellen Irwin fired over a super long-range point from 35 metres. But Longford always looked in control in that first half and further points from Grace Shannon and Ciara Healy saw the gap out to five once again.
Kate Harrington pointed for Roscommon in the 24th minute after a fine team move, but further Longford points from Clodagh Lohan, Deirbhle Rooney and Lauren McGuire stretched the margin to seven. Roscommon did have a late goal chance but Oonagh Kelly’s effort was well saved by Riane McGrath. At half-time Longford had a handsome seven-point lead: 1-7 to 0-3.
Ollie Colgan was left to rue a tough opening half.
“We would have preferred if our first half performance was better, whether the occasion got to us or something I don’t know. We hoped it wouldn’t, we prepared for it, maybe it was just Longford were doing their job very well. They man-marked, they double-marked our key players and it was tough going,” he said.
Roscommon needed a reaction on the resumption and they got one. In the 34th minute Aimee O’Connor was probably shooting for a point from 30 metres, but the ball looped over Riane McGrath and into the net. A minute later Roscommon captain O’Connor pointed a 25-metre free.
Suddenly there were only three points in it with Roscommon subs Micheala Keogh and Lauren Shanagher making major contributions to their revival. In the 41st minute Shanagher was in on goal but when her shot was blocked by Longford goalkeeper McGrath, Oonagh Kelly was quickest to react and she fired the rebound to the net to level the score.
Roscommon’s tails were up, and Aimee O’Connor fired over a great point in the 48th minute to see her side into the lead for the first time. But it was all to turn sour in those final minutes. Kate McPhillips had been shown a yellow card in the 46th minute and when Megan McKeon was sidelined after the penalty incident, not alone were Roscommon down by two points, they were down two players as well.
The spot-kick incident seemed to knock the stuffing out of Roscommon and Longford finished with points from Grace Shannon and Lauren McGuire.
Saoirse Wynne has a fantastic game at full-back for Roscommon while Sheena Kilroe was effective at midfield. The loss of Sarah McVeigh through injury after only eight minutes was severe. Aimee O’Connor and Oonagh Kenny battled away up front and subs Lauren Shanagher and Miceala Keogh were very impressive but it was not Roscommon’s day.
While manager Colgan highlighted the six-week break between the Connacht Championship and the All-Ireland series as a major hindrance in their bid to secure national silverware, he was upbeat about the future.
“It would have been lovely to win an All-Ireland minor title but there’s a lot of good work going on in the county, these girls will now go into an U-20 development squad along with last year’s minors, it’s important to keep these girls playing football. The main aim is to get Roscommon up playing senior football at adult level and these girls have a big part to play in that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Longford manager, Carol Leonard-Manning, was understandably proud of her charges.
“You always know in ladies football that you’re going have patches of a game when you won’t play well and we certainly didn’t make the start we wanted to after half-time. With this group we’ve been down in games before, they never drop their heads, they fight to the very end and that’s what wins All-Irelands.
“The penalty changed the game, but if it had been played on, you don’t know what would have happened. The penalty could have been given later, if she wasn’t taken down it could have been a goal”.
Longford: Riana McGrath; Ciara Sutton, Sorcha Dawson, Karen McLoughlin; Ciara Mulligan, Orla Nevin, Muireann Claffey; Kara Shannon, Grace Shannon (0-2); Deirbhle Rooney (0-2), Ciara Healy (1-2, 1-0 pen), Lauran McGuire (0-2); Clodagh Lohan (1-1), Molly Mulvihill, Hannah Glennon.
Subs: Ellen Shannon for Rooney (42), Kamille Burke for Mulvihill (45).
Roscommon: Holly Martin; Rachel Mulligan, Saoirse Wynne, Kate McPhillips; Emma Kildea, Kelley Colgan, Megan McKeon; Sarah McVeigh, Sheena Kilroe; Ellen Irwin (0-1), Kayleigh Shine, Megan Kelly; Kate Harrington (0-1), Oonagh Kelly (1-0), Aimee O’Connor (1-3, 2 frees).
Subs: Micheala Keogh for McVeigh (8), Jennifer Brennan for Mulligan (h/t), Lauran Shanagher for Harrington (35), Edel Byrne for Kelly (45), Kara Earle for Irwin (54)
Referee: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo)