All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football Championship Semi-Final
Roscommon’s memorable All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football Championship odyssey came to an end at the hands of an excellent Meath side at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny last Saturday afternoon.
Despite being on level terms with the Royals on the stroke of 20 minutes - and just three points adrift shortly after the restart - the Rossies couldn’t get to grips with the impressive firepower of the Leinster outfit.
Éire Óg’s Rebecca Finan led the way throughout for Michael Finneran’s charges, finishing the contest with seven points to her name. Aimee O’Connor found the net during the opening period, while substitute Sinead Glennon had a positive impact off the bench.
The primrose and blue had suffered a heavy reversal to the Royals at the same stage last year, and looked to keep it tight during the early exchanges of their latest meeting. In a tentative opening, a Vikki Wall point was cancelled out by a Finan free at a right-hand angle.
There were some warning signs for the Roscommon defence as Orla Byrne flashed a shot inches past the post in the seventh-minute. The Duleek/Bellewstown star eventually opened her account after breaking through the middle and half-forward partner Emma Duggan was also on target for the easterners.
Although Paul Garrigan’s charges passed up a number of opportunities in the first quarter, their maiden goal inevitably arrived on the stroke of ten minutes. At the end of a fast-paced move, Fiona O’Neill was on hand to kick home.
This was a significant set-back for Roscommon, though Finan split the posts either side of an O’Neill single to keep their dream of a final place alive. Indeed, after Western Gaels’ Jenny Higgins and Duggan traded scores, they forced their way back on level terms.
Another Finan point lifted the spirits of the travelling Rossies and it was quickly supplemented by an O’Connor goal off a precise Natalie McHugh pass. The tie was finely balanced as a result and the western women appeared primed to push on for the remainder of the half.
Instead, it was the catalyst for Meath to signpost their own championship aspirations. O’Neill and Duggan contributed points in succession, before Bridgetta Lynch and Kelsey Nesbitt combined to release Byrne for a superb goal.
Another score for the increasingly influential Byrne further emphasised their authority, but Finan’s fifth of the half did at least help Roscommon to end the half in an encouraging manner. There was an additional glimmer of hope on the resumption, when Laura Fleming and the excellent Finan clipped unanswered points.
Unfortunately, their quest for a place in the mid-September showpiece suffered a decisive blow on 36 minutes. As she bore down on goal, the raiding Duggan was fouled inside the square by Kilbride centre-back Alice Kelly.
Referee Stephen McNulty initially played an advantage only to finally award a penalty in Meath’s favour. Duggan dusted herself off to negotiate the resulting spot-kick and expertly slotted beyond the reach of Helena Cummins.
There was a sense that the floodgates were beginning to open at this juncture and while both sides lost players to the sin-bin, it was Meath who dominated proceedings edging towards the final-quarter.
Duggan’s two-point salvo afforded them further leeway and Wall unleashed a thunderbolt to the roof of the net on 44 minutes. Wing-back Megan Thynne also ventured forward to kick a fine score - giving them a seemingly unassailable 4-11 to 1-8 cushion in the process.
Glennon and Higgins eventually ended this lengthy scoring sequence with well-worked points at the far end. McHugh and Finan (free) also found the range in response to Nesbitt and Wall efforts for Meath.
Nonetheless, with places up for grabs ahead of their latest second-tier final appearance, it was Meath who finished the game on a high. Substitutes Emma White (two) and Kate Byrne staked their claims for a starting berth by supplementing O’Neill, Byrne and Nesbitt points in the dying moments.
It was ultimately a disappointing way for Roscommon’s campaign to draw to a close, but it has been a productive 2019 overall for a progressing side.
Meath: Monica McGuirk; Katie Newe, Sarah Powderly, Orlaith Duff; Shauna Ennis, Megan Thynne (0-1), Sarah Wall; Maire O’Shaughnessy, Aoibhin Cleary; Vikki Wall (1-2), Emma Duggan (1-5, 1-0 pen, 0-2f), Orla Byrne (1-3); Bridgetta Lynch, Fiona O’Neil (1-4), Kelsey Nesbitt (0-2).
Subs used: Emma White (0-2) for Lynch (47), Megan O’Brien for S Wall (50), Kate Byrne (0-1) for O’Shaughnessy (55), Shelly Melia for O’Neill, Aoibheann Leahy for Duggan (both 56).
Roscommon: Helena Cummins; Honor Ennis, Amanda McLoone, Niamh Feeney; Joanne Cregg, Alice Kelly, Sorcha Bruen; Sinead Kenny, Laura Fleming (0-1); Siobhan Tully, Roisin Wynne, Natalie McHugh (0-1); Rebecca Finan (0-7, 4f), Aimee O’Connor (1-0), Jenny Higgins (0-2).
Subs used: Megan Kelly for Feeney (37), Sinead Glennon (0-1) for O’Connor, Rachel Brady for Cregg (both 43), Katie Daly for Fleming (51), Rachel Fitzmaurice for Tully (52).
Referee: Stephen McNulty (Wicklow)