Sligo Champions reach Semi Finals

Junior Champions Cloonacool/Tubbercurry survived a late surge from Western Gaels to book a place in the Semi Finals and a date with Mayo Champions Moy Davitts on Saturday next following this 3 point entertaining encounter with the Roscommon side on Saturday evening last in Kilcoyne Park, Tubbercurry.

Despite a shaking start, were they conceded 1 – 2 in the opening 7 minutes, the Sligo winners recovered to go in at the short whistle ahead by 5 Points, Early in the second half the lead was 6 only for it to be pegged back to one with 7 minutes to go, another late flourish witnessed them go 6 up again only to be hauled in again to a 2 point lead as the game headed for injury time, deep into injury time midfielder and one of the stars on the day Laura Gillespie sent over to settle nerves and thus insure that the Town & Country Club would have another day out in the Connacht Championship.

Starting 12 of the team – both Ciara Gannon & Caoimhe Gallagher being injured, while Kelly Hayes has departed for foreign shores – that started the County Final win, the winners were caught early on as the Visitors full forward Martina Freyne blasted to the net in the opening minute. Indeed had Freyne not started for the visitors one wonders would they have even managed to score at all – the Full Forward would go on to score there entire opening half returns. Roisin Murphy opened the account for the home side as a result of a quick free by Helena Haran to Louise Brett who placed Murphy for the score. Two Freyne points had the visitors 4 to the good by the 7th minute but from there on it was one way traffic. Slowly but surely CT came into the game with three in a row from Louise Brett from frees to leave just a single point between the sides at the end of the opening quarter.

Two from play by Roisin Murphy – who was having a storming opening half – had the home side ahead by the 21st minute. Two more Brett frees edged the gap out to 3 with 4 minutes to go to the break. With a minute to go to the break, the score of the day arrived from the home side. Niamh Ross was fed on the right wing on the 45m, she took of at pace over the 21 and almost into the corner before delivering a pin point pass into the box where Anita O’Hara was lurking, O’Hara picked Ross’s cross-centre hand to foot in a split second and fired past Sorcha Dowd in the visitors goals to give the home side a six point cushion heading to the break. While O’Hara’s finish was great it was the work of Ross that shouldn’t go un-noticed, her run and cross would have made Welsh wizard Ryan Giggs even in his heyday look very ordinary such was the style. Deep into injury time Martina Freyne converted a free to leave 5 between them at the Break.

Like the opening half, the first shots of the second half was fired by Western Gaels with Martina Freyne & Jennifer Higgins sending over to narrow the gap in the opening minutes. Soon after CT were dealt a blow as they lost goal scorer O’Hara to injury being replaced by Caoimhe Gallagher who herself was forced out at the start with an injury. If ever a sub could make a difference, then Gallagher is your player. Within a minute of her introduction Gallagher was involved in their second goal as she played a one two with Laura Gillespie before feeding Louise Brett in front of goal. From them positions Brett rarely misses and she didn’t here either. One would be forgiven for thinking that CT would push on from here and stroll to victory. One couldn’t be farer from the truth as back Western Gaels came with a goal and two points – all from Martina Freyne – in a 6 minute spell to narrow the gap to one with 14 minutes left to play. Caoimhe Gallagher with a zig zag run from deep in her own half restored a two point lead only for Jennifer Higgins to reply in kind for Western Gaels.

In the 21st minute former Co Player & All Ireland winner Aisling McTiernan made a welcome return to the game. Mc Tiernan had been out of the game for 6 months with Injury. A minute later she made her presents felt as she was involved in CT’s third goal as Louise Brett finished of a rebound to the net. From the resulting kick out Laura Gillespie won procession and drove at the Western Gaels defence before placing Mc Tiernan who used her experience to fire over an important score. The gap was out to six on 26 minutes as Caoimhe Gallagher playing a one two with Laura Gillespie sent over for her second point of the day and what appeared a safe lead to close out the game.

If Alfred Hitchcock wanted to write an ending for this classic, he wouldn’t write it any better as back Western Gaels came, a point from Jennifer Higgins, a goal from Martina Freyne to narrow the gap back to two as the clock ticked over the 30 minutes with at least 5 - 6 minutes of injury time to be played. The crowd whistled for the Referee to bring proceedings to a halt but on the game went – referee Mel Kenny being quite right to add on the minutes as a number of stoppages occurred in the second period – with Laura Gillespie capping a fine performance with a point on the run in the 5th minute of injury time. Soon after referee Mel Kenny from Mayo sounded his final whistle to delights from the home side.

During the course of the game the winners had a number of performers with the full back trio of Lisa Wynne, Orla Coleman & Sarah Kilcoyne defying their years – all 3 are minors again in 2012 – while Sinead Surlis a late replacement for the injured Ciara Gannon put in a solid hour as did both Aoife Mc Tiernan & Cliodhna Murphy. In midfield Laura Gillespie put in cracking hour, at times helping out her over worked defence while her midfield partner, the veteran Sandra Rowley must have covered ever blade of grass in Kilcoyne Park.

Up front, Team Captain Helena Haran – although quite compared to other days – put in an industrial hour, Laura Gannon was in the thick of the action through out while Roisin Murphy although not as involved as much in the second half had a flawless opening half. Louise Brett proved a poacher once again being in the right place at the right time to nab the two goals while at times she was seen back in her own half picking up ball and taking it way from the danger area. Niamh Ross has the makings of being a star for the future with her amazing performance while the injury to Anita O’Hara will cause concern for the next day, although the welcome return of Aisling McTiernan will off set that a little. Caoimhe Gallagher no doubt will also be pushing hard for a starting the next day following this performance once introduced. Overall though a great team performance from keeper Laura Mc Intyre – who couldn’t be faulted for any of the goals – to the substitutes that were used.

For Western Gaels Midfielder Jennifer Higgins put in a solid hour while Siobhan Greevy at Full back was solid and up front if the Gaels had another Martina Freyne, it would be them and not Cloonacool/ Tubbercurry who would be out the next day.

Next up for the Sligo winners is a date with Mayo Junior Winners Moy Davitts on Saturday next. No doubt some of the CT players namely Aoife & Aisling McTiernan, Sandra Rowley, Louise Brett, Helena Haran and unused subs the last day Yvonne Corscadden, Karen & Sarah Mc Intyre and Catherine Brennan will have happy memories from as they were all part of the then Cloonacool side that defeated Moy Davitts to claim the Connacht Junior Club Title back in 2000. Now 11 years on can history repeat itself or will the davits gain revenge!!

Scorers: CT: Louise Brett 2 – 5, Roisin Murphy 0 – 3, Anita O’Hara 1 – 0, Caoimhe Gallagher 0 – 2, Aisling McTiernan & Laura Gillespie 0 – 1 each, Scorers Western Gaels: Martina Freyne 3 – 6, Jennifer Higgins 0 – 3.

Cloonacool/Tubbercurry: Laura McIntyre, Lisa Wynne, Orla Coleman, Sarah Kilcoyne, Aoife McTiernan, Sinead Surlis, Cliodhna Murphy, Laura Gillespie, Sandra Rowley, Niamh Ross, Helena Haran, Anita O’Hara, Laura Gannon, Louise Brett, Roisin Murphy. Subs used: Caoimhe Gallagher, Aisling McTiernan.

Western Gaels: Sorcha Dowd, Grainne Freyne, Siobhan Greevy, Laura Bruen, Deirdre McDermott, Eimear O’Callaghan, Michelle McDermott, Jennifer Higgins, Niamh Cregg, Rachel Kelly, Elaine Murren, Mary Duffy, Lisa Flynn, Martina Freyne, Danica Lavin. Subs used: Jennifer Murren, Danielle Madden, Crystal Berine.

Referee: Mel Kenny (Mayo)