Suncroft v Sallins Kildate LGFA Division 3 League Final 23 May 2017 7 p.m. in Clane
Referee: Peter Farrell
A warm dry evening in Clane, the pitch in great conditions, and hardly a breeze. The stage was perfectly set for a good game. The last time the teams met back in February Sallins gave Suncroft a fifteen point hiding but Suncroft were missing some key players and everyone knew that it would be a close game as there has been little between them in their many encounters over the years. The heatwave predicted by the weather forecasters hadn’t arrived but it did get hot and heavy on the pitch, and in the stand, as a superb game played by two well matched teams unfolded. The large crowd got excellent value for their five euro as they got to see sixty minutes of compelling, committed, end to end, and skilful football and then the bonus of a further twenty minutes of dogged determination in extra time.
Following a minute’s silence in honour of those affected by the event in Manchester the ball was thrown up and Sallins won the first possession. A determined Megan Troy recovered it for Suncroft and following a couple of passes Aislinn Dooley got her first of the night for Suncroft. Sallins got possession from the kick out and were working the ball up the field quickly with long and accurate kick passing but Ciara Fennelly read the play well and intercepted. After a joint move up the pitch by Mary Enright, Megan Troy and Eve Kehoe, Aislinn Dooley took the pass and got her second point. Sallins won their kick out and again with a few long, accurate, kick passes were in the danger area and despite solid defending by Suncroft’s Caoimhe Doyle and Niamh Toft, Sallins put the ball past the Crofts keeper Risa Ennis to take the lead by a point.
Aine Troy won the kick and with help from Eve Kehoe and Mary Enright got the ball up the field to Aisling Connolly. Connolly got her pass off to Aislinn Dooley who pointed. Lia Reilly won the kick out for Sallins and again a long kick pass got Sallins into the danger area. This time Emily Murphy got in front of her player to intercept, got her pass to Ciara Fennelly and on to Eve Kehoe. Eve took off on a solo run, leaving several Sallins tacklers in her wake, as she ran the field. Eve’s run was brought to a halt with a foul as she neared the Sallins goal and Aislinn Dooley converted the free. Six minutes of end to end football and the score was Suncroft 1:03(6) Sallins 1:00(3).
Sallins made a few switches and the game settled down. Jennifer Harte, Niamh Toft and Megan Troy had the measure of their markers on the left and Sallins targeted the right side with support from their two midfielders, Hayley McCormack and Lia Reilly. Aine Troy, Mary Enright, Ciara Fennelly, Caoimhe Doyle and Emily Murphy were under constant pressure and while they repelled attach after attack over the next twenty minutes Sallins did break through on occasion and got the next three scores, a goal and two points to take the lead, Sallins 2:02(8) Suncroft 1:03(6).
The Corft’s Eve Kehoe took off up the field again, made her way into shooting range, and was fouled again. Aislinn Dooley pointed the resulting free. Sallins responded with more fast kick passing to get the ball up the field and scored an excellently taken point. A minute or two later Eve Kehoe was on the ball again. This time, with Mary Enright, Sophie Kiely, Amy Brown and Ceile Hand spreading the defence, Eve sidestepped all-comers and shook the Sallins net to take back a one point lead for the Croft, Suncroft 2:04(10) Sallins 2:03(9). One minute into injury time Aisling Connolly, Megan Troy and Amy Brown combined to lay on a good ball for Aislinn Dooley which she put past the Sallins keeper to take the half time score to Suncroft 3:04(13) to Sallins 2:03(9).
The first half was played at a rapid pace and every player on the pitch got on the ball and gave it their all. Claire Nugent was rock solid for Sallins at centre back, Lia Reilly was very strong and causing all kinds of problems in midfield and Isobel Gorey with a goal and a point was one of the main dangers for Suncroft. On the Suncroft side Ciara Fennelly who had moved to full back was rock solid, Eve Kehoe at centre back was causing all kinds of problems for Sallins and Mary Enright and Megan Troy were working really well together to move the ball up the field. Aislinn Dooley was on fire and, with only one wide and one free that dropped a little short, scored every time she got in range for a personal first half tally of 2:04(10).
Suncroft were playing, an energy sapping, carrying game and only on a rare occasion used the kick pass to move the ball up the pitch. Sallins on the other hand were mainly using accurate kick passes to move the ball. Suncroft might have been ahead by a few points at half time but their supporters were worried that their main ball carriers Ciara, Eve, Megan, Mary and Aislinn would not be able to continue to cover so much ground for the full game on such a warm evening.
Suncroft got the second half off to a good start with a point from Aislinn Dooley, Sallins responded straight away with a point. Over the next ten minutes Suncroft’s Aislinn Dooley put three more points on the scoreboard while, in the same period Sallins hit the upright, hit the other upright, hit the crossbar and hit the side-netting, before they got their next point in the twentieth minute, Suncroft 3:08(17) Sallins 2:05(11).
Ciara Fennelly won the kick out and passed out to Aine Troy. After a good one two with Mary Enright, Aine carried the ball up the pitch and passed to Aislinn Dooley. Aislinn was making ground and about to pass the ball out to Aisling Connolly when she was on the receiving end of a strong tackle and won a free around thirty five metres from the end line. Aislinn was a bit shaken after the tackle and Eve Kehoe took over free taking responsibilities and converted the free.
Sallins kick passed up the field again and pointed. Suncroft’s carried the ball the length of the pitch and Sophie Kiely got on the end of an Aisling Connolly pass and scored a great point under pressure.
Going into the last seven minutes of the game Suncroft were starting to look comfortable with a seven point lead, Suncroft 3:10(19) Sallins 2:06(12). Fatigue was taking its toll on both teams and over the course of the game both benches were emptied. When they came on Suncroft’s Jane Magee and Alison Browne brought fresh legs to the forwards, Roisin Phelan freshened up the back line and Michelle Kenny did a great man marking job when she came on to reduce Sallins kick out options.
With a seven point deficit and only five minutes to go Sallins showed great spirit and fight and at the end of a move started in the backs by Claire Nugent they were rewarded with a penalty for an attempted foot block. Lia Reilly stepped, struck the ball perfectly and converted to pull the deficit back to a reachable four points. The goal gave Sallins a bit of boost and before Suncroft could regroup Sallins were on the attack again and Ava Griffith shot from distance, over the Croft’s keeper, and into the net to bring it back to a one point game. Suncroft were rattled but got straight back on the attack. Megan Troy carried the ball up the pitch and passed off the ball to Aisling Connolly and then on to Aislinn Dooley who split the posts again for a two point margin, Suncroft 3:11(20) Sallins 4:06(18).
As the game entered injury time Sallins were on the attack and Ava Griffith got on the end of a passing move, had another go from distance, and again found the back of the net to put Sallins in front by a point. There had been a couple of injuries on both sides but at most there would be three or four minutes of injury time and one of those was already gone. While the supporters on both sides were screaming nervous wrecks, and both side lines were excited and animated, all the ladies on the field showed maturity beyond their years, kept their calm and focused on the job in hand.
Suncroft won their kick out and being aware of the time constraints headed straight up the pitch. Caoimhe Doyle and Ciara Fennelly combined to get the ball up to Mary Enright and then to Eve Kehoe. With support from Aine Troy and Aislinn Dooley Eve ran at the Sallins defence and as they were closing in on the danger area the Suncroft ladies got a free, around thirty metres out. After leading for most of the game Suncroft were now in the ‘last chance saloon’ and the clock was running out fast. Suncroft parked most of their players around the Sallins goal and Sallins pulled back even more players to make sure there would be no soft score or short pass. Eve Kehoe struck the ball sweetly and it sailed straight over the black spot to draw the game three minutes into injury time, Suncroft 3:12(21) Sallins 5:06(21). Sallins keeper, Aislinn Eaton, kicked out the ball and before it landed the referee, Peter Farrell, blew the full-time whistle.
Both captains, Claire Nugent and Eve Kehoe, slowly approached the referee looking for conformation of the score. Everyone knew the score but it was a high scoring game and nothing is definite until the ref says so. Peter Farrell double checked his maths and both girls smiled with relief and horror when the draw was confirmed. Relief to be still in with a chance and horror at the thoughts of another twenty minutes with the fuel tanks already bone dry.
It was a cracking encounter and nobody was going home early. After a short break, biscuits, bottles of magic water and fuelled by encouragement from the supporters and mentors the forty-five ladies were up on their feet and ready to give it another go.
Sallins were first of the mark with a goal from distance in the third minute. Aislinn Dooley pointed for Suncroft in the fourth minute and Sallins came straight up the field and pointed back. Jennifer Harte won possession for Suncroft and got the ball up to Eve Kehoe who went on another side-stepping run from the middle of the field and found the Sallins net. Aislinn Dooley added two point from play and another from a free when Kehoe was fouled again. Suncroft were up by three points three minutes into injury time but Sallins conjured up another superbly taken goal and it was all square again at half time in extra time, Suncroft 4:16(28) Sallins 7:07(28).
Sallins took the lead with a point in the second minute but a minute later Aislinn Dooley snuck a free in under the Sallins crossbar for a goal for Suncroft. Suncroft won the ball from the kick out and Dooley pointed again to give Suncroft a deserved but dangerous three point lead. There were a lot of injuries on both sides as fatigue took hold but Suncroft managed to hold onto the three point lead. There was a roar of relief from the Suncroft supporters, and a sigh of disappointment from the Sallins supporters, when Aislinn Dooley pointed in the seventh minute of injury time to make it a four point / two score game. There were no more scores and the game finished Suncroft 5:18(33) Sallins 7:08(29).
A superbly entertaining sporting event where the two opponents gave absolutely everything over the circa ninety six minutes they were competing on the playing field (normal time, extra time and four periods of injury time). There were frees in both directions but not a dirty stroke in the game. The team Captains Claire Nugent and Eve Kehoe showed excellent leadership throughout, they lead from the front and by example from start to finish. In the middle Lia Reilly, Megan Troy and Mary Enright ran a marathon and Haley McCormack gave everything and had to be carried off near the end. The backs and forwards were well matched with Kemi Akintoye and Ciara Fennelly anchoring both defences at full back. There was nothing between the teams but Suncroft’s accuracy in front of goal eventually tipped it their direction. Suncroft got around twenty seven shots at scores and converted twenty three. Sallins got a similar number of chances and converted fifteen. Aislinn Dooley with a personal tally of 3:15(24) and only one wide was outstanding on the night.
Formidable competitors on the field but in the best LGFA sporting tradition, when the dust settled and the cup was being presented the girls from both teams and mentors gathered together shoulder to shoulder to congratulate and commiserate with each other.
Suncroft Panel: Risa Ennis, Emily Murphy, Ciara Fennelly, Jennifer Harte, Caoimhe Doyle, Eve Kehoe(C), Niamh Toft, Mary Enright, Megan Troy, Aine Troy, Aislinn Dooley, Sophie Kiely, Ceile Hand, Aisling Connolly, Amy Browne, Jane Magee, Roisin Phelan, Alison Brown, Michelle Kenny, Caoimhe Gilroy (injured) and Hazel Kevlihan (unavailable for fixture). Trainer Alan Phelan, Coordinator Rita Kehoe.
Sallins Panel: Aislinn Eaton, Katie Cashman, Kemi Akintoye, Emma Coffey, Orla Proudfoot, Claire Nugent(C), Katie O’Connor, Hayley McCormack, Lia Reilly, Isobel Gorey, Ella Flanagan, Grainne Kinahan, Ava Griffith, Niamh Hodson, Emma Lawlor, Aoife O’Doherty, Dara Hodson, Rebecca Francis, Grace Sharkey, Katlin Smith, Aoife Kelleher, Rebecca Cummins and Becky Breen.