New Ireland Assurance Junior F Dublin LGFA Club Championship Final- Match Report
Round Towers 1-10
By Nigel McCarthy
A dramatic second half comeback led by the inspirational Caroline Conway secured the New Ireland Assurance Junior F Ladies Football title for Wanderers in St Margarets GAA club on Friday evening.
It was certainly a game of two halves, Round Towers dominated the first thirty plus minutes on route to an eight point interval lead and the destination of the Junior F trophy looked for all intents and purposes heading to the Towers clubhouse.
But Wanderers weren’t ready to say bon voyage to the title and produced a stunning comeback that included three second half goals to send their supporters into raptures.
Caroline Conway led the charge of the light brigade with the classy midfielder dominating the middle third and her penetrating runs and intelligent passing opened up the once watertight Towers defence.
She was ably assisted by the support running and clever interplay of Anne Whelan, Maria Redmond and Aleisha Fitzgerald.
The two corner forwards Danielle Valentine and Emma Murphy chased every ball and tirelessly harassed the Towers backline.
It wasn’t just the attacking unit that shone in the second half, a backline that had found itself under severe pressure in the first period solidified after the break and with Adele Casey minding the house and Kellie Gaynor turning over numerous Round Towers attacks Wanderers had the platform to stage their comeback.
Round Towers had plenty of star performers themselves, the standout player in the first half was Sophie O’Hara, the tall, elegant and pacy centre half forward caused endless problems with her runs from deep and accurate shooting.
Full forward Elin Kirwan was a constant thorn in the side of the Wanderers defence with her ball winning ability and proved an excellent target player particularly for high balls around the square.
The Towers wingbacks Grace Codd and Amy Clarke provided excellent support runs which helped to keep Wanderers on the back foot in the opening half.
It was Wanderers who opened scoring in this Junior F final after four minutes.
Midfielder Caroline Conway won the ball around the centre, a quick exchange of passes with Aleisha Fitzgerald put the number 8 in the clear and she split the posts for the games opening point.
Round Towers were dominating the possession but missed a number of chances both from open play and frees to open their account.
In the 7th minute they were awarded a penalty for a push on Elin Kirwan in the square.
Sophie O’Hara stood up to take the spot kick, but her effort was saved by the foot of Wanderers keeper Kyra O’Sullivan.
Towers though won the rebound and were awarded a free for another foul and O’Sullivan made no mistake this time and slotted the ball over the bar.
Round Towers pushed up on the kick-out won possession and Jessica Grimes grabbed her first point of the game.
Sophie O’Hara picked up the ball deep in her own half and cut straight down the centre of the Wanderers defence and clipped over and excellent point.
A sweeping Wanderers move involving Anne Whelan, Caroline Conway and Mary Gaynor almost produced the first major of the game, but Gaynor’s shot flashed across the goal, Emma Murphy retrieved the ball in the corner and passed inside to Maria Redmond who struck the ball over the bar.
That was as good as it got for Wanderers as Round Tower dominated till the short whistle.
A long ball caused a mix up in Ballyboden Wanderers defence and they were thankful to keeper Kyra O’Sullivan who saved a goal bound effort from Anna Maria Kerley.
But the side from Frank Kelly Park couldn’t get out of their own half and Towers turned the screw.
Jessica Grimes grabbed her second point of the evening and Sophie O’Hara added two more, one from play and the other a converted free.
With ten minutes to go to the break Round Towers made a substitution bringing in Niamh Howley for Anna Maria Kerley.
It paid dividends just a minute later, a shot by O’Hara cannoned back off the crossbar and Howley was on hand to finish the rebound to the back of the net.
Towers added three further points before the short whistle scored by Evanna Niall and two from O’Hara to lead by 8 points at the interval on a scoreline of 1-08 to 0-03.
Wanderers needed early scores to get a foothold back into the game, but it was Round Towers who extended their lead two minutes into the second half.
Grace Codd who was lively throughout picked up the ball on her own halfback line and sprinted forward, the space opened up in front of her and with no challenge coming in she had all the time in the world to pick her spot and kicked an excellent point.
With the lead now nine points Wanderers needed to get the next score.
Niamh Clarke won the ball around the middle, offloaded to Danielle Valentine who exchanged a quick one-two with Mary Gaynor and Valentine buried the ball to the back of the net, game on.
Another brilliant move in the 41st minute produced Wanderers second major of the game.
Kellie Gaynor turned the ball over in defence, the ball was played to the middle towards Aleisha Fitzgerald, the corner forward could feel the breath of a Towers defender on her neck and with the awareness that teammate Mary Gaynor was running off her shoulder flicked the ball over her head into the path of Gaynor.
The aforementioned Gaynor slipped the ball inside to the on running Caroline Conway who picked out Anne Whelan with a pinpoint foot pass and the number 10 struck a beauty to the net.
It was all Wanderers now and Round Towers were struggling to get their hands on the ball.
Another pitch length move was finished off by the influential Caroline Conway for a point and when Emma Murphy swung over a free after a foul on Maria Redmond there was only a point between the sides with ten minutes remaining.
A point from Round Towers midfielder Meghan Kiely a minute later put two between the sides again.
But this Junior F final was turned on its head in the 53rd minute, Wanderers won a free to the right of the posts, Emma Murphy shaped up to take it, whether she was going for a point or goal only the player will know herself, but her shot dipped just under the crossbar and nestled in the back of the net.
Cue a huge roar from their traveling support as Wanderers hit the front for the first time since the opening minutes.
It was a hard fought lead the crew from Ballyboden were in no mood to surrender.
With game in the final minute the industrious Mary Gaynor extended their lead with a fine point.
Round Towers made two late substitutions to try and wrestle the game back in their direction, but they couldn’t find a way past a determined Wanderers rearguard and the side from Frank Kelly Park held on for a dramatic two point win and the Junior F club championship title.
Scorers For Wanderers: Emma Murphy 1-01 (1-01F), Danielle Valentine 1-00, Anne Whelan 1-00, Caroline Conway 0-02, Maria Redmond 0-02, Mary Gaynor 0-01.
Scorers For Round Towers: Sophie O’Hara 0-05 (0-03F), Niamh Howley 1-00, Jessica Grimes 0-02, Evanna Niall 0-01, Grace Codd 0-01, Meghan Kiely 0-01.
Wanderers: Kyra O’Sullivan, Kellie Gaynor, Adele Casey, Sinead O’Connor, Mairead Tomany, Chloe Clarke, Ruby Clarke, Caroline Conway, Niamh Clarke, Anne Whelan, Maria Redmond, Aleisha Fitzgerald, Danielle Valentine, Mary Gaynor, Emma Murphy.
Substitutions: Sarah Gallagher for Niamh Clarke (35th Min), Dionne Keenan for Aleisha Fitzgerald (44th Min).
Round Towers: Ciara Smyth, Orla McMahon, Davina Neary, Ciara Curran, Grace Codd, Jenny Hanratty, Amy Clarke, Evanna Niall, Meghan Kiely, Rebecca Grimes, Sophie O’Hara, Hannah Dempsey, Jessica Grimes, Elin Kirwan, Anna Maria Kerley.
Substitutions: Niamh Howley for Anna Maria Kerley (20th Min), Emily Lovely for Ciara Curran (57th Min), Georgia Shanley for Niamh Howley (61st Min), Chroidhia Myers For Evanna Niall (61st Min).