Offaly Ladies show battling spirit to hold off Leitrm revival and reach All Ireland quarter-finals
Despite conceding five goals, three inside the first 12 minutes, Offaly held their nerve and held off a late Leitrim comeback in this crucial winner takes all TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship clash. As a result of the victory, Offaly have now reached the quarter-finals where they will face Sligo next weekend.
TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship
Leitrim 5-3 Offaly 2-13
Offaly were hit by what seemed like three killer goals in the first 12 minutes of Saturday’s clash but they fought back to draw level before halftime before taking complete control in the third quarter.
Offaly looked safe when leading by five points with six minutes left but two goals from Leitrim had the visitors living on their nerves but each time they were equal to the task, points from Jennifer Byrne and Grainne Egan securing a deserved victory.
With Dawn Hannon, Amy Gavin Mangan, Jennifer Byrne, Marie Byrne and sub Grainne Egan so effective on the day, Offaly were more than worth their win.
Leitrim got off to an unbelievable start when Michelle Heslin’s run cut open the Offaly defence. An off-load to Carla Le Guen saw the Aughawillan woman’s shot saved but she showed great persistence to force the rebound to the net inside 20 seconds.
Offaly weren’t about to lie down and a long ball to their captain Dawn Hannon saw her literally burst through two defenders and surge in to blast the ball to the net on three minutes.
But straight from the kick-out, Leitrim gained possession and a strong 50 yard run from Laura O’Dowd saw the Sean O’Heslin’s clubwoman launch a 20 yard screamer to the roof of the Offaly net.
Leitrim had some bad wides before Vivienne Egan and Roisin Ennis swapped points but on 12 minutes, Leitrim looked well on their way to victory when a long ball to Egan found the Annaduff woman clear and she finished confidently to the net.
Crucially Offaly would hit back immediately with points from Jennifer Byrne and Roisin Ennis and it was the visitors who took control of the game only to hit five wides to one from Leitrim in the next ten minutes.
Egan then pointed a free but Hannon scored a great point after a one-two before Offaly put the game back in the melting pot as Marie Byrne battled her way through three or four tackles and her shot sneaked into the net off the hands of keeper Michelle Hackett. A Jennifer Byrne point ensured the sides would go into the break all level at 3-2 for Leitrim and 2-5 for Offaly.
The third quarter was dominated completely by Offaly as they hit five unanswered points from a Marie Byrne free in the first minute. Offaly keeper Lauren Dunne stopped a Vivienne Egan shot but Leitrim needed to make a vital block on an Emma Maher shot.
Amy Gavin Mangan extended the lead in the fourth minute before Karen Connolly received a yellow card and went into the sin-bin for ten minutes with Jennifer Byrne putting over the resulting free.
A short fifty a minute later led to another Jennifer Byrne point as Leitrim left a couple of shots short while Offaly sub Grainne Egan made no such mistake, running and sending a high shot over the bar on 16 minutes.
Leitrim looked in real trouble but out of the blue good work from Elise Bruen released Vivienne Egan who found the net for the second time. But Offaly’s response was impressive as they went straight down the field for Grainne Egan to fire over.
The Offaly sub should have added a goal but after doing all the hard work, Egan drove her shot wide across the goal. Vivienne Egan pulled back a point from a free with seven minutes to go but Offaly immediately cancelled it out with a Grainne Egan score.
Dawn Hannon drove a shot across the Leitrim goal but Offaly went four clear with another Jennifer Byrne point and Leitrim keeper Michelle Hackett saved a dangerous long range shot from Gavin Mangan.
With the clocking ticking into added time, Leitrim needed a miracle and almost got it as Michelle Heslin finished off a wonderful move with a great goal that cut the gap to a point.
Leitrim needed victory, a draw wouldn't be enough as Offaly had a better scoring difference in their loss to Roscommon, but it was Offaly who had scoring chances but didn't take them. Michelle Heslin tried to engineer one last chance and soloed in some 30 yards but a last gasp tackle knocked the ball from her grasp and Offaly held out for the win.
Scorers: Vivienne Egan 2-3, 3f; Carla Le Guen, Laura O’Dowd & Michelle Heslin 1-0 each
Team: Michelle Hackett; Clare Owens, Louise Maguire, Karen Connolly; Laura O’Dowd, Aine Heslin, Shannen O’Rourke; Aoife Gilmartin, Eilish O’Dowd; Ann Marie Gallagher, Elise Bruen, Carla La Guen; Carmel McGovern, Michelle Heslin, Vivienne Egan. Subs: Edel Shanley for O’Rourke (45), Aisling Quinn for Gallagher (49)
Scorers: Jennifer Byrne 0-5, 1f; Marie Byrne (f) & Dawn Hannon 1-1 each; Grainne Egan 0-3; Roisin Ennis 0-2; Amy Gavin Mangan
Team: Lauren Dunne; Aoife Carey, Anne Marie McCormack, Emer Nally; Becky Bryant, Amy Gavin Mangan, Annie Kehoe; Emma Maher, Michelle Mann; Marie Byrne, Jennifer Byrne, Roisin Ennis; Katie Kehoe, Dawn Hannon, Sarah Cummins. Subs: Tara Dunne for Mann (24), Grainne Egan for Nally (41), Fiona Stephens for Kehoe (44)
Referee: Siobhan Coyle (Donegal)