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Aodh Ruadh show true grit, but magnificent fightback falls just short

Ladies Ulster Club minor quarter-final
3 November 2019
Aodh Ruadh 3-9
Killygarry (Cavan) 4-7
John Hughes reports from Father Tierney Park

Aodh Ruadh welcomed Cavan champions Killygarry to Ballyshannon for the Ulster minor quarter-final on a bright autumn afternoon. It was to prove a massively entertaining game for the large crowd in Father Tierney Park, with the Breffni kingpins prevailing by the bare minimum.

In truth the damage was done in the first 15 minutes. Killygarry came with a whirlwind start which left the Ernesiders reeling. With just 1 minute 40 seconds on the clock they were 1-1 to the good, the lethal Aisling Walls hitting the back of the net and Faith Galligan pointing. A second goal from a high dropping ball by Aoife Lovett sneaked in at right post shortly after despite Bridín Maguire showing huge bravery to try to get down and make the stop.

It was sister Gráinne who opened Aodh Ruadh's account, drilling over a smoothly taken shot ten minutes in. That was followed a minute later by a smart clipped effort from Caoimhe Keon.

Aodh Ruadh looked to have settled, but Killygarry attacked again from the kick out and had the ball in the net courtesy of Lovett once more to make it 3-1 to 0-2 with 12 minutes gone.

It was at this point that Ballyshannon started to get a better grip on matters with Caitlin McGarrigle beginning to get the measure of Walls.

The sides swapped frees with Aoibhínn McGarrigle splitting the posts for Aodh Ruadh before Aisling Walls answered in kind for the Cavan girls.

Killygarry then engineered a fine point from play, however Aodh Ruadh got the perfect response. Lucy McGlynn went on a defence splitting run before firing to the net with 21 minutes on the clock.

A minute later and Killygarry repaid that in kind with their fourth and final goal of the game, a shot from distance by Aisling Walls dropping into the net.

Despite that, there was no doubt that Aodh Ruadh were now playing much closer to their best football and they finished the half with a flourish. First Cáit Gillespie hit a well taken point on 24 minutes. Then deep into first-half injury time Orla Keon divided the posts with an important point, the interval score board now reading Aodh Ruadh 1-5 Killygarry 4-3.

The Ernesiders brought their steadily improving form into the second half and were rewarded with the perfect start. Just over a minute in Cáit Gillespie came with one of her trademark driving runs and smashed a stinging shot past Joanne Reilly. It had to be good, as the Cavan keeper was in top form right through this Ulster quarter-final.

Seconds late Aodh Ruadh had the ball in the net again, this time it was Orla Keon dispatching to the net. When Cáit Gillespie found the range with a beauty of a shot on 35 minutes it was suddenly all square Aodh Ruadh 3-6 Killygarry 4-3.

It got better a minute later when Aoibhínn McGarrigle chipped over a free to give Aodh Ruadh a lead which had looked very unlikely just 15 minutes earlier.

Killygarry rallied well though and a score from play was followed by an Aoife Lovett point and an Aisling Walls free to thrust them back into a two point lead.

Gráinne Maguire landed an ice-cool free on 44 minutes to make it a one point game. The last 15 minutes were enthralling to watch, with both sides giving their absolute all. The exhaustion of a breathless 45 minutes of football was starting to take its toll with both sides passing up good scoring chances.

On 49 minutes Killygarry clipped over their last score from play off the boot of Aisling Walls to make it 3-8 to 4-7. Aodh Ruadh answered that three minutes later with another nerveless Gráinne Maguire free. Referee Gary Gormley played ten further minutes. Following one attack the frantic Aodh Ruadh support could only watch in agony as ball trickled along the goal line with only a despairing Killygarry clearance averting goal. Up the other end Bridín Maguire snuffed out a number of chances which could have killed the game in the Cavan champions favour.

Neither side could add to their tally though and so, after almost 70 minutes of intense, gutsy football, it was Killygarry who prevailed by a point.

Coming just two weeks after winning the club's first ever minor county title, this was a phenomenal display by a young Aodh Ruadh team in their first outing in Ulster club football.

The slow start cost Aodh Ruadh, but they can take great pride in manner they dug deep and outscored Killygarry 3-6 to 1-4 from the 17th minute on. The girls showed massive reserves of grit and character.

Like the county semi-final and final, this was a superb team performance from Aodh Ruadh. Bridín Maguire was absolutely outstanding between the posts, while Ana Keon gave a ferocious display at full back. Caitlin McGarrigle played one of the best games of her career, eventually coming out on top in a titanic battle against the exceptionally talented Aisling Walls. Lucy McGlynn also grew to dominate as the game wore on. Caoimhe Hughes O'Brien was a dynamic presence in the centre of the park and gave every last shred for the cause.

Up front Orla Keon, Gráinne Maguire, Cáit Gillespie and Aoibhínn McGarrigle all stood up and were counted against probably the best defence Aodh Ruadh encountered this season.

However, it was the heart and character shown by every single member of the team in difficult circumstances which will be the enduring memory of this game.

Best of luck to Killygarry in the remainder of the Ulster series. They played the game in a great spirit and represented their county with real class.

Vital Statistics
Aodh Ruadh
Bridín Maguire; Ciara Caldwell, Ana Keon, Eva Moore; Lucy McGlynn (1-0), Caitlin McGarrigle, Eilish Gallagher; Caoimhe Keon (0-1), Caoimhe Hughes-O'Brien; Orla Keon (1-1), Cáit Gillespie (1-2), Andrea McGlynn; Gráinne Maguire (0-3, 2f), Tia McFarland, Aoibhínn McGarrigle (0-2f).
Subs: Chantelle Timoney for E Moore 43m; Niamh Hughes for Tia McFarland 50m. Katie O'Brien, Sarah Jane Keon, Áine Hill, Ciara Gillespie, Demi McFarland,
Joanne Reilly; Ava Shiels, Amy Galligan, Maria Lovett; Clodagh Kennedy, Gráinne Cahill, Eimear Kennedy; Ally Cahill, Molly O'Meara; Kaioni Tu'ipulotu (0-1), Aisling Walls (2-3, 2f), Deirbhile Lynch; Faith Galligan (0-1), Aoife Lovett (2-3), Eimear Cahill.
Referee: Gary Gormley (Tyrone).

Last modified: Tuesday, 2 June 2020 at 3:59pm