‘From the Sideline’: Graiguecullen crowned Junior Champions
Laois LGFA Junior Football Championship Final
Graiguecullen looked every bit an Intermediate side when dealing efficiently with the challenge of Ballyfin at a beautifully-appointed Annanough. Indeed the Carlow-border side were never led by Ballyfin. The closest the Slieve Bloom-based side got to their opposition on the scoreboard was with the final play of the opening half when a rocket of goal pulled them within 2 points of Graigue’. That kept the final outcome in doubt until after the second half water break which saw the eventual champions power home with a scoring flurry.
Graigue’ blitzed their opponents early on. The slick interplay of Sally Amond and Lauren Walsh soon had Ballyfin reeling. A point from an Amond free was soon followed by another from open play. Then nippy corner forward Kelly O’ Neill then go in on the act when swinging over a delightful effort from out on the right. In reply Ballyfin’s efforts were coming through Rachel Walsh in the main. Her tireless work led to her side’s opening score; winning a free that Chloe Scanlon fired over.
Rocked by this concession Graigue’ soon were on the attack and only vigilant defending by Michelle Lynch kept the Carlow-border side out. That resistance soon crumbled however when a Lauren Walsh free was helped into the net. Great play from out the back by Graiguecullen’s Georgina McManus Donovan saw her side tack on another point through the expert boot of Kelly O’ Neill to leave Ballyfin trailing 1-05 to a solitary point at the opening half’s water break.
Ballyfin never yielded however and, on the resumption, Sinead O’ Rourke swung over a delicious point to double her side’s haul. However Graiguecullen remained in control and their high pressing and work rate ensured Ballyfin struggled on their own kick outs. That pressure soon resulted in another Graigue’ point in off the left-hand post.
Undeterred Ballyfin put together their best period of play just before the interval. A cleverly-worked move upfield saw Ballyfin win a free. Chloe Scanlon’s effort on goal smashed off the crossbar and the ever-vigilant Rachel Walsh was on hand to bury the ball home. The tireless work of Scanlon backboned Ballyfin’s work-rate at this juncture. Add that to superb work out of defence by Liadan C Fennell and Ballyfin were to rock their opponents with another goal with the last play of the opening half.
That left Ballyfin trailing by just a brace of points; 1-07 to 2-02 at half-time. However much Ballyfin pinned their hopes on their fightback continuing in the second half the better overall cohesion of Graiguecullen plus the worsening conditions ensured scores were at a premium. Indeed Ballyfin never got as close again to their opponents in the second half. The introduction of Courtney Forbes by Graiguecullen at half-time also ensured their advantage was maintained and extended until the final whistle.
Best for a valiant Ballyfin side who never threw in the towel were Liadan C Fennell, Chloe Scanlon and Rachel Walsh. For the victors Kelly O’ Neill was razor-sharp in the first half while Courtney Forbes shone in the second. The key trio for Graiguecullen were Christine Middleton, Sally Amond and Lauren Walsh while Sara Kerfah was indisputably the play of the match with an incredible display.
Graiguecullen: Chelsie Nolan; Isabel Humphries, Sarah Doogue, Sara Kerfah; Niamh Smith, Laura Byrne, Georgina McManus; Jade Nolan, Christina Middleton; Sally Amond, Sinead Smith, Essmay Murphy; Lauren Walsh, Rachel Doyle, Kelly O’Neill. Subs: Courtney Forbes for Amond and Caoimhe Fitzpatrick for Doyle (HT), Evelyn Bolton for Humphries (52 min.), Maggie Doogue for Walsh (54 min)
Ballyfin: Ella Dunphy; Cathy Hogan, Aine O’Rourke, Emma Stephenson; Orlaith Meade, Emma Kealy, Eva Culliton; Christine Wren, Sinead O’Rourke; Michelle Lynch, Liadan C-Fennell, Rachel Walsh; Chloe Scanlon, Edel Finn, Maeve Carroll. Subs: Rachel Wheeler for Meade (HT), Odie Fitzpatrick for Wren (41 min.), Niamh O’Rourke for Culliton (45 min.), Sarah Bergin for Hogan (47 min.), Eva Culliton for Walsh (57 min.)
Graiguecullen: Kelly O’Neill 1-6 (1 x F), Essmay Murphy 1-1, Sinead Smith (0-2), Sally Amond (1 x F), Sara Kerfah, Courtney Forbes & Caoimhe Fitzpatrick (0-1 each)
Ballyfin: Chloe Scanlon 0-5 (3 x F), Rachel Walsh and Edel Finn (1-0 each), Sinead O’Rourke( 0-1)