Clinical Offaly punish Saffron's

By Kevin Herron

Offaly 3-08-0-10 Antrim

Offaly ladies booked their place in the Division four league final against Roscommon with a comfortable win over Antrim at Iniskeen on Sunday afternoon. An impressive final ten minutes at the end of the first half gave Offaly a five point cushion at the break. And try as they might Antrim couldn't recover as two goals at the start and end of the second period put to bed any chance the All-Ireland junior winners had of promotion to Division three next year.


It took two minutes for the first score of the game to arrive. Offaly full forward Mairead Daly linked up with Elaine Sullivan and Daly received possession again before firing over the bar. It took Antrim a couple of minutes to settle, but on five minutes the Saffron's were level when Kirsty McGuiness broke through the Offaly defence and fired over the top. The sides weren't level for too long though as Offaly regained the lead. This time Linda Sullivan had to time to turn and strike a magnificent point over the bar. After ten minutes the sides were level for the second time. Kirsty McGuiness was again on target this time from a close free after a foul on Mairead Cooper. Just after the mid-way point in the first half Offaly should have struck the games opening goal. Mairead Daly capitalised on a slip and played Claire O'Brien through, but Ciara McCoy done enough to pressure O'Brien and the shot drifted wide of the post.


This was perhaps the catalyst for Antrim going in front for the first time. Kirsty McGuiness played the ball to Mairead Cooper who in turn picked out Mariosa McGourty who took the score well and gave Antrim a 0-03-0-02 lead. With ten minutes of the half remaining Antrim stretched their lead to two points. This time the roles were reversed when Mariosa McGourty found Mairead Cooper who was subsequently fouled ,Kirsty McGuiness converted the free and all was looking well for the Saffron's. Offaly still remained  threatening though and should have found a goal when Siobhan Flannery found time and space, but Ciara McCoy for the second time in five minutes denied Offaly. It was to be third time lucky though for the Leinster side when Mairead Daly evaded a tackle before superbly smashing a shot off the underside of the bar and in ,leaving Ciara McCoy with no chance at all and Offaly led again 1-02-0-04 after 24 minutes.


Thereafter Offaly took firm control of the game as Antrim struggled to contain the Leinster sides strong attacks. Lorraine Kenna caught the ball well inside the 21-yard line and drove over the bar. Kenna was involved in Offaly's next score as the half forward drove the ball towards goal, only for a block to come in and full forward Linda Sullivan converted the point to put three between the sides 1-04-0-04. Sullivan came into the game well in the remaining minutes of the half as she added a second point, before she was fouled in the final attack of the half and Mairead Daly converted to leave five points between the teams at the interval 1-06-0-04.


Antrim made a half time change with Maebh McCurdy replacing Aimee McAtamney. And Antrim began the second half well, with Kirsty McGuiness combing with Clare Timoney to find the first score of the half and reduce the deficit to four 1-06-0-05. A free from Kirsty McGuiness then followed to reduce the gap to three. Offaly almost put the game to bed when Lorraine Keena went one on one with Ciara McCoy, but Keena's shot drifted wide. On 37 minutes there was no mistake as Keena released Linda Sullivan who found the net for the second time to give Offaly a six point lead 2-06-0-06. Substitute Maebh McCurdy made an impact with a point, but Offaly increased their lead to six once more when Orla Heavey combined with Siobhan Flannery for a point.


Antrim came agonisingly close to pulling a goal back, but Mairead Coopers goal bound shot came back off the post to the frustration of the corner forward. Offaly may have a had a further goal chance minutes later, but instead they opted for a point when Elaine Sullivan fisted the ball to Linda Sullivan who blasted over to make it 2-08-0-07. A point from Kirsty McGuiness and a Clare Timoney free made it a five point game with five minutes to play. But any hope of Antrim come back was dashed when Lorraine Keena combined with Linda Sullivan  for the second time and result was the same as Sullivan found the net and secured Offaly's place in the Division four league final. Mairead Cooper finished the days scoring with a fine point, but it had no impact on the result as Offaly ran out 3-08-0-10 winners.


Offaly team: Laura Devery, Michelle Guinan, Emma Dalton, Hannah McMahon, Emma Corcoran, Triona McDonald, Christine McDonnell, Tresea McManus, Siobhan Flannery, Orla Heavey, Lorraine Keena, Elaine Sullivan, Mairead Daly, Linda Sullivan, Claire O'Brien. Subs: Kelly Cunningham, Amy Kerrigan, Kym Fury, Niamh Malone, Orla Daly, Shauna Farrelly, Sinéad Daly, Aoife Byrne, Rebecca Gorman, Ciara McCormack, Maeve Coleman, Ciara Brady, Katie Killeen, Sharon Mannion, Donna Murray.


Antrim team: Ciara McCoy, Niamhin Cooper, Emma Kelly, Sarah Haughey, Aine Tubridy, Nicole Kelly, Maebhdh Laverty, Geraldine McGinley, Catherine Mullan, Kirsty McGuiness, Clare Timoney, Cathy Carey, Mairead Cooper, Mariosa McGourty, Aimee McAtamney. Subs: Maebh McCurdy, Rebekah Hemsworth, Helen Ward, Nicole Rafferty, Abi Carleton, Aoife McAteer, Stephaine Cochrane, Brona Reilly.