All-Ireland Ladies’ Junior Football Championship
By Martin Mannering
In their first ever competitive game as a county team, Lancashire Ladies did themselves proud making sure of a well deserved victory over Derry in Manchester on Saturday evening.
The championship debutantes made a very nervous start to the match, a nervousness that was matched by the visitors resulting in an error strewn first half riddled with mistakes and uncertainty.
The only sectors of the field that displayed any confidence were the two defensive units which grew in confidence.
The Ulster side opened the scoring within two minutes of the start with a Catherine McCloskey free after Ashlene McCaul had been fouled and just two minutes later, Danielle Farrell equalised after Lisa McSweeney had been bundled to the ground.
It was unimaginable at that point that we would wait until the second minute of the second half for the next score but time after time both sides spoiled good build up play with a misplaced pass or serious profligacy with their shooting.
Playing with the advantage of a medium wind, Derry were the guiltier of the two as their wide tally reached well into double figures before the break with the hosts not far short of that tally.
Manager Tony Reilly took his charges aside at half time and whatever the Meath man had to say to them certainly had an effect. Within a minute of the restart, captain Amanda Treanor soloed straight at the heart of the Derry defence and slotted over.
Five minutes in Lisa McSweeney, who had a titanic with battle full back Dervla McGuckin all game, found enough space to slot over another.
When Derry responded, they were met by a most resolute defence with full back Kate McMullan particularly outstanding.
Treanor had a great goal chance twelve minutes into the half but her shot went agonisingly wide of the post.
The game was approaching the end of the third quarter when Derry registered their second score of the match courtesy of Ciara Moore but the home side responded immediately with a fine point from Clodagh Gormley.
It was increasingly noticeable that the home side were getting a grip as their half backs began to carry the ball out of defence and with the two Brendas, McHugh and Barr, taking a solid grip of midfield, the team looked more and more assured.
Nicola Hurst went on a superb solo run from her wing back spot and scored the point of the match from wide out on the right on sixteen minutes.
A minute later McSweeney gathered a quick accurate pass from Brenda Barr and laid it off to the running Janet Maguire who finished with aplomb to the bottom corner.
The visitors rang the changes and did pull a point back instantly through substitute Caoimhe McLaughlin.
Lisa McSweeney was now winning her tussle with McGuckin and the direct supply in to her was paying dividends. A goal chance went abegging when she set up Clodagh Gormley but Danielle Farrell did point when the full forward again created the opening.
McLaughlin, who had impressed after her introduction, fired over two more points entering the last five minutes but Brenda Barr found one of her own in between to keep a safe distance between the teams.
Derry tried ever more frantically but they could find no way through a supremely solid defence and the winners finished on the front foot with McSweeney driving to the net after the ball broke loose from a dropping ball from Danielle Farrell to close out a memorable victory for the Lancashire girls.
After surviving that shaky first half, Lancashire turned in a fine team performance in the second period and can only grow in confidence for the task ahead.
They will now go forward to play an All Ireland Junior semi-final against Louth who had a facile victory over Scotland.