By Damian Dolan
London Ladies manager Paddy Bowles has no doubts about his team’s ability to finish games off, should they get themselves into a winning position against Carlow in the sides’ make-or-break All-Ireland JFC clash.
The Exiles saw their six-point lead overturned in the last ten minutes by Louth in Dundalk, and now only a win will do at McGovern Park on Saturday (12pm), if they are to reach the semi-finals for a fourth consecutive year.
London, playing just their third game of 2019, produced an impressive performance against the Leinster champions.
But the visitors tired in the closing stages, allowing a battle-hardened Louth to get on top and sneak home by 2-12 to 2-11. London’s cause wasn’t helped by the harsh yellow carding of centre back Niamh Lister.
Bowles is confident they’ll be no repeat against Carlow, who also need to win on Saturday or face elimination.
“The last five minutes our tanks were empty and Louth’s experience helped. We’ll learn from that,” Bowles told the Irish World.
“The girls will hopefully manage those situations better in future and the same on the sideline as well.”
He added: “We’re confident that we can make up for last weekend, but we’ll totally respect Carlow.
“We had super support in Louth and hopefully we can get a good crowd at McGovern Park – it would definitely give the girls a huge boost.
“It’s knock-out football; win and you’re through, lose and you’re out.”
While London gave the Wee County an almighty scare, Carlow have suffered two heavy defeats at the hands of Louth – in the Leinster final by eight points and then a 15-point loss in the championship. But Bowles isn’t reading too much into that.
When Carlow visited McGovern Park in 2017, they came away with a two-point win – Rachael Sawyer scoring 2-2 – having trailed by 0-7 to 0-1 early on.
London’s Hannah Noonan, Catriona McGahan, Naoimhin Daly, Noelle Cocoman and Allie Burke all played in that game.
“They’re not going to be a pushover. In patches of those games [against Louth] Carlow played very well,” said Bowles.
“They’ve got some good forwards and midfielders, and a very accurate freetaker (Clíodna Ni She). They work in packs and work very hard.
“We need to make sure we’re at the same level of intensity that we were against Louth, and hopefully the result will take care of itself.”
Naoimhin Daly’s goal on the stroke of half-time saw London lead Louth by 1-7 to 1-5, and when Noonan added a second goal the Exiles looked well placed.
But Niamh Rice’s goal galvanised the Wee County, with Lister then seeing yellow as London tired against a Louth side playing their eleventh game this year.
“Down to 14 players it was a big ask, but I couldn’t fault the girls. They put in a huge shift,” said Bowles.
“Louth came back at us really well and having those games under their belt helped. They’re seasoned campaigners.”
While it was a difficult defeat to swallow, Bowles says there were huge positives for London to take from the game, and that’s what he emphasised to his “distraught” players afterwards.
“To get to that level of performance was fantastic – the work-rate of the girls was phenomenal,” he said.
“They knew how close we were and they know how good a squad we have. We learnt a lot about each other and as a team. It just disappointing we couldn’t get over the line.
“Hopefully we can rectify the little things that went wrong for us and try and get to that same standard against Carlow.”
Bowles says there were “a lot of tired bodies” after the Louth game, and he and his management team will be sweating on a few injuries for Saturday.
He’s also got his fingers crossed that those of his players in action at the World Games last week return unscathed.
If scores are level at the end of normal time on Saturday, extra-time will be played and, if required, then a free taking competition to determine a winner on the day.