2017 AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Preliminary Round
By Larry Cooney at Athleague
Athleague of Roscommon advanced to a meeting with the Munster champions after a hard earned three-point victory over London’s Tara in Athleague last Sunday afternoon.
But the London champions were well in contention right up to the final minute of a pulsating second- half after a contrasting opening period. Played in near ideal conditions, despite some heavy over-night rain, the visitors were under the cosh almost from the throw-in.
Playing into the Glenamaddy Road end Tara fell behind in the opening minute after an early solorun from midfielder Rachel Fitzmaurice was halted at the expense of a free. Full forward Fiona Connell-Jones made no mistake from the resultant free into the scoreboard end. The hosts also had the benefit of the elements in the opening half and appeared determined to open up some kind of match-winning lead.
But the Athleague attack were also met with some fierce resistance in the opening quarter where Tara centre back and team captain Sarah McNicholl marshalled her defence superbly as well as making many fine clearances. She also faced Athleague’s leading forward in Annette McGeeney who along with team captain and centre back Kelly Hopkins were the hosts’ most influential players.
However despite their dream start Athleague failed to trouble the scorekeeper for another twelve minutes. But Tara’s first meaningful attack in the seventh minute resulted in them being awarded their first free for a foul on Helen Murphy. However Claire Ryan’s free also tailed off to the right and wide.
But containment seemed to be Tara’s priority in the opening period when the Exiles also seemed to be playing within themselves or with little intensity.
Three late changes to the line-out could have also disrupted the team’s early rhythm or indeed the affects of travelling into Knock on the day before.
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Match At A Glance
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Kelley Hopkins (Roscommon) Scored 1-2 with all her scores coming from placed balls but when composure was required the Athleague captain stood up when her team needed her. Her successful 52nd minute penalty took much of pressure off her team mates but her resolute defending in the third quarter was also crucial. She just gets the nod ahead of Annette McGeeney who was awarded the penalty after one her many fine possessions.
SCORE-OF-THE-MATCH: Fiona Morrissey’s 59th minute goal. Trailing by six points at the time Morrissey’s unstoppable effort from the edge of the square really set up a tense finish but time and luck eventually ran out for the gallant Exiles.
GAME-CHANGER: Eilish O’Neill 49th minute injury. Trailing by just a single point Tara had the momentum and looked set to equalise when Eilish O’Neill gained possession until she was ‘sandwiched’ between two Athleague defenders who appeared to have fouled her as she fell to the ground injured. But referee Mike Ryan did not make the big call and thereafter the game drifted away from the Exiles.
SCORERS: ATHLEAGUE: Kelley Hopkins 1-2(1-0)pen.(0-2)f, Fiona Connell-Jones 0-4(0-4)f, Laura Fleming 0-1. TARA: Lucy Hawkes and Fiona Morrissey 1-0 each, Claire Ryan 0-1(0-1)f.
ATHLEAGUE: Paula Daly; Eithne Brennan, Niamh Farrell, Meabh Tiernan; Niamh Conway, Kelley Hopkins (capt.), Eala Ni Chumhaill; Laura Fleming, Rachel Fitzmaurice; Leanne Walsh, Annette McGeeney, Leanne Kelly; Chloe Whyte-Lennon, Fiona Connell-Jones, Rebecca Brennan. SUBS: Ciara Ryan for Chloe Whyte-Lennon 38, Holly Gavin for Leanne Kelly 38.
TARA: Debbie Ennis; Joni Traynor, Patricia Marmion, Emer Kelly; Aoife O’Meara, Sarah McNicholl (capt.), Clare Killeen; Fiona Morrissey, Niamh Gaff; Claire Ryan, Helen Murphy, Orlaith Jennings; Megan Kerr, Rachel Kelly, Joanne Hamilton. SUBS: Eilish O’Neill for Megan Kerr h/t, Lucy Hawkes for Joanne Hamilton h/t. REFEREE: Mike Ryan (Tipperary)