Garrycastle ladies capture third county title in a row

The girls from Garrycastle retained their county title after a severe test against a dogged Milltown in Cusack Park, Mullingar, on Sunday afternoon last. Fielding without the influential Denise Murtagh, Claire Gaffey and Ann Marie Igoe they battled throughout and possibly just about deserved the win. Milltown, for their part, came back from a very poor start but, despite having the lion's share of possession, they wasted far too much ball and their aimless kicking came back to haunt them. Their use of the bench was even more baffling with players coming on and then going off in almost rotation, and it gave no continuity whatsoever. That being said, they were right in the game and actually led midway through the second half, but they found it hard to cope with a lively Garrycastle attack in which Sarah Dolan was excellent, with midfielder Ann Duignan also superb. When the chips were down the Green and Reds used all their experience and claimed the three in a row, while for Milltown it will be at least twelve months more before they can bring the title back The game started at a rather pedestrian pace with neither side getting the upper hand but with Garrycastle looking the more dangerous. It was 5 minutes before the first score but it was worth waiting for as Sinead Walker found Grace Egan with a wonderful pass and the corner-forward slotted the ball to the net for a well constructed goal. Some poor efforts followed from both teams before a wonderful point from Sinead Walker punished some very slack defending by Milltown. Aoife Dolan added to Garrycastle's lead on 20 minutes but the game was very disjointed with Milltown kicked the ball aimlessly and Garrycastle not yet able to punish them accordingly. Sarah Dolan put 6 between the sides after a great work by Egan and Aoife Dolan and at this stage one could only see one winner, such was Garrycastle's dominance. Milltown did get on the scoreboard on 27 minutes when Laura Kiernan kicked a lovely point after great work by Ruth Kearney and sub Nicola Carey narrowed the gap further when she scored after a sustained period of pressure by the Green and Whites. But just before the break, Garrycastle tore the Milltown defence apart when they moved the ball sweetly into Sarah Dolan, who added a further point to leave it 1-4 to 0-2 in the champions' favour at the interval. Milltown introduced Triona McGuinness and Dorothy McCormack at the break and they really upped the tempo at the start of the half and were rewarded when a Bronagh Beglan free hung in the air, was grabbed by Katie Somers and rifled to the back of the net for a super goal. Kiernan added another good point and then another hanging delivery from Beglan was caught by Somers who somehow managed to get the ball out to Kiernan, and the diminutive corner-forward fired the ball to the net for goal number two and the whole momentum of the game had swung in Milltown's favour. Vicki McEnery entered the fray for Garrycastle and her influence was immediate as she was fouled and Sarah Dolan pointed the resultant free to leave the minimum between the sides. Sarah Dolan then set up Lisa Fitzpatrick for a fine score that levelled matters again, before Aoife Dolan finished off a superb team move to put the champions ahead again. McEnery was causing chaos in the ragged Milltown defence at this stage and when she was fouled Sarah Dolan restored Garrycastle's two-point cushion with a converted free. Fitzpatrick could have had a goal for the champions but her rocket of an effort came back off the crossbar. Milltown needed a boost and Ruth Kearney provided it with a wonderful long range effort that spilt the posts and the same player was on hand to level matters with an even better score from a very tight angle with 7 minutes to play. At this stage it could have gone anyway and Faye Kearney should have put Milltown ahead but, after her effort went astray, Garrycastle came straight down the field and Lisa Fitzpatrick put them ahead once again with possibly the score of the game. The game was really in the melting pot at this stage but Milltown could not haul it back and try as they might they could not penetrate and, in the 64th minute, Sarah Dolan kept her head brilliantly to score a great point that really settled the game as a contest. And moments later, the final whistle blew to the champions' elation and the challengers' desolation. Lorraine Duncan, Laura Brennan and Megan McCormack were excellent in defence for the champions, while Aoife McCormack and Ann Duignan were a strong midfield axis, but it was up front where Lisa Fitzpatrick, Aoife Dolan and Sarah Dolan excelled and kept the scoreboard ticking over at crucial times. For Milltown, Jenny Rogers was superb and really didn't deserve to be on a losing side while Helen Walsh at centre-back was a rock throughout and Ruth Kearney was excellent but, apart from cameos from Katie Somers and the impressive Laura Kiernan, their forward line did not function to its ability. Their tactic of rotating players did not work either and at times it seemed to confuse the team as they struggle to know who was playing where. That being said, Garrycastle just about deserved the win and they now claim three in a row and have laid down the gauntlet to their male counterparts. SCORERS - Garrycastle: Sarah Dolan 0-5 (2 frees), Grace Egan 1-0, Aoife Dolan and Lisa Fitzpatrick 0-2, Sinead Walker 0-1. Milltown: Laura Kiernan 1-2, Katie Somers 1-0, Ruth Kearney 0-2, Nicola Carey 0-1 GARRYCASTLE: Paula Fox, Orla Connaughton, Lorraine Duncan, Aimee Duncan, Megan McCormack, Laura Brennan, Eimear Murphy, Aoife McCormack, Ann Duignan, Lisa Fitzpatrick, Aoife Dolan, Ciara McCormack, Sinead Walker, Sarah Dolan, Grace Egan. Subs: Vicki McEnery for Egan 40 mins; Siobhan Dunne for Aoife Dolan, 54. MILLTOWN: Niamh Mulligan, Maura Coloe, Olive Heduan, Megan Pendred, Karen Walsh, Helen Walsh, Joye Kearney, Ruth Kearney, Jenny Rogers, Bronagh Beglan, Grace Kearney, Sinead Boyce, Katie Somers, Faye Kearney, Laura Kiernan. Subs: Nicola Carey for Grace Kearney, 7 mins; Grace Kearney for Karen Walsh, 19; Triona McGuinness for Grace Kearney, H/T; Dorothy McCormack for Olive Heduan, H/T; Olive Heduan for Coloe, 45; Kelly Boyce Jordan for Carey, 54. REFEREE: Declan Hogan (St Mary's, Rochfortbridge).

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