Melek Fagan of Mullingar Shamrocks attempts to block Aoife Connolly (Garrycastle), in Sunday’s Westmeath ladies SFC game at Springfield.

Late, late Connolly show clinches Garrycastle victory

Garrycastle 2-12, Mullingar Shamrocks 0-14

By Seamus Dunne

Garrycastle defeated Shamrocks by four points on Sunday lunchtime in Springfield, a dramatic late turn-around denying Mullingar, who looked certain victors going into injury-time.

With just minutes left on the clock, and Shamrocks leading by two points, Garrycastle pounced on mistakes and punished them ruthlessly with two goals. Aoife Connolly’s long range effort some-how made it’s way over the goal-line, then a kickout was seized upon which resulted in a Garrycastle penalty. Aoife again stood up and buried it to complete a dramatic comeback and break home hearts.

Mullingar will take a lot of positives from this contest as they looked certain winners late on and did a lot of things right on the day, with Karen Hegarty and Chloe Smullen particularly impressive.

Mullingar Shamrocks began the scoring on a sunny September afternoon in Springfield, Susanna Buckley assisting Rachel Cheevers, who placed between the posts. Shamrocks went two points up when Susanna Buckley brilliantly intercepted the ball before she passed it to Karen Hegarty, who split the posts.

After a lot of early possession for the ladies in green and white, Garrycastle responded and got themselves level on ten minutes. A pointed free from the boot of Grace Halligan, was followed by a score from Sarah Dolan, 0-2 to 0-2 early doors.

Garrycastle were growing into the game and they took the lead when Jessica Frawley brilliantly won the ball back, this started an excellent team-move, culminating in a point for Shannon Mulvihill.

The ladies in green and red extended their lead to two with a nicely taken point from an acute angle from Sarah Dolan.

The first goal chance of the game fell to Garrycastle but they couldn’t take advantage: Patricia Igoe releasing Lorraine Duncan, her shot narrowly clearing the crossbar, Garrycastle up by three points but it probably should have been more.

Shamrocks interrupted the Garrycastle scoring spree with an excellent point from Karen Hegarty, her second of the day, leaving two between the sides, 0-5 to 0-3. With 15 minutes gone, Shamrocks cut the lead to a single score, Karen Hegarty again at the heart of the action. Karen was assisted by Susanna Buckley, she cut-inside and fired her shot off balance, the ball brilliantly finding its way between the posts.

Garrycastle responded with an impressive score of their own, Patricia Igoe’s effort from out in the corner raising a white flag, before quick Shamrocks thinking presented a chance to Chloe Smullen and she fired over, leaving it 0-6 to 0-5 in Garrycastle's favour.

A great Shamrocks team move brought the score level on 23 minutes: Karen Hegarty, Chloe Smullen, and Anna Jones combined, with Jones finishing off the move with a point. Mullingar didn’t have to wait long to take the lead, Karen Hegarty getting her fourth point of the day, a brilliant shot from out on the wing from all of thirty yards, Shamrocks up by a point. That became a two-point lead when Anna Jones drove through the Garrycastle back-line, before assisting the lively Chloe Smullen who placed between the posts.

Just before half-time, Garrycastle got themselves a much needed score: Aine Lynn with a driving run and pointing, to leave it 0-8 to 0-7 in Mullingar Shamrocks' favour at the half-time whistle.

Shamrocks started the second half strongly, Chloe Smullen setting up Anna Jones for a point, before Karen Hegarty helped herself to two quick-fire points, the second of which was a brilliant off-balance score, after a mazy solo-run. Mullingar Shamrocks now leading by 0-11 to 0-7, Garrycastle went close to getting the game’s first goal on 40 mins, but an excellent combined block from Siobhan O’Donnell and Melek Fagan denied them.

Garrycastle needed a route back into the game, and they turned to county star Aoife Connolly off the bench to provide it. Aoife wasn't a hundred percent fit and therefore unable to start.

The ladies in green and red got their first score of the second half through the boot of Danielle Madden, after being assisted by Aimee Duncan, before Aoife Connolly got her 1st point of the day, to reduce the lead to two points.

Garrycastle were now a revitalised outfit, firstly Shannon Mulvihill forced a good save from Shamrock’s goalie Lauren McCormack, before points from Grace Halligan and a excellent long distance effort from Lisa Fitzpatrick, brought the sides level at 0-11 apiece.

The game was in the balance with ten minutes left to play: Shamrocks went very close to getting that vital goal, Chloe Smullen finding Rachel Cheevers, but Rachel’s effort from close range cleared the cross-bar, a point when three were very much on offer. The point still gave the Springfield outfit a one-point lead, and that became two when a brilliant kick out from Lauren McCormack eventually found its way to Anna Jones; she carried the ball and placed between the posts, 0-13 to 0-11.

The clock was now winding down with Shamrocks in the ascendancy, Garrycastle reduced the lead when another goal chance went over, rather than under, the cross-bar. Chloe Smullen looked to have sealed the win for Shamrocks with a late score, getting away from her marker and pointing, restoring their two point cushion.

However, there was to be late drama in Springfield that would completely turn the match on its head.

A long-range effort from Garrycastle’s Aoife Connolly deceived Lauren McCormack in the Mullingar goal, with the ball agonisingly creeping over the line, harsh on the home net minder who had been solid throughout.

The old adage of goals win games proving true once more in this contest, as Garrycastle seized upon a late Mullingar kick-out, Lorraine Duncan was brought down in the square, penalty for the Castle.

Substitute Aoife Connolly buried the resulting penalty to amazingly put Garrycastle four points up, and snatch the victory - Shamrocks shellshocked as they looked the certain victor just minutes previously.

Garrycastle scorers: Aoife Connolly 2-1, Danielle Madden 0-2, Grace Halligan 0-2, Sarah Dolan 0-2, Lisa Fitzpatrick 0-1, Shannon Mulvihill 0-1, Lorraine Duncan 0-1, Patricia Igoe 0-1, Áine Lynn 0-1.

Mullingar Shamrocks scorers: Karen Hegarty 0-6, Anna Jones 0-3, Chloe Smullen 0-3, Rachel Cheevers 0-2.

Garrycastle: Megan McCormack, Jessica Frawley, Aimee Duncan, Fionnuala Mulroy, Aoife McGibbon, Kacey Mulvihill, Lisa Fitzpatrick, Lorraine Duncan, Aine Lynn, Danielle Madden, Sarah Dolan, Grace Halligan, Patricia Igoe, Laura Walsh, Shannon Mulvihill. Subs: Louise Connell for Kacey Mulvihill (h/t), Aoife Connolly for Patricia Igoe (38 mins), Nicole O’Connor for Fionnuala Mulroy, Hazel Donegan for Grace Halligan (54 mins).

Mullingar Shamrocks: Lauren McCormack, Annemarie O’Reilly, Siobhan O’Donnell, Melek Fagan, Chloe Swarbrigg, Mairead Newman, Caoimhe Gaffney, Anna Jones, Tara Fagan, Michaela O’Connor, Karen Hegarty, Alison Bane, Chloe Smullen, Rachel Cheevers, Susanna Buckley. Subs: Jenna Kelly for Caoimhe Gaffney (54 mins).

Ref: Paul McCaughey (Milltown).

In a nutshell

Player of the Match

Karen Hegarty (Mullingar Shamrocks): Lorraine Duncan had a great game for Garrycastle, but the nod goes to Mullingar Shamrocks’ Karen Hegarty: she finished with 0-6 including some sublime efforts and was very unfortunate to be on the losing side.

Key moment

Substitute Aoife Connolly’s long-range effort finding its way over the goal line, it turned the game in Garrycastle’s favour.