By Randal Scally
Caoimhe Lynam’s first-minute goal proved a false dawn for Offaly as Wicklow stormed back to run out comfortable winners of this LGFA Leinster U16 Championship opening round clash at a cool but sunny Bretland Park, Clara last Saturday afternoon.
Despite playing their hearts out, the home side didn’t score again until the 53rd minute of the second half when substitute Poppy Meyer raised their only white flag. Lynam scored her second goal from a free in the final minute of normal time, but it was a case of too little, too late as a well-drilled and physically stronger Wicklow side won by double scores.
Managed by James Bracken, Caroline O’Brien and Pat Doolan, the Offaly girls looked resplendent in their new D ARMOR-sponsored jerseys. There was a controversial start to the game when Wicklow’s Lily Somers was awarded a point, despite her shot being at least a metre wide of the right post. Incensed by this, Offaly went straight down the field to find the net through Lynam after she was set up by Katie Doolan.
But that was as good as it got for the Faithful County who played second fiddle to the visitors for most of the game. Aine Darcy narrowed the gap from a free before three points in as many minutes from Aoibhe King, Lily Somers and the excellent Ruby Keogh helped Wicklow to a 0-5 to 1-0 lead after 12 minutes.
Offaly kicked four wides either side of the water break before Keogh registered the only score of the second quarter to send Wicklow into half-time with a 0-6 to 1-0 lead. The home side had goalkeeper Mary Kate Maher to thank for not being further behind after she produced a great save from Somers, and Robyn Brennan struck the left upright from the rebound.
A Brennan free increased the Garden County’s advantage after the restart before both sides were reduced to 14 players (Wicklow’s Keogh was able to return after spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin). Further scores from Darcy (two, one free) and Brennan (free) left Wicklow perched on a 0-10 to 1-0 lead at the second water break.
Ruby Keogh marked her return to action with two more points before Meyer finally ended Offaly’s long scoring drought.
Despite the game being over as a contest, the hosts persevered and were rewarded when Lynam’s free from 30 metres out deceived the Wicklow goalkeeper and ended up in the net.
However, Wicklow had the final say when Keogh scored two fine points in injury-time.
Wicklow: Ruby Keogh 0-6, Aine Darcy 0-3 (2fs), Robyn Brennan (2fs) and Lily Somers 0-2 each, Aoibhe King 0-1.
Offaly: Caoimhe Lynam 2-0 (1-0f), Poppy Meyer 0-1.
Wicklow: Anna Carlyon; Nina Wolohan, Emma Kinnear, Aoife Wafer; Isabel Ledesma, Erin McMahon, Aoife Cullen; Orla Fee, Aoibhe King (captain); Ruby Keogh, Lily Somers, Tanisha Daly; Eadaoin O’Keane, Aine Darcy, Robyn Brennan. Subs: Niamh Whelan, Sophie Murphy, Erin Doyle, Naomi Hunter, Leah Manley, Doireann Killoran, Ciara Keane, Rebecca Byrne, Katie Wafer, Fiana Doyle, Aishling Brennan and Hannah Cullen.
Offaly: Mary Kate Maher (Clara); Abbie Minnock (St Manchan’s), Jane Maher (Ballinamere/Durrow), Katie Doyle (Edenderry); Tara Tyrrell (Edenderry), Saoirse Hoey (Edenderry), Eva Donlon (St Manchan’s); Meabh Rouse (Tullamore, captain), Niamh Galvin (Ballinamere/Durrow); Aoife Minnock (Shamrocks), Rachael O’Leary (Edenderry), Faith McDermott (Ballinamere/Durrow); Caoimhe Lynam (St Manchan’s), Katie Doolan (St Manchan’s), Grainne Foy (Rhode). Subs used: Poppy Meyer (Ballinamere/Durrow), Fianait Dooley (St Rynagh’s), Hannah Kennedy (Shamrocks), Lillian Murray (Naomh Molaoise), Claire Burke (Tullamore), Caoimhe Ginty (St Rynagh’s). Rest of panel: Sheola Rosney (St Manchan’s), Orla Ross (St Manchan’s), Caron Dunne (Edenderry), Hannah Connon (Naomh Ciaran), Andrea Ryan (Naomh Molaoise), Abby Connolly (Edenderry), Emma Buggy (Ballinamere/Durrow), Emily Flynn (Naomh Ciaran) and Julia Slattery (Ballinamere/Durrow).
Referee: Miriam Hayden (Carlow).
A minute’s silence was observed before the throw-in as a mark of respect to the late Clara GAA stalwart Ann ‘Nanto’ Reynolds whose granddaughter Sarah is a member of the Offaly U14 development squad.