Thursday, May 04, 2017

Kilcullen GAA U14 Girls Feile A final

Kilcullen 0-9 St Lawrence’s 2-02. Venue: Hawkfield, 1/5/17.

The Kilcullen girls secured their place in the Feile A final against local rivals St Lawrence’s following a semi-final win over a gallant Naas team, writes Pat Devenney. Four excellent goals from Sophie Ngai (3) and Eabha Devenney (1) and points from Jill O’ Toole, Hannah Breen, Edwina Birchill, Eabha Devenney, Sophie Ngai, Rachel Keane and Abbie Fitzgerald helped to secure a 4-08 to 2 point victory. Rachel Keane produced one of her best Kilcullen performances. Amy Bermudez, Ava Cronin, Ellie Bermudez, Roisin Browne and Hannah Crowley all put in impressive performances.

Kilcullen and St Lawrence’s would meet to see who would be crowned champions … two teams who know each other very well. St Lawrence’s used an extra player in the full back line to counteract the scoring power of Sophie Ngai whilst Eabha Devenney, who usually plays a forward role, was used to cover just in front of Kilcullen’s halfback line to try to stop the supply getting to St Lawrence’s Miah Ryan.

The first half was a real arm wrestle with Kilcullen’s Abbie Fitzgerald opening the scoring. St Lawrence’s quickly answered with a point. Both defences were the stars of the show in the first half with the likes of Rebecca Corcoran doing well for St Lawrence’s whilst Kilcullen’s half back-line of Molly O Loughlin, Emma Sully and Ellen Coleman were fighting for everything. Kilcullen’s full back line of Chloe Acton, Jenna Pembroke and Siobhra Behan were winning a lot of ball. Unfortunately, Ellen Coleman had to go off injured after 10 minutes with Jill O’ Toole moving to the halfback line and Mia Whelan who battled throughout introduced into the forwards. There was a real battle around the midfield with Caitlin Kennedy and Hannah Breen doing well for Kilcullen. Eabha Devenney was playing her role very well and picking up a lot of ball and using it intelligently. Miah Ryan made a great sole run forward and got St Lawrence’s opening goal. Abbie Fitzgerald then kicked a lovely point. St Lawrence’s got another point and Kilcullen’s corner forward Edwina Birchill created space, received the ball and knocked the ball over the bar. Both teams had three first half scores each but it was advantage to the Larry’s who held a 2-point lead on a score line of 1-2 to 3 points.

Nic Birchill gave an inspirational half time team talk and Kilcullen changed their whole half forward line with Sophie Ngai moved into centre half forward, Jill O’ Toole on the right and Edwina Birchill on the left. Abbie Fitzgerald moved into the full forward line and her strength and clever use of the ball was to have a huge influence on the game. The St Lawrence’s girls were giving everything and were rewarded with a second goal early in the second half which left them five points up and their supporters were sensing victory. The goal was to be the Larry’s only score of the second half.

Rachel Keane, Emma Sully and Molly O Loughlin were having great games in the half back line. There werre then two game changing crucial defensive moments for Kilcullen. As the Larry’s looked like they were going to go further ahead a fingertip block by Siobhra Behan deflected the ball out for a 45. Then Kilcullen’s keeper Rachel Carey pulled off a save of the season following a good move by the Larry’s and this was the start of the Kilcullen revival.

With about eight minutes left Ger Breen made an excellent call as he decided it was time to release Eabha Devenney from her defensive role and to play in a more advanced position. With Eabha winning ball and driving at the Larry’s defence, supported by Caitlin Kennedy who was putting in a huge battling performance and the superb running and carrying ability of Hannah Breen, it all helped Kilcullen to dominate. Sophie Ngai put in an unbelievable effort given the close marking she was receiving and won another free for her team, and with Abbie Fitzgerald on song the gap was narrowed to 4 points. Following great passing between Caitlin Kennedy, Jill O Toole and Sophie Ngai, who fed Eabha Devenney who ran at pace and kicked a lovely point, it was down to a three-point game. Miah Ryan was trying to get the Larrys going and moved back into a more defensive position which allowed Emma Sully to go further forward and the Larrys were finding it difficult to get past half way. Jill O’ Toole’s powerful running was causing the Larrys all types of problems. Under severe pressure and the time running out the Kilcullen girls remained calm and their decision making and retention of the ball was top class (Thanks, Wayne Middleton for your help it made a real difference).

Caitlin Kennedy scored an amazing point from out wide on the right and Kilcullen were within two. Then from the Larrys' kick-out Edwina Birchill gathered the ball, beat her player and fired over and it was down to a 1-point game. Ellie Bermudez was introduced and her excellent running was creating space for others. With two minutes left Hannah Breen took a quick free kick which found Abbie Fitzgerald and Abbie split the posts and it was level with all the momentum with Kilcullen. Another excellent move by the Kilcullen Girls led to a foul on Sophie Ngai and under huge pressure Abbie Fitzgerald remained calm and kicked the winner to secure back to back Kildare Feile wins for the Rags. Abbie would finish with a personal tally of 5 points (2 from play and 3 from frees). Miah Ryan made one last forward burst and fed her teammate but how fitting it was that Jenna Pembroke defended brilliantly and won a free. Final whistle blown.

What character and skill the Kilcullen Girls showed in one of their greatest comebacks by scoring the last six points in eight minutes in a deserved win with nine scores to four in their favour and a 1-point victory on a score line of 9 points to 2-2. Well done to both sets of players — you did your clubs proud.

Kilcullen are being hosted by Belturbet of Cavan and will no doubt give it 110 percent whilst representing Kildare in the Feile All-Ireland Competition in June.

Kilcullen scorers: Abbie Fitzgerald 0-5, Edwina 0-2, Caitlin Kennedy 0-1, Eabha Devenney 0-1.

Kilcullen Team: Rachel Carey, Chloe Acton, Jenna Pembroke, Siobhra Behan, Molly O Loughlin, Emma Sully (Joint Captain), Ellen Coleman, Caitlin Kennedy, Hannah Breen, Eabha Devenney, Rachel Keane, Sophie Ngai, Jill O’ Toole, Abbie Fitzgerald (Joint Captain), Edwina Birchill, Mia Whelan, Ava Cronin, Hannah Crowley, Roisin Brown, Amy Bermudez, Ellie Bermudez.