Sweet Valentine kick-starts Wands’ magic

by Gazette Reporter

A dramatic second half comeback, led by the inspirational Caroline Conway, secured the New Ireland Assurance Junior F Ladies Football title for Wanderers in St Margaret’s last Friday.

The Lusk outfit dominated the first 30 minutes en route to an eight point interval lead and the destination of the Junior F trophy looked to be heading to Fingal.

But Wanderers weren’t ready to say bon voyage to the title and produced three second half goals to send their supporters into raptures.

Conway led the charge with the classy midfielder dominating the middle and her penetrating runs and intelligent passing opened up the once watertight Towers’ defence.

She was ably assisted by the support running and clever interplay of Anne Whelan, Maria Redmond and Aleisha Fitzgerald.

The two corner forwards Danielle Valentine and Emma Murphy chased every ball and tirelessly harassed the Towers backline.

It wasn’t just the attacking unit that shone in the second half, a backline that had found itself under severe pressure in the first period solidified after the break and with Adele Casey minding the house and Kellie Gaynor turning over numerous Round Towers attacks Wanderers had the platform to stage their comeback.

Wanderers did open the scoring after four minutes, midfielder Conway having a quick exchange of passes with Aleisha Fitzgerald put the number 8 in the clear and she split the posts.

But Towers were dominating possession and were well on top. In the seventh minute, they were awarded a penalty for a push on Elin Kirwan in the square. Sophie O’Hara stood up to take the spot kick but her effort was saved by the foot of Wanderers keeper Kyra O’Sullivan.

Towers though won the rebound and were awarded a free for another foul and O’Sullivan made no mistake this time and slotted over.

They pushed on with further scores from Jessica Grimes and Sophie O’Hara. Maria Redmond pegged them back briefly but that was as good as it got for Wanderers as Round Tower dominated till the short whistle.

Grimes grabbed her second point of the evening and Sophie O’Hara added two more, one from play and the other a converted free. Early sub Niamh Howley then picked up a rebound from an O’Hara shot that hit the bar and she fired into the net. Two more O’Hara points made it 1-8 to 0-3 at half-time.

The Lusk side extended their lead early in the second half via Grace Codd for a nine-point lead but, from there on, it was all Wanderers with Danielle Valentine’s major the start of the turning point.

The goal came in the 41st minute. Kellie Gaynor turned the ball over in defence, worked it to Aleisha Fitzgerald who flicked the ball over her head into the path of Gaynor.

She slipped the ball inside to Conway who picked out Anne Whelan with a pinpoint foot pass and the number 10 struck a beauty to the net.

Conway and Emma Murphy swung over points to trim the lead down to just one and while Towers got some respite via Meghan Kiely’s point, the Rockbrook club soon took over.

From a free, Murphy shaped up to take it. Whether she was going for a point or goal only the player will know herself, but her shot dipped just under the crossbar and nestled in the back of the net, taking a 53rd minute lead.

And they gritted out the closing few minutes to stay a couple of points clear and land their first title in 11 years when hockey World Cup winners Nicci Daly and Ali Meeke were in the side.

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