"We're very relieved" - the weekend in ladies football
By Declan Rooney
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald saluted his side’s fighting spirit as they pulled clear of a determined Mayo in the final stages to qualify for the Lidl NFL Division 1 semi-final.
Just three points separates the top four teams in the division, but Cork, Dublin, Donegal and Galway are all guaranteed semi-finals berths after Fitzgerald’s side ended Mayo’s hopes.
Niamh Cotter, Doireann O’Sullivan, Orla Farmer and Rhona Ní Bhuachalla all scored goals for Cork, who were pushed hard by Mayo, for whom Emma Needham and Sinead Cafferky hit the net.
“We started the game sluggishly and that’s not like us,” said Cork manager Fitzgerald.
“The second-half was more of a reflection of how we played, but we can’t be waiting for 30 minutes to start performing.
“I am delighted with the girls, the response from them was excellent. Dioreann (O’Sullivan) got a great goal and that relaxed us, and from there we played really well.”
Donegal only needed a point to make it into the knock-out stages, but Karen Guthrie ensured they claimed all three in Letterkenny with a six-point haul for her side on Saturday.
Their manager Maxi Curran placed huge value on his side’s tight win over Westmeath at the weekend, which was wrapped up when Shannon McGroddy hit the net in the second-half.
“Tight matches are off more benefit to us. We have a lot of young girls who weren’t used to such physically demanding games, but they’re coming out the right side of it now and they’ve two more big games to look forward to in the league,” said a delighted Curran.
Despite the loss Westmeath cannot now be relegated after Tipperary did them a favour and defeated Monaghan in Thurles. The Farney girls have not won any of their six games so far this season and even a win in a fortnight against Mayo cannot save them at this stage.
The accuracy of free-taker Aishling Moloney was key to Tipperary’s win, while Caitlin Kennedy’s goal wrapped up the win.
“We are, very relieved,” said Tipp manager Shane Roynane. “I suppose it wasn’t pretty but that was going to be the nature of it. Monaghan are a very proud county and they knew coming down today that they had to win the game.
“I suppose we would have had a different challenge next week if we hadn’t got the result today but we’re delighted, were relieved to stay up.”
And in Galway, Sinead Aherne and Siobhan Woods hit a goal in each half as Dublin ended Galway’s unbeaten run with a hard fought four-point win in Moycullen.
Aherne’s goal after eight minutes was chalked out by Barbara Hannon’s strike for Galway seven minutes from the interval, and after Dublin led by one at half-time Woods ensured the points were Dublin’s with her goal 12 minutes after the restart.
“We’re delighted with the result and the high intensity of the game,” said Mick Bohan.
“Both teams went at it and we’re happy to learn a lot about a couple of players.”
Meanwhile in Division 2, Armagh’s unbeaten record was ended by Kerry, who picked up a four-point win on the road thanks to two goals from Louise Ni Mhuireachtaigh. Clare inflicted a one-point loss on Tyrone, which has given them a great chance of reaching the last four. Cavan had seven points to spare over Wexford, while Waterford edged an eight-goal epic against Laois to maintain their promotion drive.
In the third tier Kildare defeated Down on Saturday thanks to a late rally, while there were wins for Roscommon against Longford, Meath defeated Wicklow to maintain their perfect start to the competition, and Sligo romped to a big win over Offaly in Tullamore.
In a very tight Division 4, Limerick claimed the win in Derry, Fermanagh put eight goals past Carlow, Leitrim beat Kilkenny to earn their first win, while Louth were handsome victors over Antrim.