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Overdue victory for Royal Gaels

Wednesday, 31st March, 2010 5:00pm

Story by Jimmy Geoghegan
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Overdue victory for Royal Gaels

Meath Ladies GAA chairperson Geraldine Sheridan presented the u-19 FC Martin Mannering Perpetual Cup to Royal Gaels captain Niamh O'Sullivan at Carlanstown on Friday night.

There was no shortage of entertaining football at Carlanstown on Friday night as Royal Gaels gave a powerhouse first-half display to defeat Clann na nGael in the Ladies u-19 FC final.

Royal Gaels have been part of the local football scene for some time now, but this was the first occasion the club have won this recently introduced competition and how they celebrated at the end.

"These girls have suffered their share of disappointments, but this is a great year for them. They showed great commitment and dedication all the way," said Maria Kealy who manages the team along with Colm Bracken. "It's great for the club and these girls who are all close friends."

The team spirit, the fitness, the self-belief was evident throughout as Royal Gaels built on a blistering start to go on and defeat a Clann na nGael outfit who only really started to play after the break.

The Royal Gaels, who are made up of girls from the Dunshaughlin and Drumree areas, had conducted a vigorous warm up under Kealy's supervision.

When they ball was thrown in for the start they were certainly primed for action and on a calm, pleasant evening they quickly showed that they meant business.

Particularly dangerous in those opening minutes was Tara Ryan who slotted over three points before the Gaels struck with their first goal.

There was only 10 minutes played when Rebecca Considine and Caitriona Kennedy combined to set up Laura McMahon who shot to the net from close range.

Nine minutes later Ryan delivered a crossfield pass to McMahon who cut inside to fire to the net. Shortly before the break a Ryan effort came off the woodwork and Aimee Ennis was on hand to shoot home.

All those scores, added to points from Considine, Jenny Kelly and Maeve Scanlon gave Royal Gaels a deserved 3-7 to 0- 2 interval advantage. Clann na nGael's first-half tally came from the influential Laura Gilsenan who shipped a knock early on yet still played well.

It wasn't just the big interval lead that was impressive, it was the way the Gaels moved the ball around, with pace, speed and purpose. The team performed as a unit.

Maybe Royal Gaels took their foot off the pedal for the second-half understandably feeling that it was game, set and match?

Or maybe the far more competitive second-half had a lot to do with Clann na nGael's dogged refusal to be subdued?

Whatever the reason the Clann na nGael defence closed down their opponents. The skilful Sionnáin Ní Dhonncha, who had done well at midfield in the opening half, moved back and helped to shore up the defence. Ní Dhonncha had a few days previously lost an All-Ireland Colleges Final to a Maynooth side captained by Royal Gaels' Niamh O'Sullivan.

Suddenly players like Vivienne McCormack, Rihanna Kelly, Blathnaid Keogh, Elaine Fallon and Gilsenan came much more to the fore. They strung a series of passes together and ran at their opponents.

While there was never any likelihood that Clann na nGael were going to catch the Gaels they at least salvaged their pride with two points from Gilsenan and one apiece from Arlene McAnarney and Keogh making up their second-half tally.

Gilsenan was unlucky not to get a goal when she despatched a shot that was superbly tipped over by Royal Gaels 'keeper Orla McLoughlin.

Last year Royal Gaels were defeated in the final by Donaghmore/Ashbourne. With the memory of that setback in their minds the runners-up position was not an option this time around.

"The team suffered a sore loss last year. When we defeated Donaghmore/Ashbourne this year in the quarter-finals and then went on to get the better of Oldcastle we knew we could win it if we kept working," added Kealy before going to celebrate with her delighted players.

Royal Gaels - O McLoughlin; L McMorrow, A McQuillan, G Gallogly; S Delaney, L McMahon, L Ryan; N O'Sullivan, R Considine (0-2); C Kennedy, J Kelly (0-1), M Scanlon (0-2); A Ennis (1-0), T Ryan (0-5), L McMahon (2-0). Subs - O Bracken for Delaney, L O'Regan for Bracken, S Conlon for Kennedy.

Clann na nGael - C McLoughlin; G Whelehan, E Fallon, A McLoughlin; J Martyn, N Collins, C Ní Dhonncha; S Ní Dhonncha, E Staunton; N Darby, V McCormack, L Gilsenan (0-4); R Kelly, A McAnarney (0-1), B Keogh (0-1). Subs - M Kelly for Darby.

Referee - Gerry Kealy (St Michael's).

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