Lidl Ladies National League Division 3A Round 3
Report by Patrick Flaherty (Dundalk Democrat), Photos by Warren Matthews
Down 2-8 Louth 2-4
For a third straight game Louth were once again denied a victory, two goals at pivotal stages from Down meaning the Wee County will now contest the relegation play offs.
Unfortunately, they would only score once more for the remainder of the contest, with a sin bin for Michelle McMahon leaving it at even numbers for much of the remainder.
A series of frees from Natasha Ferris helped put her side back in front, before her goal deep into injury time sealed the win for the Mourne County.
After a cagey start to the game where both sides dropped shots short, it was Louth that took an early lead with a goal on three minutes.
Niamh Rice launched a long ball towards the square which was won under pressure by Laura Collins. From close range she took no prisoners as she buried it past Caroline Kennedy.
Sadly, from here the chances dried up for the Wee County, as an extra defender proved hard to break down.
They had plenty of possession but were forced to move the ball through endless phases of short passes, the likes of Niamh Rice and Kate Flood were too well marked to get them on the ball and the Down tactics stopped them utilising the long ball into a lethal full forward line.
In contrast The Mourne Girls were moving the ball at speed, the pace of their half back line really helping to open up the Louth defence time and time again and it lead to them striking back with 1-3 without reply.
Jessica Foy tapped over their first via a free on six minutes and this was quickly added to with points from Orla Swail and Sarah Dougherty. Their chances created with the help of solo runs from defenders Orla Duffy and Alice McAlea.
Their first goal came from a Louth mistake on 16 minutes, a misplaced pass when trying to work the ball beyond the half back line seeing Down turn over possession. A ball into the square was won by Viv McCormack who was duly taken down for a penalty by Eilis Hand and Rebecca Lambe Fagan.
Fagan was a late change in goals for Louth, and was put to the test trying to stop professional soccer player Jessica Foy. From the spot the Glentoran attacker blasted it home to put the home team three up.
A Kate Flood free shortly before the water break brought to an end a 17 minute period without a score for the Wee County who looked to be in big trouble. The deficit could have been more only for Fagan doing extremely well to force a Dougherty shot over the bar.
Collins managed to grab one more point for Louth before half time, leaving her side still in the mix, 1-4 to 1-2 down, despite being out of sorts for much of the first half. A lot was needed in the second half.
To their credit the Wee County came out with purpose, moving the ball quicker, which in turn was allowing them to finally get the most out of their full forward line. Niamh Rice in particular was being targeted with a lot of fast, high ball and used as the main way of creating chances.
Rebecca Carr would grab the game’s next score, as Louth began dominating possession, with attacking opportunities becoming rare for the home side. They weren’t helped by the dismissal of McKay on 42 minutes for a high challenge on Ceire Nolan.
The attacking was relentless from the Wee County, who regained the lead in spectacular fashion on 48 minutes. Rice did well to win possession from another long range pass before laying it off to Ciara Woods.
She in turn found Flood with a lovely looping pass and the former Aussie Rules star fired home a bullet past Kennedy. At the second water break they led by 2-3 to 1-5.
Down found their composure following the break and with it came a series of attacks as time after time they managed to draw fouls from scorable angles. Three of the next four scores went Down’s way with Ferris pinging all of them over the black spot, one of which was cancelled out by a Flood free.
Trailing by one going into injury time, the Louth Girls knew a draw was of little help to their cause, having not won a game in their opening two fixtures. They turned the screw late on but time was against them.
In a fine counter attack the match was put to bed on 64 minutes, a long ball from Adair Mooney finding Ferris who calmly slotted home to put Down into what was by this stage an unassailable four-point lead.
Down: Caroline Kennedy; Orna Kelly, Ciara Byrne, Orla Duffy; Alice McAlea, Cara McArdle, Natalie McKibben; Meghan Doherty, Kim White; Anaa Marie Magee, Jessica Foy (1-1, 0-1 free, 1-0 pen), Orla Swail (0-1); Viv McCormack, Natasha Ferris (1-3, 0-3 frees), Sarah Dougherty (0-2). Subs: Aimee Greene (23), Kate McKay, (23), Catriona Caldwell (0-1) (HT), Aoife Keowm (HT), Paige Smyth (44), Adair Mooney (56).
Louth: Rebecca Lambe Fagan; Holly Lambe Sally, Sarah Quinn, Eilis Hand; Michelle McMahon, Shannen McLaughlin, Ceire Nolan; Aoife Halligan, Sarah Moore; Eimear Byrne, Rebecca Carr (0-1), Hannah O’Neill; Laura Collins (1-1), Kate Flood (1-2, 0-2 frees), Niamh Rice. Subs: Roisin Kavanagh for O’Neill (HT), Aoife Russell for Moore (HT), Ciara Woods for Collins (39), Jenny McCourt for Halligan (46), Seoda Matthews for Sally (54), Aoife Byrne for Rice (58).
Referee: Philip Conway.