FOOTBALL: Kildare 5-14 Offaly 3-6 (Leinster Intermediate Semi-Final)
By Aisling Clery (Photo Credit Karl Gormley)
3-03 from an impressive Neasa Dooley was key as Kildare booked their place in the TG4 Leinster Intermediate Final in a sunkissed Manguard Plus Hawkfield CoE this afternoon. Kildare were impressive all over the field with the game control of Ciara Wheeler and Grace Clifford pulling the strings for Sean Finnegan’s squad.
They lead by 4-4 to 1-3 at the half time interval and with key goalkeeping saves from Dervila McGinn and an impressive attack, Kildare booked their passage to next week’s final with relative ease.
Kildare got off to a perfect start when Neasa Dooley found the net on two minutes. Grace Clifford won the ball deep before exchanging with Lara Curran and finding Dooley, she tapped home from short range. Saorah Doyle reduced the gap from a free, but Kildare cancelled this out with points from Dooley and Aoife Rattigan.
Offaly got themselves right back into contention when Marie Byrne got herself in behind the Kildare defence and made no mistake hitting the net with the finish. Michelle Mann added a point after a clever exchange with Saoirse McGuinness.
However, Kildare upped the gears and in a devastating spell hit 3-3 without reply. Lara Curran and Orlaith Sullivan both found their range with points before Neasa Dooley hit her second goal, an absolute rocket in the top right corner after terrific work from Ciara Wheeler. Wheeler, in fact, had a hand in each of the Kildare goal attacks in this period with Sullivan and Grace Clifford also hitting the Offaly net to open up a 4-4 to 1-2 lead after twenty minutes of play.
While Offaly had chances to reduce the gap, Kildare netminder Dervila McGinn was solid and cleared her lines resolutely with Mia Doherty and Laoise Lenehan in terrific form in the Kildare defence. The teams traded points before the break with Hazel McLoughlin pointing for Kildare, while Saorah Doyle converted her second free on the stroke of half time to leave the scoreboard 4-6 to 1-3 in the Lilies favour at the break.
On the resumption, it was Offaly who were first to strike with Saorah Doyle and Ellee McEvoy both hitting points from play but Kildare had answers to all of Offaly’s questions and the impressive Dooley and Rattigan both pointed for Kildare to keep them at arm’s length.
Neasa Dooley hit her second hat trick of this Leinster campaign when she converted a penalty after substitute Gillian Wheeler was fouled and while Kildare were reduced to fourteen with Ciara Wheeler sin binned, it did not affect the scoreboard. Points from Sullivan, Rattigan and Dooley put a gloss on the Kildare scoreboard.
Take nothing away from Offaly though, they continued battling and were duly rewarded with two late goals as Sarah Kehoe and Marie Byrne found the net for the Faithful. However, Kildare were not to be outdone and they can look forward to a Leinster Intermediate Final next Sunday in Dr Cullen Park, their first since 2016.
Scorers: Kildare; N Dooley 3-3 (1 pen), O Sullivan 1-3 (2f), A Rattigan 0-5, G Clifford 1-0, L Curran 0-2 (1f), H McLoughlin 0-1.
Offaly; M Byrne 2-1, S Keogh 1-0, S Doyle 0-3 (3f), M Mann 0-1, E McEvoy 0-1.
KILDARE: D McGinn; C Nugent, L Lenehan, R Cribbin; M Doherty, L Gilbert, L Murtagh; G Clifford (C), H McLoughlin; C Wheeler, A Rattigan, C Sullivan; N Dooley, O Sullivan, L Curran.
Subs: G Wheeler for McLoughlin, S Kendrick for Murtagh, G Harnett for Gilbert, R Forde for Lenehan, E Dowling for Sullivan.
OFFALY: T Roe; B Bryant, E Nally, N Buckley; M Mann, E Maher, A Kehoe; E Hand, R Ennis (C); A Gavin Mangan, R Mealiff, S McGuinness; S Doyle, E McEvoy, M Byrne.
Subs: D Hannon for Nally, N Farrelly for Kehoe, E Kelly for McGuinness, C Walsh for Mealiff, S Kehoe for Doyle.
Ref: J Bermingham (Wicklow).