Limerick Ladies celebrate promotion and Division 4 league final place after last gasp win over Leitrim:

By Leader Reporter

A DRAMATIC goal from Iris Kennelly in the seventh minute of injury time helped a resilient Limerick side earn promotion to Division 3 of the Lidl LGFA National Football League for next year as well as a place in this year’s Division 4 league decider.

In a simply astonishing ending to this game, Limerick secured the most dramatic of 2-10 to 1-11 Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 4 semi-final wins over Leitrim at Pádraig Pearses GAA Grounds on Sunday afternoon.

Leitrim appeared to have won this game when Muireann Devanny netted in the 66th minute to move Leitrim 1-11 to 1-10 in front. This was the first time Leitrim enjoyed the advantage on the scoreboard during the entirety of the contest as despite being on the backfoot for the majority of the game, Jonny Garrity’s side appeared to have snatched an unlikely victory.

However, Leitrim, despite winning the resulting kickout, turned over possession. Kennelly gathered possession, despite Charlene Tyrell’s best attempts, before lobbing Michelle Monaghan to score the match-winning goal and spark scenes of unbridled joy among the Limerick players and supporters.

Limerick will now face Carlow in the 2024 Lidl National League Division 4 Final, at Grant Heating St Brendan’s Park, Birr, on Saturday April 6.

Limerick’s pace and dynamism up front had caused problems for their opponents particularly in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Leitrim attack struggled to convert their chances with eight opening half wides doing little to aid their cause.

Limerick showed their ambitions inside the opening 25 seconds as Deborah Murphy, who impressed at centre forward, threaded a fine ball to Irish Kenneally to slot over. Limerick continued to dominate proceedings as captain Róisín Ambrose picked out Ellie Woulfe to register their second point.

Kennelly forced Leitrim shot stopper Michelle Monaghan into a smart save but with Ambrose (free) and Karen O’Leary pointing, Limerick led by four points after 10 minutes. Five first quarter wides hampered Leitrim as they struggled to convert chances from open play and frees.
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Ailbhe Clancy kicked a superb solo score off her left peg to settle Leitrim into the contest while Leah Fox added another to give her side belief. However, Limerick continued to edge proceedings as they were able to win 75 per cent of their kickouts in the first period. Deborah Murphy’s accuracy from the placed ball helped her side move five in front.

Leitrim carved out a huge opportunity when Fox picked out the onrushing Vivienne Egan who forced Sophie Hennessy into a fine save in the Limerick goal. From the rebound, Michelle Guckian almost forced the ball over the line. However, Egan grabbed possession and handpassed across to Guckian who fisted to the net. Jonny Garrihy’s side thought they had nabbed an enormous goal but referee Eoghan O’Neill deemed Guckian to be in the square and therefore chalked off the goal.

Kasey Bruen and Clancy kicked two fine scores for Leitrim before Deborah Murphy and Laura O’Dowd traded efforts as the Connacht side trailed 0-8 to 0-5 at half time.

The second period was a stop-start affair with two Michelle Guckian scores, one from play and the other a free, saw Leitrim cut the deficit to the minimum.

Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Leitrim were caught on the counter as Ambrose teed up the best player on the day Deborah Murphy, who raced through before lobbing Monaghan.

Leitrim were sloppy in attack on a day when referee Eoghan O’Neill was very strict on the steps rule with both sides seeing attacks ended prematurely due to overcarrying. Guckian (free) and Clancy kept Leitrim alive before another Guckian placed ball, cut Leitrim’s deficit to three points.

Devaney pointed in the 64th minute but it appeared too little too late. However, the experienced forward produced a stunning finish to the bottom corner of the net to spark jubilant scenes among the Leitrim supporters.

However, their joy was short lived as Kennelly won it for Limerick with the final kick of the game to secure promotion to Division 3 for her side next year as well as a place in this year’s Division 4 league final.

SCORERS: LIMERICK: Iris Kennelly 1-4; Deborah Murphy 1-3, 2f; Róisín Ambrose (f), Karen O’Leary, Ellie Woulfe 0-1 each. LEITRIM: Muireann Devaney 1-1; Michelle Guckian 0-4, 3f; Ailbhe Clancy 0-3; Kasey Bruen, Laura O’Dowd & Leah Fox 0-1 each.

LIMERICK: Sophie Hennessy; Fiona Bradshaw, Yvonne Lee, Joanne McGuire; Grace Lee, Cathy Mee, Meadhbh MacNamara; Roisin Ambrose, Lauren Ryan; Ellie Woulfe, Deborah Murphy, Katie Heelan; Karen O’Leary, Andrea O’Sullivan, Iris Kennelly. SUBS: Mairead Kavanagh for O’Sullivan (HT), Kate Kennedy for Heelan (55), Sarah Dillon for G Lee (59), Leah Coughlan for McGuire (59).

LIMERICK: Michelle Monaghan; Orla Flynn, Charlene Tyrell, Clare Owens; Elise Bruen, Kasey Bruen, Sarah Reynolds; Niamh Tighe, Megan McGovern; Vivienne Egan, Laura O’Dowd, Ailbhe Clancy, Aine Redican, Michelle Guckian, Leah Fox. SUBS Muireann Devaney for Redican (HT), Siomha Quinn for Egan (51), Bronagh O’Rourke for Fox (53).

REFEREE: Eoghan O’Neill (Kildare)