St Val’s 2-11
West Cork 2-8
KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
AS soon as St Val’s manager Simon Foley discovered that his side were drawn against West Cork in the Cork Ladies’ SFC semi-final, he started working on a plan to shore up his defence.
In a group match in this competition in early August, St Val’s shipped four goals – including three in the second half – against West Cork in a 4-6 to 1-12 defeat in Rosscarbery.
This West Cork team had racked up 13 goals in three championship games so Foley hatched a plan to blunt their attack.
West Cork scored only two goals against Val’s in the semi-final under lights at Macroom last week – the first from Áine Terry O’Sullivan after 38 minutes, the second by Sadhbh O’Leary on 58 minutes.
‘We learned a lot from that game in Rosscarbery,’ Foley said.
‘We left four goals in that day, we beat them on the number of scores in the game but they got the goals so we knew we had to stop that.
‘We have worked so much on funnelling our defence back and cutting out the goals – and we did that for 40 minutes. It worked.
‘We saw that as the key to have us in the game towards the end. We felt that if we were in that game with five minutes to go, that’s when the club and the unity comes out. It did.’
West Cork had other goal chances, but Laura O’Mahony’s early first-half effort was straight at the Val’s goalkeeper and Áine Terry O’Sullivan’s second-half piledriver skimmed the top of the bar on the way over, but the Val’s defence held the upper-hand.
Bríd Stack kept Cork team-mate to Áine O’Sullivan to 1-2, Val’s wing backs Jenny Brew Dinan and Marie Ambrose carried a lot of ball, and the Val’s rearguard frustrated a potentially lethal West Cork attack that included All-Star Orla Finn, Cork minors Sadbhb O’Leary and Laura O’Mahony, and Áine O’Sullivan.
St Val’s were the better team in this semi-final.
They were more composed, careful in possession and carried the greater threat, while West Cork, in the first half especially, were too sloppy, gave away soft frees and continuously kicked possession away, inviting Val’s to attack and at the same time starving their own full-forward line of quality ball.
Despite all that, West Cork only trailed 1-4 to 0-4 at half time. Ciara McCarthy kicked three frees before Orla Finn got West Cork off the mark after 17 minutes. Louise Coholan then goaled for Val’s, but West Cork finished the half better, outscoring their club opponents by three points to one, Finn (2) and Áine O’Sullivan with Mairead Corkery replying for Val’s.
‘We probably should have been further ahead at half time but I was quietly confident that we had done enough in that half,’ Simon Foley said.
Val’s had moved 1-7 to 0-6 ahead in the second half before Áine O’Sullivan goaled in the 37th minute, flicking an Orla Finn point attempt to the net. It left one point between the teams, and while West Cork – who had to line out without Niamh Cotter (in Canada) and the injured Áine Hayes, who did come on in the last ten minutes – did improve in the second half, crucially they never drew level.
Instead, Val’s kicked four of the next five scores, including Nicola Dennehy’s well-struck 52nd minute goal, as the rain lashed down in Macroom.
They now led 2-10 to 1-7, with Sadhbh O’Leary’s point all West Cork could muster.
By now West Cork sprung Áine Hayes, suffering with a shoulder injury, off the bench and immediately she made a difference when she got on the ball – but time was running out.
Finn pulled back another point before Sadhbh O’Leary found herself all alone on the edge of the squad to fire home a low shot into the bottom corner, and suddenly West Cork were only two behind, 2-10 to 2-8, with two minutes and injury time to come.
This was when Val’s experience showed. They kept hold of the ball extremely well, picked off another Ciara McCarthy free, and their defence stood firm.
‘We were hungrier,’ Foley said.
‘Over the last few weeks we have been working on unity because at the end of the day we are a club and when it comes to the crunch in a championship game it’s hard to beat that heart and determination.’
St Val’s: Ciara McCarthy 0-6 (5f), Mairead Corkery 0-3, Louise Coholan, Nicola Dennehy 1-0 each, Vera Foley, Sinead Plunkett 0-1 each.
West Cork: Orla Finn 0-5 (2f), Áine O’Sullivan 1-2, Sadhbh O’Leary 1-1.
St Val’s: Mairead O’Sullivan; Ciara Hughes, Claire Ambrose, Aisling Kelleher; Jenny Brew Dinan, Bríd Stack, Marie Ambrose; Louise Coholan, Sinead Cotter; Ciara Nevin, Vera Foley, Ciara McCarthy; Joanne Down, Mairead Corkery, Nicole Dennehy.
Subs: Sinead Plunkett for Joanne Down, Aileen Corkery for Ciara Nevin.
West Cork: Martina O’Brien (Clonakilty); Siobhan Courtney (Castlehaven), Clare O’Shea (Beara), Tracey McCarthy (Kinsale); Eimear Kiely (Valley Rovers), Libby Coppinger (St Colum’s), Aideen Lynch (Bandon); Máire O’Brien (Rosscarbery), Melissa Duggan (Dohenys); Clare O’Leary (Clonakilty), Orla Finn (Kinsale), Nicole Quinn (Bandon); Laura O’Mahony (O’Donovan Rossa), Áine O’Sullivan (Beara), Sadhbh O’Leary (Kinsale).
Subs: Cliona Maguire (Rosscarbery) for S Courtney (40), Georgia Gould (Kinsale) for L O’Mahony (42), Dáire Kiely (Valley Rovers) L Coppinger (48), Áine Hayes (Rosscarbery) for M O’Brien (52).
Referee: Peter O’Leary.