Heroic U-16s make history!

Connacht LGFA U-16 Final:
Roscommon 3-10 Sligo 2-7

Lily Murray put on the brakes to go around Alisha Cuffe.

On Saturday afternoon in the Connacht Centre of Excellence Roscommon’s Dreamcatcher Furniture-sponsored U-16 team made history by clinching a first ever Connacht U-16 A title for the county with a superb victory against Sligo.

After what was a long and sometimes heartbreaking road for our underage teams over the years, this crop of U-16s finally got just desserts for the effort and commitment this team and management have given to ladies football in the county.

The game itself lived up to its billing as two very talented teams went toe to toe right up to the final whistle.

Sligo started best, hitting the back of the net in the opening minutes. While they had a number of scoring chances, Roscommon were wasteful at times during the first half. They had long spells of possession but needed a settling score and fittingly it was Siofra Hession who provided it (with a free).

“Celebration time is here”

Better was to come. Two cracking goals from Cara Cox really put Roscommon in the driving seat, the team captain burying the ball low and hard to the net on both occasions. A high tackle on a Sligo player resulted in Erin Hagan being sin-binned for 10 minutes before half-time. Sligo never really took advantage of the extra player but they were pressing hard as the interval approached. Some fantastic defending by Aisling Shanagher, Erica Jordan and Aloise Regan in particular, and by the backline in general, ensured Roscommon led at the break, 3-6 to 1-3.

Sligo enjoyed a dream start to the second half when a foul resulted in a penalty which was calmly converted. Roscommon began to assert themselves much better as the second half went on, both teams exchanging points, but Roscommon still well ahead. More chances went abegging for Roscommon including Shauna Walsh being denied a goal. A final gloss was put on the performance with Aloise Regan running at the heart of the Sligo defence and slotting over a deserved point to finish the scoring.

The defence was excellent, Leah McCawley in goal making two outstanding saves. The backline of Erica Jordan, Aisling Shanagher, Aloise Regan, Denise Duffy, Holly Rogers and Shauna Corrigan worked tremendously hard and kept the lively Sligo forwards in check. Around the middle, twins Mille and Erin Hagan kept things ticking over well. Star forwards Anna McGrath, Siofra Hession, Lily Murray, Shauna Walsh, Cara Cox and Niamh Walsh did the damage when they needed to.

It was an assured performance, Roscommon finishing in style, befitting their status as champions-elect. When referee Mel Kenny (Mayo) blew for full-time, the scoreboard showed Roscommon 3-10 Sligo 2-7. The large Roscommon support went wild with delight.

As for the players, there were great scenes of relief and joy for this young Roscommon team as it sunk in that they had won a first ever Connacht A title in Ladies Football for the county.

The players deserve huge credit, with everyone playing to their full potential. Their work rate and desire was a true testament to their character as players. They all deserve huge credit for the effort they have put in, not only this year, but throughout the years.

Manager Declan Walsh, his selectors and the team are now looking forward to an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin on the 29th of June.