Waterford Lady Footballers All-Ireland under 16 champions
Kildare won the toss and opted to play with the aid of a fairly strong breeze in the first half and set about their task in a determined fashion. Kildare full forward Orlaith Sullivan got the Lilywhites off to a perfect start with two points in the opening four minutes. Midfielder Hazel McLoughlin got Kildare’s third point with a well taken effort from 30 metres out in the 5th minute and Sullivan widened the gap to four with a pointed free on 9 minutes.
It took Waterford 14 minutes to get on the score board with a point from Gautier’s Aoife Fitzgerald before sharp shooter Orlaith Sullivan got her fourth and Kildare’s fifth in the 17th minute to leave four between the teams again. Sullivan repeated the dose in the 23rd minute to leave the score Kildare 0-6 Waterford 0-1 but the Déise girls refused to panic, Aoife Fitzgerald got Waterford’ s second point to keep them in touch in the 25th minute.
The game turned on its head two minutes later, a high back into the Kildare goal area was parried out by Kildare goalkeeper Ciara Farrell and Sheenagh McGuckian was in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the Kildare net to narrow the gap to just one point. This was to prove to be an important score as it re-ignited the Waterford challenge with time almost up in the first half.
Midfielder Kelly Ann Hogan continued the Waterford revival with a lung-bursting run and a well taken point in the 28th minute but inevitably it was Orlaith Sullivan with her fifth point of the half, who gave Kildare the lead by the minimum of margins at half-time.
Waterford opened the second half with a flurry of attacks which yielded three unanswered points. In the first minute of the half Kelly Ann Hogan took up where she left off in the first half with a well taken point. Aoife Fitzgerald hit two points in the 6th and 7th minutes to put the Déise in front.
Sally Murphy reduced the Waterford lead to one point with a point from play in the 9th minute and centre forward Aoife Rattigan levelled matters in the 11th minute. In the 15th minute Kildare full back was sin binned and from the resultant free Aoife Fitzgerald gave Waterford the lead which they would not surrender. Sarah Lacey pointed from play to stretch the lead to two points with twelve minutes to go.
The next ten minutes had some of the best football of the game despite the fact that no score accrued in that length of time. The play was up and down the field with both sets of defences on top and giving an exhibition of blocking and clearing. In the 29th minute Aoife Fitzgerald scored her sixth point to leave it Waterford 1-9; Kildare 0-9. Kildare attacked incessantly and were rewarded when Orlaith Sullivan got yet another point for Kildare deep into stoppage time.
The Lilywhites pressed and pressed but to no avail the Waterford backs dug deep and were in no mood to surrender a late late goal and victory to the girls in white. After six minutes of additional time which felt more like sixteen, referee Eamonn Moran blew the final whistle and the relief and the joy on the Waterford faces was brilliant to say the least. Waterford had taken the under 16 title from a gallant Kildare team.
There was joy and happiness unconfined when captain Annie Fitzgerald received the cup and the Gaultier girl was fulsome in her praise for a very gallant Kildare team. Kelly Ann Hogan was a deserved winner of Player of the Match. This was a great win for Waterford who took the title last won by the county in 2015. Manager Johnny Troy should be well proud of his efforts, two under 16 All-Ireland’s in three seasons, and he was ably helped by his backroom team of Paul Fitzgerald, Kevin Barry, Fionnuala Flynn, Gráinne Costello and Bríd Dunphy.
There were many great performances for Waterford on the night with all players giving their all. Rosie Landers was once again superb in goal with a number of excellent saves and her long kick outs relieving the pressure on a back line who were working overtime on the night. In the full back line Róisin Dunphy was brilliant at full back ably helped by her two corner backs Cora Murray and Leah Sheridan. In the half line Tao Behan, Mary Kate Curran and Clodagh Carroll settled to their task and were the platform for many attacks.
In the middle of the field Keeley Corbett Barry and Kelly Ann Hogan worked hard all night not giving an inch to two very skilful Kildare midfielders. In the half forward line captain Annie Fitzgerald, Briannagh Nic Craith, Aoife Brazil, and sub Claragh McCann when she was introduced worked very hard to ensure a plentiful supply of ball with into the three in the full forward line, Sarah Lacey, Aoife Fitzgerald and Sheenagh Mc Guckian who took their scores well when the opportunities arose. This was a well deserved win for the girls who have worked so hard for the last number of months.
A team is only as strong as its panel and for Waterford this was no exception Megan Foran, Ellen Kirwan, Emma Flynn, Emma Power, Caoimhe Ahern, Emma Stubbs, Hannah Flynn, Jodie Touhy, Caoimhe Hasset, Shiona Dunphy, Kirsty Green, Carly Dunford and Meadhbh Kiernan all played their part during the year. Well done to one and all.