Loreto seek Leinster title
The pedigree of Loreto (Wexford) as one of the leading ladies' football schools in the province will be further underlined in Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow this Thursday at 11.30 a.m. when they take on Scoil Na Chríost Rí (Portlaoise) in their third Leinster Senior 'A' championship final on the trot.
And with a record of one win and one loss in their two previous engagements, the Slaneysiders will be sparing no effort to bring the cup home again after a twelve-month interval.
The team gained a big boost in its first outing in the group stages on October 20 with a draw at home to Coláiste Iosagáin of Stillorgan, last year's All-Ireland Senior champions who had beaten Loreto en route in the provincial decider.
The game took place on the Volunteers pitch in Páirc Charman, with the home side moving into an early 1-1 to nil lead. While the Dubs recovered and grabbed goals on either side of half-time, it ended in a 1-9 to 2-6 draw after Leanne Corrigan equalised in a cracking finish, picking off a point from play with the last kick of the game.
Another stronghold of the schools scene, St. Leo's (Carlow), provided the opposition in the second group game on November 6. Loreto travelled home from this difficult assignment on a high after forging a 1-10 to 2-5 win, with the goal coming at an early stage from Niamh Bennett who was making her first start at this level.
Ellie O'Connor, vice-captain of the team, gave an outstanding display and finished with six points in the very windy conditions. It was a most impressive Loreto display as they led throughout and, if anything, ought to have won by more.
Dr. Cullen Park in Carlow hosted the third and final group game on November 11, prior to its recent re-naming, against Scoil Na Chríost Rí (Portlaoise), the team which Loreto will meet once again in Thursday's final.
The midlanders are on a bit of a roll, having won the All-Ireland Senior 'C' and Senior 'B' titles in successive years, so this is their first season in the top flight. Loreto trailed by 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time, but a Niamh Bennett goal on their first attack after the break narrowed the gap to the minimum.
Unfortunately though, the Wexford girls didn't score again and ended up losing by 0-12 to 1-3 which underlines the task ahead of them in the final.
As a result of finishing second in the group, Loreto were pitted against Edenderry in the semi-final for the third year on the trot, with the game held on December 15.
This was a cracking encounter which saw the teams on level terms at half-time (Loreto 0-5, Edenderry 1-2).
The Loreto attack fired on all cylinders in the second period, with goals from Leanne Corrigan, Amy Cardiff and super-sub Emily Coakley (who finished with 1-4) securing victory by 3-11 to 2-6.
The Spawell Road girls boast a very impressive pedigree at this level, having qualified for the final for the third year on the trot. They won it for the first time in 17 seasons in 2012-2013, beating Coláiste Iosagáin on a day when Emily Coakley's older sister, Julie, won the player of the match award.
Last year the Stillorgan crew turned the tables quite easily on the way to All-Ireland glory, but 18 of the Loreto panel were involved so that experience will be an undoubted boost.
Indeed, six of the squad have been part of the journey for all three years: Aisling Cronin, who scored the winning goal in 2012-2013; Ellen Barrett, who has started in the two previous finals; and Michelle Rowe, Ellie O'Connor, Amy Cardiff and goalkeeper and current captain Aoife McAuliffe who won an All-Ireland Junior medal with Wexford last September as understudy to Mary Rose Kelly.
Loreto know what they have to do after that six-point loss to Portlaoise before Christmas, but team manager Paudge Brennan (Volunteers) plus fellow mentors Denis Corrigan and David Crowdle will have them well primed for battle.
The full squad is: Aoife McAuliffe (St. Martin's), Michelle Rowe (Taghmon-Camross), Lauren Carty (St. Martin's), Katie O'Connor (St. Martin's), Patrice O'Gorman (Adamstown), Ellie O'Connor (Kilmore), Laura Bruen (Volunteers), Eimear Buckley (Volunteers), Aisling Cronin (St. Martin's), Amy Cardiff (St. Martin's), Aisling McAuliffe (St. Martin's), Hayley Miller (Kilmore), Kate Stafford (Shelmalier), Katie McGuire (Shelmalier), Lauren Cousins (Kilmore), Rachel Kehoe (St. Martin's), Katie Lawlor (St. Martin's), Enya Byrne (Shelmalier), Niamh Bennett (St. Anne's), Clare O'Gorman (Taghmon-Camross), Leanne Corrigan (Shelmalier), Rosie Nolan (St. Martin's), Kelda Cullen (St. Anne's), Gemma Fox (Shelmalier), Ellen Barrett (St. Martin's), Sarah Farrell (Clongeen).
They are joined by the following girls who are still Under-16 but members of the Senior panel: Niamh Buckley (Volunteers), Cathy O'Connor (Kilmore), Niamh Berry (Kilmore), Clara Barry (Kilmore), Sadbh McCarthy (Shelmalier), Emily Coakley (St. Fintan's).