Sligo sealed their place in this year’s Lidl National League Division 3 final with three points to spare over Roscommon, while Meath had a 14-point cushion over Longford in the other semi-final.
Sligo 1-11 Roscommon 1-08
Ten wides, four shots dropped short and a missed goal chance in the first-half prevented Sligo from racking up a large total but their dominance in defence and around the middle ensured that they had enough in hand at the final whistle and are now just an hour away from bouncing back up to Division 2, 12 months after being relegated.
The crucial phase of the Glennon Brothers Pearse Park encounter was immediately after half-time when Sligo scored 1-02 without reply, despite playing most of that spell with just 14 players due to Bernice Byrne’s yellow card.
After a dour first half when the sides shared eight points equally, with Ciara Gorman (0-2) and Laura Fleming (0-3) leading the way for their respective sides, Emma Keavney and Jacqui Mulligan pointed for Sligo to put them two points up for the first time in the game.
The key moment came after 39 minutes when Roscommon goalkeeper Helena Cummins fielded a high ball but was deemed by referee Des McEnery to have barged through Katie Walsh as she attempted to clear her lines. Cummins was shown a yellow card and Walsh duly brushed herself off to slot home the penalty, putting Sligo five points clear.
While the scores continued to flow intermittently rather than freely, Sligo kept their noses in front and looked good value for their win, with Ruth Goodwin and in particular Laura Ann Laffey taking control of the battle at midfield and restricting the Roscommon forwards to very little possession.
The introduction of Rachel Fitzmaurice yielded an immediate benefit as the dual player burst past two defenders and then sidestepped Noelle Gormley in the Sligo goal with her very first possession. Her shot under pressure rolled towards goal and might have been cleared off the line, if Siobhán Tully wasn’t on hand to add a final touch.
After playing second fiddle for most of the game, Roscommon were now just a point adrift but Sligo were unperturbed and calmly tacked on three late points to secure the win; the pick of the bunch a lovely dummy and shot from Katie Walsh that will be a centrepiece of the highlight reel.
Sligo: N Gormley; A Morrisroe, M McNamara, J Mulligan (0-01); N Brennan, B Byrne, AM Coleman; LA Laffey, R Goodwin; L Boles (0-02), C Gorman (0-02), S Naughton; K Walsh (1-03), E Keavney (0-02), L Casey.
Subs: S Regan (0-01) for Coleman (36), U Higgins for Naughton (49), J Breheny for Casey (56), R Monaghan for Keavney (60).
Roscommon: H Cummins; H Ennis, S Kenny, A McLoone; S Bannon, T Murtagh, N Feeney; J Higgins (0-01), J Cregg; A Kelly, K Daly, L Fleming (0-06); S Bruen, R Finan (0-02f), S Tully (1-00).
Subs: S Lavin for Bruen (40), L Brady for Daly (40), R Fitzmaurice for Cummins (50), L Flynn for Kelly (56), M Freyne for Finan (60).
Referee: Des McEnery (Westmeath)
Meath 5-18 Longford 3-10
Emma Duggan inspired the Royals to a second final in a row with this win over their Leinster rivals at a sunny Coralstown, Kinnegad.
Sixteen-year-old Duggan was brilliant in the second-half when her team brushed aside Longford’s challenge courtesy of some incisive attacking forays in the sweltering heat.
Meath were 2-11 to 1-7 in front at half-time after goals from Stacey Grimes and Vicki Wall, as Aisling Greene provided the Longford reply.
Michelle Farrell tapped over an early Longford score but that was cancelled out by Grimes, as her side went on the rampage. Aoibhín Cleary and Wall added points before Grimes’ penalty.
Mairéad Moore brought down Emma White, and Grimes stepped up to finish past Emer Esler into the top right corner.
That goal came in the sixth minute but despite trailing 1-4 to 0-1 in the seventh minute Longford stuck in the game and remained competitive coming up to half-time.
Ciara Healy tapped over a couple of frees while Farrell and Greene were causing trouble, and the Greene scored Longford’s goal in the 17th minute. She bundled the ball past Monica McGuirk after a fantastic save from close range. All of a sudden, Longford only trailed by 1-6 to 1-3.
But Meath finished the first-half on a high, and when Eimear O’Brien slipped, Wall capitalised emphatically and blasted the ball past Esler in the 30th minute.
Meath were seven points clear at the interval and Kelsey Nesbitt added their third goal in the fourth minute of the second-half. Michelle Farrell hit back three minutes later but the barrage of goals continued as Vicki Wall gaveMeath a 4-11 to 2-8 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Greene scored her second goal for Longford but their scores dried up a crucial juncture, as Meath kicked on, inspired by the wonderful Duggan.
She scored tagged on four quick points, while Stacey Grimes added the fifth goal in the 59th minute.
Meath: M McGuirk; O Duff, S Powderly, S Ennis; S Wall (0-01), A Cleary (0-02), N Gallogly; M O’Shaughnessy, O Lally (0-01); V Wall (2-02), E Duggan 0-06), M Thynne; E White (0-02), K Nesbitt (1-01), S Grimes (2-02).
Subs: O Byrne (0-01) for White (47), K Byrne for Lally (53), K Newe for O’Shaughnessy (59), N Sheridan for Powderly (60).
Longford: E Esler; R O’Farrell, L Keegan, M Moore; O Nevin, E O’Brien, C Farrell; J Brady (0-01), M Reynolds; E Heaney (0-01), M Farrell (1-02), A McCormack; A McDonnell (0-01), A Greene (2-00), C Healy (0-05).
Subs: K Shannon for McCormack (h-t), L Gallagher for C Farrell (39), S Shannon for McDonnell (46), U Clarke for O’Farrell (54), A O’Brien for Reynolds (61).
Referee: John Devlin (Galway).
he Division 4 will be contested by Fermanagh and Antrim after their semi-final wins over Limerick and Louth respectively.
Eimear Smyth scored 1-12 for the Ernesiders as they staged a remarkable comenack after trailing by 4-06 to 1-04 at the break. They eventually prevailed 2-15 to 4-07.
Spirited Antrim also had to dig deep on their 2-20 to 2-14 victory over the Wee County.