LIMERICK came from six points down at half-time to claim the All-Ireland ladies junior football championship crown against Louth at Croke Park yesterday.
The Shannonsiders, beaten finalists against Antrim last year, came storming back in the second half, having trailed 3-4 to 1-4 at the break.
Tommy Stack’s charges completed a remarkable turnaround in the second half, outscoring Louth by 3-6 to 0-4 as the West County Hotel Cup was secured in emphatic style.
This success marks a very first All-Ireland Ladies football crown for Limerick in the adult ranks
Ultimately, it was the scoring prowess of Marie-Claire Curtin and Dymphna O’Brien that settled an exciting Croke Park decider, as the lethal pair hit 3-10 between them.
Curtin finished up with 2-5, including 1-4 in the second half, while sensational full-forward O’Brien took her championship tally to 13-39 with a 1-5 haul.
Clodagh Reidy completed the scoring for Limerick, beaten Bord Gáis Energy NFL Division 4 finalists this year, and it was the wing-forward’s stunning goal four minutes into the second half which sparked a spirited revival.
Two goals and a point from full-forward Anne-Marie Murphy helped to establish Louth’s six-point lead while influential centre-forward Kate Flood scored the other first half goal.
The sides were level at 0-2 apiece with 17 minutes on the watch before the game exploded into life when Murphy bagged two Louth goals in as many minutes.
Limerick badly needed a kick-start and they got it in fortuitous fashion in the 20th minute of a goal-filled spell as Curtin’s free from 30m drifted into the net over the head of Louth goalkeeper Caoimhe Breen.
Louth struck again for a third goal just seconds before the half-time hooter.
Lynch was involved again as her free was superbly fisted home by Flood to give Louth valuable breathing space at the midway point.
The second half was a different story, however, as Limerick piled on the pressure and Louth lost two players – corner back Aine McGee and wing forward Byrne – to yellow cards.
Limerick hit Louth with an unanswered 1-2 after half-time, the goal brilliantly smashed home by Reidy in the 34th minute, before experienced midfielder Orlaith Kirk hit Louth’s opening point of the second half.
Back came Limerick with a 40th minute goal to take the lead for the first time O’Brien’s shot came off the crossbar and Curtin picked up the pieces from close range.
Now 3-6 to 3-5 clear, Limerick had a lead they would not relinquish and O’Brien put the icing on the cake six minutes from time when she slotted the ball into an empty net after Breen had tipped Reidy’s shot onto the post.
Scorers for Louth: A.M. Murphy 2-1 (1-0 pen), K Flood 1-2, O Kirk 0-2, S Byrne, M Reid (f) & C Page 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: M.C. Curtin 2-5 (1-3f), D O’Brien 1-5 (0-2f), C Reidy (1-0).
LOUTH: C Breen; A McGee, S Quinn, G Lynch; P Marmion, A.M. Lynch, S McDonald; O Kirk, R Heaney; S Byrne, K Flood, S Lynch; M Reid, A.M. Murphy, C Page.
Subs: G Rogers for McDonald (36), G Mackin for Reid (41), L O’Neill for Marmion (41).
LIMERICK: C Murphy; M O’Brien, S Healy, A Neary; E McGuire, Y Moynihan, P Donnelly; E Enright, S Larkin; J Garvey, M Flanagan, C Reidy; J O’Gorman, D O’Brien, M.C. Curtin.
Subs: L Higgins for Healy (inj, 22), L Higgins for Garvey (39), O Giltenane for Moynihan (inj, 46).
Referee: J Niland (Sligo).
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