GAA Football

Teenager Eimear Smyth fires Fermanagh into JFC Final

Molly McGloin of Fermanagh in action against Caroline McCarthy of London during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Junior Championship semi-final.

TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship semi-final: Fermanagh 0-16 London 3-3

TEENAGER Eimear Smyth pointed the way for Fermanagh as they booked their place in the TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship Final for a second time in three years.

The Derrygonnelly player finished with nine points to her name as the Erne County overcame a slow start at St Tiernach’s Park Clones on Saturday, and a tense finish to deny London, just as they did in 2016, at this semi-final stage.

Fermanagh found themselves 2-1 to 0-1 down after 17 minutes but amazingly London would not score again for 32 minutes during which time Fermanagh hit 14 unanswered points either side of the break to lead by eight with a quarter of the game remaining. But the game took would take another twist as London with 1-2 of their own reduced Fermanagh’s lead back to three before Smyth stepped up with the insurance score to seal victory in a remarkable game in Clones.

Fermanagh boss Jonny Garrity said that despite the slow start his side were full value for their win as they now look forward to an All-Ireland final against Louth.

“We made life harder for ourselves than we would have liked. We just didn’t get started at all for the first 20 minutes but we knew the performance was in the girls and once we got going we playing really well. Our fitness level were more superior, we had a strong bench that we utilised well and although we wouldn’t have been happy with the third goal we conceded late on - indeed any of the three goals we gave away - we knew that we were good enough to get the win,” he said.

“It’s really exciting to be in the All-Ireland final. This is what we had planned all along and to that come to fruition is fulfilling. There is a great buzz for ladies football in the county and it is now about enjoying the run up to the final while ensuring we are ready to put in the performance that is needed to go all the way.

“The two best junior teams in the country are contesting the All-Ireland final. Louth have always been favourites and it’s no surprise they are there. It is going to be a difficult task to defeat them, but it is now set up to be a great game of football that will come down to who can best deal with everything thrown to them on the day.”

The Exiles, who have now lost their last three consecutive All-Ireland semi-final appearances, got off to the best start with Hannah Noonan following up her opening point with a goal after an excellent team move on eight minutes.

It took Fermanagh some 15 minutes to get their first score of the afternoon, which came through Smyth but finding London’s attacking waves, headed by Noonan, hard to handle found themselves further adrift when a penalty, duly despatched by Avril Kilkelly in the 17th minute to opened up a six point lead.

Then the tide turned. With the 23rd minute introduction of captain Joanne Doonan, she got them up-and-running on that resurgence with a brace within minutes of her appearance. A great dummy from Smyth saw her fire over Fermanagh’s fourth point before she added another and just before the break, Aisling O’Brien made it a one point game, 2-1 to 0-6.

Garrity’s side continued their relentless pursuit after the resumption, to which London had no answer. The points continued to flow for the Ulster side and Blaithin Bogue, who was growing more into stature as the game went on, levelled the game for the first time within a minute before Smyth gave Fermanagh the lead three minutes later. Bogue, Aisling Woods, Smyth (free), Bogue and Smyth with three in-a-row herself saw Fermanagh cruise into a 0-15 to 2-1 lead, London’s hopes not helped by the sin binning of Rebecca Mills. Fermanagh too would go down to 14 when Aine O’Brien was yellow carded with about 12 minutes remaining. That, with captain Catriona McGahan sprung from the bench for London, seemed to halt the Fermanagh steam train and their purple patch yielded 1-2, McGahon with 1-1, to leave it a three point game with seven minutes remaining. However, Smyth’s cooly converted free three minutes from time pushed the gap back out of four and Fermanagh held on to seal a remarkable comeback and book their place in the September 15 decider in Croke Park.

Fermanagh: S Murphy; M Flynn, E Murphy, A McGovern; A Maguire, C Murphy, M McGloin; R O’Reilly, A Flanagan; N Connolly, B Bogue (0-3), D Maguire; A O’Brien (0-1), E Smyth (0-9, 0-3f), L Maguire

Subs: S McQuaid for McGloin (20), J Donnan (0-3) for Flanagan (23), A Woods (0-1) for Connolly (36), M Maguire for D Maguire (36-38, blood), S McCausland for O’Brien (39), D McManus for Bogue (58)

London: C O’Reilly; N Walsh, R Hunt, C Usher; C Twohig, N Lister, S Roche; N Daly, K Canavan; C O’Sullivan, H Noonan (1-1), C McCarthy (0-1); C O’Brien, A Kilkelly (1-0pen), F Morrissey

Subs: R Mills for Kilkelly (41), B Murphy for Canavan (43), C McGahan (1-1, 0-1f) for O’Sullivan (48), N Cocoman for Roche (55)

Ref: Gerry Carmody (Roscommon).

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