Loreto leap into All-Ireland

Loreto Kilkenny2

Loreto Kilkenny2

Christ King SS Cork0

A HIGH OCTANE performance saw the Loreto junior girls’ team make the leap from Leinster champions to All-Ireland finalists.

Fresh from getting their hands on the provincial title, the Kilkenny side kept on the hunt for national honours as they blasted past Cork’s Christ King SS in devastating fashion.

The Loreto hit the ground running in Monday’s semi-final at Cahir Park, taking control from the off as they refuse to let their Cork opponents to settle. Jenny Clifford gave the Christ King girls early notice of what to expect when she got past the defence inside the opening 10 minutes and rounded goalkeeper Kim Dennehy, but her shot rolled agonisingly wide of the post.

Clifford got ample compensation just three minutes later. Linking up well with strike partner Laura Murphy, the duo rattled off several quick one-twos before Clifford lashed home a shot from the edge of the box.

The Kilkenny girls were fired up after that goal and kept up their high intensity game. Midfielders Laura Greene and Sarah Kent had a firm grip on the centre of the field with colleague Olivia Nolan showing just why she has been called up to the Irish Schools side as she tormented the opposition. Little got past the trio, but when it did central defenders Kirsty Maher and Danielle Kenny were on hand to mop up the danger.

Still dominant, the Loreto strengthened their hand by doubling their advantage on 26 minutes. Ironically the goal came from a Cork move, which broke down when Kirsty Maher cleared the danger. A Laura Greene header turned defence into attack, the ball bouncing through to Laura Murphy, who coolly lobbed Dennehy from 18 yards.

The Loreto were never in danger of letting their lead slip in the second half. They continued to push ball forward thanks to their strong midfield unit, forcing Christ King to move the influential Megan Dennehy back into defence in an effort to curb the threat of Clifford and Murphy.

Christ King did have a great chance to get back into the game close to the hour mark when a long ball from Dennehy was picked up by striker Megan Connolly, but her venomous shot was brilliantly stopped by Aoife Prendergast, the netminder going full stretch to make a fine save and preserve her clean sheet.

The Munster side were deflated by that save as the Loreto, who also had a second Murphy goal ruled out for offside, confidently saw the game out until the final whistle.

Although the two goalscorers captured most of the headlines, as far as the coaches were concerned it was a faultless team performance that won the day.

“Every one of the girls were incredible in that semi-final,” said Barry O’Neill, who runs the team with Paul McGinley. “They played the game as a unit and did their jobs to perfection. They were disciplined and enthusiastic - we were so proud watching from the sideline.”

The Loreto will be gunning for All-Ireland glory when they take on Donegal’s Moville CC on Wednesday next. Kick-off is at 1pm, with a neutral venue - possibly Dundalk, Drogheda or Athlone - to be decided this weekend.

Loreto Kilkenny: Aoife Prendergast (Niamh Delaney, 69 mins), Jenna Sherwin, Aine Fennelly, Kirsty Maher, Danielle Kenny, Laura Green, Olivia Nolan, Sarah Kent, Jenny Clifford, Laura Murphy, Aoife Cantwell (Roisin Breen, 65 mins).

Christ King SS: Kim Dennehy, Orla Murphy, Michelle Murphy, Aoife Russell, Belen De Luis, Niamh McGreevy, Megan Dennehy, Megan Connolly, Saoirse Noonan, Eadaoin Downey, Orla Magner.

Referee: Jonny Walshe (Tipperary)