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Caroline Mc Carthy, Offaly PRO.

 Offaly were playing with a very strong wind in the first half and were slow to register their first point and had three wides before Fiona Stephens got a lovely point from the left wing after a great pass from Karen Nugent on 7 minutes. From the puckout Michelle Davis was fouled and Siobhan Flannery sent it narrowly wide. Downs puckouts were being held up in the strong wind and Marion Crean playing at left half back collected the ball, soloed through and picked off a beautiful point on 12 minutes.

Siobhan Flannery then got 2 points one from play after a superb clearance by Sheila Sullivan who was having another fine afternoon at centre back, and one from a free following a foul on Aoife Kelly. Karen Nugent at centre forward pointed from play after she got away from her marker one of the Carr sisters who were the two main players from Down. They are daughters of the former inter county footballer and hurler Ross Carr. Siobhan pointed once again on 25 minutes after Tina Hannon was fouled going forward. Offaly pushed forward looking for that goal to end the half but the Down backline stood firm, Karen Nugnet shot for goal but the rebound came straight back to her and she took her point second time of asking. The puckout was well blocked by Tina Hannon and Grace McRedmond gathered and pointed well. Down’s only score of the half came on 24 minutes when Sarah Louise Carr pointed from play when she gathered a clearance from the ever solid Elaine Dermody at full back.  The half time score read Offaly 0-8 Down 0-1.

Down started the second half well and with the wind at their backs had two points  from Sarah Louise Carr within 10 minutes.  Offaly were still working hard but unable to finish their attacks with scores. Down piled on the pressure and were rewarded with a goal by Naomi Morgan when she doubled on a clearance and left Emma Carey no chance in goals. This left just 2 points between the teams and Fionnula Carr pointed a 45 to leave the minimum between the teams. It looked like the game was slipping away from Offaly until the 23rd minute when Siobhan Flannery soloed up the wing and when her delivery was blocked down on the 21 line Aoife Kelly was first to react and drive the ball to the net. This was exactly what Offaly needed. From the restart Offaly pushed forward again and Siobhan sent another shot towards goal and this time it was Michelle Davis who gathered and hit a great shot to the top of Down net and now Offaly were 7 points in front again. Down were not finished however and goaled  when a Sarah Louise Carr shot went in off the upright. Down finished the scoring with a pointed free after Emma Carey was penalised for coming out too far for her puckouts.
This left the final score Offaly 2-8 Down 2-5. This was the toughest test Offaly have had to date and they weathered the storm very well and responded well when under severe pressure in the second half. Linda Sullivan, Lorraine Keena, Aoife Kelly and Michelle Davis all had fine games and Sheila Sullivan, Siobhan Flannery and Karen Nugent were very impressive with their deliveries to the inside forwards. The final is now set for April 13th and the management will have time to prepare them for another tough game against neighbors Laois.

Emma Carey, Anne Dignan, Elaine Dermody, Lorraine Keena, Linda Sullivan, Sheila Sullivan, Marian Crean, Aoife Kelly, Michelle Davis, Siobhan Flannery, Karen Nugent, Tina Hannon, Fiona Stephens, Grace McRedmond, Arlene Watkins, Amy Dooley, Claire Nevin, Shauna Flynn, Denise Hannon, Gene Brady, Sarah Kelly.

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