Two goals down with two minutes to go is not where you want to find yourself in a county semi final!
And moments later, as a close range free narrowly flew wide of the post, few would have believed that Presentation Primary would eventually grind out a famous win against a fine Holycross team!
The game began in treacherous conditions. Driving rain and single figure temperatures made the ground slippy and the ball even slippier! Holycross got off to a flying start and found the net twice in the opening minutes to really set out their stall and put early pressure on the Thurles girls. Early chances from Ailish Ryan and Sarah Minogue were stoutly defended by Holycross and as the half progressed, the cold rain and wind reflected the deflated feelings of our girls.
A well taken point from Emma Egan and a converted free from Ava Fitzgibbon settled the girls and for a period of time both teams sparred ferociously with little to show for their efforts.
Thankfully the rain eased and both teams suddenly came to life! A mighty goal from Ava Fitzgibbon looked like the Pres were beginning to get a foothold in the game but, just before the half time whistle, Holycross worked a great team goal and it was them who bounced off the field, spirits lifted and eager to hear words of encouragement from their teacher Ms. McCullough.
Even though both teams had 3 scores on the board, Holycross had found the net on each of their three scoring occasions and led by 4 points – Presentation 1-2 Holycross 3-0
Kate Lydon and Hanna Witkowska joined the action for the second half and the game continued in a similar vein as the first half. Near misses and missed opportunities saw Mr. O’Gorman and Ms. Bohan raise their hands to their face in despair as they urged the girls to keep battling to the end – and who would have known how important that message would prove.
Lily O’Dowd, who surely stood on every blade of grass on the pitch at some stage in the game, scrambled home a goal to again raise the hopes of the Pres, only to have them dashed within seconds as Holycross scored another goal to maintain that four point advantage. Two fine points from the girls in green bring us nicely back to that moment mentioned at the start of this report – two goals down with two minutes to go! (Holycross 4.2 Presentation 2-2) Surely too much to do and not enough time to do it?
But hold on!! Ailish Ryan is back on the field. Emma Egan is winning every kick out. Mollie Carroll and Eva Mulhaire are everywhere – clearing balls left and right. Ava is through on goal. Bang! There’s one goal.
And repeat! Eva to Emma to Lily – Bang! Two goals in two minutes and as the referee Tom Loughnane blows the full time whistle nobody is really sure what has just happened Phenomenal stuff. Extra time would be needed to separate these two tenacious teams, neither willing to give way.
Exhaustion and hypothermia were both kicking in and as the panel of 17 players huddled under the hurling wall in Dúrlas Óg, it was the subs who in that moment began to shine. Water was passed around, hugs were shared, tears were wiped away and words of hope and encouragement were offered. As extra time played out the chanting and singing from the extended panel gave every player that extra energy needed to plough on, and plough on they did! Well done Roisin, Sireen, Ava, Faye, Julietta, Katie, Nancy and Ruby – superb!
They say that it is a team’s defense that wins games and this certainly proved true here. With some steadfast and last ditch defending, Presentation managed to keep Holycross scoreless for the entire ten minutes of extra time. This was made possible in no small part by the heroics of Kate Lydon between the posts. One super save will stand in our memories for a long time to come.
A converted free left the bare minimum between the teams on the turnover but it was a goal from top scorer Ava Fitzgibbon which would give the Thurles girls a 4 point cushion nearing the end.
The final whistle was greeted with joy and heartbreak in equal measure. Holycross were heartbroken but should be very proud of their efforts. Presentation were deservedly victorious and will now progress to play in a long awaited County Final.
Everyone present stood and clapped in admiration for two fine teams who did their schools proud and left everything on the soggy field.