Analysis: History repeats itself as Skryne fall in final
It was a case of deja vu all over again. A disappointing case as far as Skryne were concerned of history repeating itself. Back in 2003 the High Queens of Tara reached a Leinster Club JFC final only to lose out to Dublin side Fingallians.
On Sunday in Kinnegad they got back to another provincial showdown and once again the crown proved out of reach; a bridge too far. As one clubman said after all the action was over. "With Skryne you have to get used to losing finals, I played in five county finals myself and lost everyone of them."
Certainly there were no complaints after this latest setback. Everyone the Meath Chronicle spoke to was of the view that on the day the best team won. Sure there were quibbles about frees here and there that were given against Skryne but overall Slashers', with their nous and craft, deserved to win.
One of the features of Skryne's journey this year was the bright starts they made in games. On Sunday they began slowly and went three points down. That didn't augur well for them. They picked up the momentum and led momentarily before falling back again conceding the lead and the initiative.
They trailed 3-4 to 2-8 at the break (with the prolific Ciara Smyth grabbing both goals and Amy O'Dowd adding one) but couldn't muster more than two points in the second-half, only one from play. That was never going to be enough to win a Leinster crown, against a hungry, well-organised, highly capable Slashers side.
Even the experience and the relentless running of Fiona O'Rourke couldn't spark a response from Skryne in that second-half. Afterwards the 39-year-old mother of five pointed out how Slashers lost last year's final so they were highly motivated.
Sunday's game was just the latest in O'Rourke's amazing career as a footballer and athlete. Known to many by her maiden name, Fiona Mahon, she won a series of Meath Cross-Country Athletic Championships (as well as national titles at novice and intermediate levels). As a footballer she claimed an amazing 12 Meath Ladies SFC titles with Seneschalstown. She missed out on one, in 2014 when she gave birth to her first child. Now she has a family ranging from eight to a baby girl born last May.
In 2018 she transferred to Skryne and helped them move from the Junior to Intermediate and land the title this year under Mick O'Dowd. "It's been a brilliant year for Skryne ladies. We've had some great days, unfortunately it was disappointment for us today."
She looked on Sunday as eager, as full of enthusiasm as ever as she ran up and down the pitch, constantly chasing possession in a free role. "There are not too many playing football at 39 but age is just a number and when you are feeling fit, feeling healthy and well there's no reason not to play if you enjoy it." She sportinglypaid tribute to Longford Slashers; their experience and ability to turn chances into scores. That ability was clearly evident in those opening minutes when they went three points in front.
‘The Skryne supporters in the crowd of about 500 certainly had reasons to be optimistic when their team grabbed their first goal. Smyth lobbed the ball into the Slashers goalmouth. The flight of the ball deceived Slashers' goalkeeper Emer Casey. It was a score to spark a few madcap moments.
From the kick-out Skryne won possession and Amy O'Dowd surged through the Slashers' defence before firing to the net. It was a super score and put Skryne 2-0 to 0-3 in front. Slashers' response was lethal. Immediately afterwards they too worked a fine move and Kyana Lee slotted to the net. Three minutes three goals and all inside the opening seven minutes or so.
There was more to come. On 11 minutes Smyth again found space and the net bulged. Smyth, O'Dowd, Catriona Keogan and Ellie Murphy fired over points for Skryne but they still trailed at the interval.
Yet with the breeze behind them in the second-half Skryne had real reasons to be hopeful. Could they push on? The answer was no. Instead the Slashers found and extra gear. Unforced errors and misplaced passes undermined Skryne's cause. They sat deep, perhaps too deep for much of the half. They were dealt a devastating blows when Ciara Smyth was sin-binned and when Jessica Barry, who had goaled in the opening half, found the net again on 51 minutes. That left it 3-10 to 3-4.
Skryne didn't get their first point of the second-half until the 55th minute when Roisin McManus fired over. That said a lot. Ruth Moore added another soon after. They needed more. Smyth returned, but chances were missed - and just as in 2003 the possibility of a Leinster title was gone.
Longford Slashers - Jessica Barry 2-5; Kyana Lee 1-1; Kate Shannon 0-3 one free; Kara Shannon 0-1.
Skryne - Ciara Smyth 2-1; Amy O'Dowd 1-1; Ellie Murphy 0-1 free; Catriona Keogan 0-1; Roisin McManus 0-1; Ruth Moore 0-1.
Longford Slashers - Emer Casey; Lauran Kenny, Emily Reilly, Grace Kenny; Orla Nevin, Eimear O'Brien, Ciara Farrell; Aoife O'Brien, Aisling Cosgrove; Lisa Nolan, Grace Shannon, Kyania Lee; Kate Shannon, Jessica Barry, Kara Shannon. Sub - Jill Glennon for Lee 55 mins.
Skryne - Rachel Whelan; Ciara Cowley, Steffi Finnegan, Alana Cooney; Nicola O'Reilly, Lisa Browne, Niamh O'Brien; Catriona Keogan, Elizabeth Morland; Samantha Clarke, Amy O'Dowd, Fiona O'Rourke; Ellie Murphy, Ciara Smyth, Roisin McManus. Subs - Sophie Finnegan for Murphy 46 mins, Ruth Moore for Cooney 55m.
Referee - Kevin Phelan (Laois).