Balbriggan 12 Navan 8
Balbriggan deservedly won the Div III Leinster League title on Sunday in Naas. Having gone through the season unbeaten it would have been a travesty had they not come through the playoffs to win the title. The ladies from Navan had other ideas and pushed the Balbriggan Ladies right to the final whistle. On a beautiful warm sunny day in Naas, the ladies from Navan had nothing to lose and having lost twice in the regular season against Balbriggan knew what to expect and had obviously done their homework. It was Balbriggan who started the game going forward and with the slight slope on the Naas pitch were spending good time in the Naas half. Tracey McFadden and Davina Doran were at the front of a number of Balbriggan carries and with support from her fellow forwards provided good ball to scrum half Mulligan and out the line to Sheridan who combined Sextonesque style with Verdon to gain some space wide. Val VanVeen on the wing made some good breaks but the Navan cover was strong. Any kicks behind the Navan backs were dealt with comfortably by their full back Moore who was never afraid to run the ball back. Despite the pressure, a penalty for not releasing let Navan clear their lines to the half way line. After winning the line out a clever kick forward by Navan out-half Keogan put Balbriggan under pressure under their posts and the concession of another penalty, converted by prop Lally left Balbriggan 0-3. Navan then had an amount of the play and their big pack continued to pick and carry into the Balbriggan girls, however the constant tackling of Skipper Malone and her front row colleagues Heffernan, Campbell and Tormey ensure that they did not make much progress. Balbriggan had a good break out and in following up a kick Sheridan was illegally tackled, resulting in a penalty but Balbriggan were not able to push the advantage home when they lost the next line out. Slowly Balbriggan worked their way to having the better of the exchanges and Sheridan was feeding her line but once she dummied and continued on herself and her power took her in under the posts to put Balbriggan in the lead after she converted.
Half time came with Balbriggan marginally ahead but Navan were turning to have the slight advantage of the slope. While they made some use of it thankfully they didn’t over p;ay it. On a number of occasions, they turned full back Morgan and she had to scamper back to clear. All the time Navan were gaining ground and getting nearer the Balbriggan line. Again Balbriggan were penalized a number of times which allowed Navan pile on the pressure and eventually they could be held out no longer when they eventually got the important try which they failed to convert. Advantage back to Navan 8-7. Neither side looked as if they could press home their advantage as play went back and forth in the middle of the field. Balbriggan then made the first of their changes and the strength of their bench was to prove crucial. Ever young, Anne O’Brien came into the back row for Eadaoine Cannon who had run herself into the ground and speedster Irene Selva replaced Van Veen on the wing. O’Brien is an out and out 7 and she arrived along with the ball every time Navan tried to move forward. A further substitution then saw Selva move to full back. This allowed the flying Spaniard the opportunity to insert herself in the line when the opportunity arose. Freshening up the front row with Kelly and Keogh, and Leanne Whyte in the second row gave the scrum that shot of energy that was required. Out of nowhere a break by Selva saw Balbriggan make a serious gain into the Navan half, with O’Brien and winger Moore being on her shoulder to secure the ball, scrum half Mulligan flashed the ball to Sheridan who broke the line and before she was taken down passed to Verdon who hung on to get over the line and score what proved to be the match winning try. The conversion was missed so a try was all Navan required with 5 minutes left on the clock. The Balbriggan girls were not going to surrender at this stage and Munster would have been proud of the way they protected the ball. Leanne Whyte made some marvelous carries gaining yards and eating up the clock and controlled play allowed Balbriggan win the League title.
A big congratulations not just to those who played on Sunday but also those who were away, no more so that taliswoman, Sandra McAleer, who was only returning home from holiday that morning and her sister Lorna who was still on the injured list. Also congratulations to coaches Mick McKiernan and Ivan McFadden. Hard luck to Navan who put up a great display on the day. Special word of thanks to the huge crowd of supporters who travelled to Naas to cheer on the team.
K Morgan (C Livesey), V VanVeen (I Selva) M Hutcheson (L hamilton) , S Verdon, D Sheridan, R Mulligan, K Heffernan (L Kelly), S Campbell, T Tormey (H Keogh), T McFadden, D Doran, L Malone (A O’Brien), E Cannon, O Malone (Capt)