Jackie Cahill reports from Kingspan Breffni Park
Maria Moolick’s extra-time goal proved decisive as Kildare edged out Sligo after extra-time in an epic TG4 All-Ireland ladies intermediate football semi-final at Kingspan Breffni Park this evening.
Moolick, sister of Kildare men’s star Tommy, was alert at the start of the second period of extra-time when she drilled home a cracking effort after Tara Hallinan’s attempted effort bounced back into play off the upright.
And Kildare, who could have been knocked out with the final kick of normal time, when Sligo’s Stephanie O’Reilly shot wide, kicked for home in a game that had everything.
Sligo had a haul of 2-9 from their remarkable forward Katie Walsh but even that wasn’t enough as Kildare, beaten finalists last year, advanced to another decider.
They will play Tipperary or Clare at Croke Park on September 25th and will realise that they were lucky to get out of this one as Connacht champions Sligo gave it everything.
Róisín Byrne’s late free for Kildare ensured that the regulation 60 minutes ended level at 1-12 apiece but O’Reilly pulled her shot wide when the game was there for the taking.
Mikeala McKenna bagged her second goal for the Lilywhites to kick-start extra-time but Walsh responded in kind and at the turn, they were still deadlocked at 2-14 each.
But Moolick’s effort was crucial as Kildare, who had excellent attacking displays from McKenna, Emer Fogarty, Ellen Dowling and Noelle Earley, finally won out by six points.
This game was pockmarked by no fewer than eight yellow cards – and a late red for Hallinan as she was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
Kildare's Maria Moolick and Elaine O'Reilly of Sligo ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
But when the dust settled, Kildare had done enough to put themselves within an hour of Mary Quinn Memorial Cup glory.
Sligo were rocked on their heels from the start as Kildare raced into a 1-2 to 0-0 lead, McKenna on target in just the second minute with her first goal.
But they were level by the 25th minute at 0-7 to 1-4 and at the interval, there was nothing to separate the sides as Walsh tied it up with the final score of the half (0-8 to 1-5).
The second half ebbed and flowed, Kildare losing Moolick to the sin-bin and when she came back on, team-mate Tara Hallinan was suffering a similar fate.
Sligo suffered yellow card woe of their own in the second half – with Anne Marie Coleman and Mary Ann O’Kennedy given some time to cool off.
Before Coleman was yellow-carded, she made a significant contribution in Sligo’s first goal.
Coleman’s delicious pass was collected by Ciara Gorman and after the corner forward had two efforts blocked, Walsh tucked away the loose ball.
That goal levelled the game at 1-9 each and when the hooter sounded, it was still very much up for grabs.
McKenna and Walsh traded goals in the first period of extra-time but Moolick's intervention was crucial.
The St Mary's player Moolick was alive as legs tired and after spotting the opportunity, she rifled home a 72nd-minute goal that was good enough to send Kildare to Croke Park.
Words by Jackie Cahill