U14 Girls League Winners
If you happened to be in Woodfield (NCW Rovers) Monday then you would have witnessed one of the most intense and enthralling matches you are ever likely to come across. Big occasions require big performances and that is exactly what was produced today by all the U14 girls in the League play-off.
In a league season of 10 matches, the girls had surpassed themselves with a record of 9 wins and only one defeat, an unbelievable record. Unfortunately this was matched by Abbeyfeale and so it required a one off match, winner takes all. Having played each other twice and a victory apiece this was always going to be a tight encounter.
The Shannonside faithful answered the call and the support for the girls was fantastic. A slight delay in kick off due to the crowds trying to enter the ground did nothing to ease the nerves of the players and coaches alike all wanting the match to begin so they could settle down into the matter at hand.
T. Fitzmaurice blew his whistle “and they’re off…” A tight and edgy beginning to the game saw neither side really settle into any discernible pattern of play. Abbeyfeale looked to get down Shannonside’s flanks but were repeatedly kept at bay by a stubborn defence. Playing a little deeper than usual Shannonside kept inviting Abbeyfeale onto them and found it difficult to escape their own half. Rare forays into Abbey’s half got the crowd excited but there was no end product. Róisín Tucker was Shannonside’s main threat haring down the left wing but the Abbey defence managed to get their big toe in at the last minute and stood firm.
The first effort on target in the match came from Abbeyfeale. With Shannonside failing to clear their lines the ball ping ponged around the edge of the box before falling to their winger, who let fly with an effort from 18 yards out. At first glance it looked destined to finish in the back of the net but Laura Madigan was on hand to pluck the ball out of the sky and keep it firmly in her hands.
With the weather being unusually humid it was decided in the girls’ best interests that a water break was given halfway through the first half. (A great opportunity for the coaching staff to address a few tactical issues.) Both Courtney Donovan and Cara Leahy were told to push up further into the midfield closing down Abbeys space and providing a link with the Shannonside front line of Katelyn Casey and Niamh Conroy. Both forwards had little success, the defence were able to nullify their threat with a last ditch tackle.
Jenny Moran worked tirelessly up and down the right hand side, providing extra cover to her full back and pushed up when she could. Shortly before halftime Ella O’Connor was introduced for the ever willing Jenny. Ella’s injection of pace caused the Abbey back line a different problem and gave Shannonside another outlet. This allowed greater space for both Niamh and Katelyn. Two half chances came in quick succession. Firstly, Katelyn broke down the left and into the box before the ball became entangled under her feet due to the length of the grass and the chance passed by. Niamh Conroy broke down the right, using her strength she held off the Abbey full back and whipped in a wonderful cross, the pace on the cross just took the ball away from Katelyn.
If the crowd were anxious at these half chances they were left pulling their hair out soon after as Róisín managed to wriggle her way through the Abbey back four. Having worked her mazy hazy way in, the chance was on to strike the ball with her left. Instead Róisín tried to cut back on to her favoured right foot but the chance was gone as the defender made up the ground and cleared the ball away.
Once again the Shannonside crowd were left wondering what if.
Well, what if became raucous celebration soon after when Shannonside took a deserved lead.
From a poor goal kick Róisín bustled her way in front of her marker and raced into the box. With the ball on her left foot, Róisín did not need telling twice. Pulling the trigger the ball flew into the bottom
right hand corner which sent players, coaches and crowd into rapture. (In the words of David Coleman, “One nil.”)
Half time, a chance for the girls to take a rest and a deep breath. If the first half was tense, the second half was nail biting and for those of a certain disposition not good for ones heart.
The second half was end to end, no quarter asked and none given. Another 35 minutes of blood, sweat and tears and Shannonside would be league champions. Abbeyfeale once again dominated possession but it was Shannonside who created the better chances. Both full backs Kayla Foley and Leah Reidy were excellent and stood strong in the face of some physical attention from the Abbey wingers. Whenever the question was asked of their defending abilities they answered in style brushing off the challenge and dealing with any problems that arose. Sandwiched between Kayla and Leah were the Hadrian’s wall of the day, Rebecca Hayes and Rebecca Fitzgibbon both produced their best displays of the season. Both halted any half chance that Abbey were able to produce and surged out of the defence with the ball at their feet before finding a team mate and launching another counter attack.
Time and again Shannonside broke out but the final ball was just lacking the necessary quality to finish the game off. Picking the right pass or lifting the head up would have killed off the match far earlier. As it was, this was to become an incredibly fraught affair. Tensions were eased momentarily when Shannonside increased their lead. A free kick was awarded just outside the centre circle when Cara was pushed in the back as she looked to break through the defence. With the ball all of 35 yards out, if not more, Courtney stepped up and struck the ball so clean and true that it flew into the roof of the net just dipping under the bar at the last second, leaving the Abbey goalkeeper with no chance and the simple task of picking the ball out of the net. (Two nil).
If they thought it was all over, it certainly was not. Courtney and Cara had worked extremely hard running back and forth and began to tire they were not alone. Abbey had to gamble, two down and little time left. With three up front and another into midfield it was becoming harder and harder for Shannonside to break out.
Erin O’Donnell was brought on for Niamh Conroy who had run to near exhaustion. Erin provided more pace up front, causing further problems for Abbeys defence and on a couple of occasions was able to break through that Abbey back line but unable to capitalise and put the game to bed.
Abbey had begun to place more pressure on a tiring Shannonside and it was not long before they were rewarded. A loose ball crept through the back line and the Abbey winger raced in. Laura sprung off her line but was unable to get down in time as the attacker poked the ball past. Refusing to give up both Laura and Rebecca tried to get back and Laura was fingertips away from retrieving the ball before it was duly stabbed in over the line. Two one and all to play for now.
From here on in it was time to hold onto your hats, hair, anything you could grab. Shannonside girls had run their hearts, legs and minds out and with one minute to go it looked as if their hearts would be broken. Tired legs meant a tired clearance. The ball fell to the Abbey midfielder just outside the box and she hit it first time. For all the world it looked like it was flying over the bar, but at the last minute it dipped, crashing down off the cross bar bouncing back up and hitting Laura on the back, how the ball managed to stay out defies all logic, but stay out it did. Cue frantic, frenetic defending, hacking the ball here there and everywhere until what seemed an age had passed, the ball somehow found its way over the sideline, Abbey throw.
The throw in was the last attempt for Abbey to grab that precious equaliser, Ella won the initial header and when the ball landed at her feet she drove it down the field away from the Shannonside area and the final whistle was blown. An anxious wait was over and great excitement ensued from all involved.
A wonderful season crowned with a fantastic performance, league champions. What an effort from all the U14 girls. With the match so tight it was difficult to make any more changes and so Hannah Walsh and Nadine Moroney did not have the chance to get onto the field. Also missing from the matchday squad were Jade Gallagher, Ava Neville, Isabel Swann and Leah Mulcaire. Throughout the season all these girls have contributed hugely to an incredibly successful season and so it’s not just the eleven that graced the pitch on the final day, it is the nineteen who have turned up to training in the pouring rain and freezing cold. The squads that have travelled all over keeping the momentum going, victory after victory, pushing one another for starting places. So once more Congratulations to a wonderful group of girls who have battled hard and received their just rewards for their efforts.
Add this victory to the U13 boys winning the shield on Friday night by beating NCW Town 2-1, with the U14 boys also playing for the league on Thursday night, the future is bright, the future is Shannonside.
So once more the call goes out to the Shannonside faithful… U14 boys at home to AK Utd, in the illustrious words of the Fab four, no not that Fab Four, the other Fab Four, Abba, “The winner takes it all”… Thursday evening, 7pm at Stadio Barrio-goneo…
So from me Leandro Jesus Ordonhas , you’ve been great but I’ve been better. Ciao for now.