General football, Ireland, WFAI Cup, Women's football

Underdogs Wexford are top dogs

Underdogs Wexford Youths claimed the 2019 Women’s FAI Cup with a determined win over favourites Peamount United. The showpiece was a repeat of last year’s tense decider, however this year there were goals and chances aplenty.

Youth’s laid the foundations for this victory nearly a month ago – in the semi-final victory over Galway. On that occasion, they came from behind to book their place in the decider. Here, Youth’s took an early lead and although pegged back twice, their experience helped them to see the game out and secure back-to-back Women’s FAI Cup victories.

So Wexford

Double goal scoring hero, Lauren Kelly revealed the foundation plan. “For the semi-final, we were thinking of how we could change it up. They’re going to be expecting Rianna up top. It’s so Wexford, it has been going on for years. (The change of tactics) worked out really well against Galway so he decided we’d play like that again against Shels and it just worked out for the last few matches.”

Manager Tom Elms explained, “playing two up top, we knew that Rianna was going to take a lot of attention. I think they would have planned to put their two centre halves on her and we knew that was going to free up that second striker and you could see that with the first goal – the space that Lauren (Kelly) had. With the space we had it meant that we could begin on the front foot and get early support.”

Sea of green

Peamount had matched Wexford for most of this game, however, a 64th minute run by substitute McKenna Davidson setup the winner. Her run pulled centre half, Louise Corrigan out of position and created the space for captain Kylie Murphy to run onto and finish Rianna Jarrett’s layoff. It was harsh on Corrigan who had been commanding to that point. Murphy also reiterated the change in formation went some way to deciding the cup. “I really felt it hurt them, it felt like every time we went up the pitch, it felt like we were going to score. It wasn’t just turning around and looking up and seeing Rianna (Jarrett) in a sea of green, Lauren was there and I was joining in and think Tom got it spot on.”

Off script

Such was the day, even when Youth’s went off script, the ball ended up in the back of the net. Lauren Kelly revealed her lobbed finish in the 34th minute – to put Wexford back in front – shouldn’t have been, due to a prior meeting with Peamount’s goalkeeper. “We played Peamount a few weeks ago and usually Naoisha (McAloon) would play in goal, but Niamh (Reid-Burke) played that day. We were in on goal about three times and we tried to lob it over, but she’s just the type of goalkeeper you can’t lob. So, we went into the match, I was walking out with the girls, ‘shots go low, shots go low’ and then I lobbed it. I don’t know why I did that. It bounced awkwardly and hit it on the volley and thankfully it went in.”

Dreaming

It has been quite a few months for Kelly. In July, she netted a blockbuster of a strike for Ireland to defeat Brazil on the way to a fourth-place finish at the World University Games. Then in August, she scored in Youth’s Champions League campaign, where they won two out of their three games. “This whole year has been great for me, especially in Italy at the World Games, scoring against Brazil, stuff like that you dream of when you’re younger. Scoring in the Champions League as well, they’re things you dream of when you’re younger. It has been a really good year for me personally.”

Respect

Kelly couldn’t hide her delight at netting against Peamount, a club she spent three years with – only leaving to get game-time. However, you get the feeling there’s huge respect amongst the players, particularly when rivalries are put to one side and they pull on the green jersey for the likes of the University Games. “I have all the respect in the world for Peamount. I loved my time there, but when you’re not getting a game, you have to look after yourself. To go back and score against them, you’ve proved yourself in a way.” That respect carries through to her manager, Tom Elms and Wexford Youths, who she credits for taking her in and having faith. “Since I’ve come to Wexford, Tom has been very patient with me. I’m so grateful for Tom giving me a chance and having faith in me. It’s good to re-pay him and the girls as well, they’ve been so nice since I came to Wexford.”

Consistent Peamount had won 18 of their 21 league games this season but couldn’t shake the dogged underdogs. While Wexford built from the front with a little faith in their ex-Pea.

Andy Donlan.

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WFAI Cup, Women's football

WFAI Cup final – post match reaction

In a cold, grey tunnel, in the bowels of the Aviva Stadium, a radiant figure stood amongst the various officials, reporters and players. The figure was that of victorious Raheny United captain, Rebecca Creagh, both of her hands were clasped tightly around the treasured prize in her possession – the Women’s FAI Cup.
After a third successive WFAI Cup triumph the attacker beamed, “It’s unbelievable, hard to put into words to be honest with you. I think it’s the sweetest one as well. It was an unbelievable occasion. This year there was a bit of a better buzz to be honest with you, as the atmosphere has been unbelievable in the squad, coming off the back of a Champions League’s campaign. We’ll look back in years to come and cherish it.”

Cruel
Last Sunday’s decider ebbed and flowed and eventually required extra time to establish a winner. Unfortunately the game was decided by a goalkeeping error, a Siobhan Killeen shot squirming through the grasp of UCD Waves goalkeeper Monica McGuirk. McGuirk’s manager, Eileen Gleeson admitted it was a cruel way to lose a cup final, but she was pragmatic in her assessment of the situation. “It’s hard for the player that makes the mistake, it’s hard to lose the game on a mistake, but that’s part of being in a team, you win, you lose, you draw together. Unfortunately for ‘keepers if they make an individual mistake it ends up in the back of the net, they don’t have any security behind them, but we have to take it as a team and move forwards as a team.”
McGuirk’s teammate, Julie Ann Russell cut a devastated figure after the game, honestly explaining, “It is just heart breaking to lose any final, but the FAI Cup, for it to go into extra time and then for a soft goal that could have really been preventable.” When quizzed as to preparations for other eventualities, she replied, “To be honest I had a gut feeling that we’d score, I didn’t really think about penalties, I just wanted to win it.”

“It’s about time”
Indeed it was Russell’s crafty wing work that helped light up this exciting final. As a spectacle, she remarked, “It was brilliant that it was televised; it’s about time to be honest. The standard is improving year-on-year. Hopefully people enjoyed it today and to the fans that came, they were brilliant as well. Hopefully we’ll see more games televised and not just the cup final.”

“I enjoy playing against them”
While Russell may want to move on quickly from Sunday’s game, one player who’ll look back favourably on the match will be Raheny’s Katie McCabe. McCabe’s stunning long range free set them on their way and when asked of her memories of the goal, the infectious striker said, “I saw it dipping and once it hit the top corner I was delighted. I think that’s up there with one of my better ones”, she smiled. McCabe – who can look forward to a big future in the game – also had some praise for the opposition, extolling, “UCD Waves are a very very good side. They move the ball well, sharp, they play off the centre forwards. I enjoy playing against them because you’re playing against a very good team, at a top level. Not saying that the other teams aren’t good sides but there’s always that bit more hunger in these games.”

Top two
Creagh finishes, “There has been a lot of build up to the game, UCD, Raheny – the top two in the country – so people are saying. This one is very very sweet.

With one point between the sides and both scheduled to meet again in the league on 29 November in the more conventional surroundings of Jackson Park, expect any pleasantries to be waived once both sides cross the white line.

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WFAI Cup, Women's football

Raheny Surf Tidal Wave to Cup Glory

UCD Waves 1-2 Raheny United AET (O’Gorman 40’; McCabe 20’, Killeen 95’)

This all-conquering Raheny United team refused to be swept away by a UCD wave in this end-to-end Cup final at Lansdowne Road. Raheny United’s recent dominance of the domestic game is staggering. They have now won the Women’s FAI Cup in each of the last three seasons, while they’ve won the National League twice in that period.
In the end it was an unfortunate defensive error that decided the game, as it took extra time to split these close rivals. Five minutes into extra time a loose clearance found its way to Siobhan Killeen on the left wing 35 yards from goal. As she advanced clear into the UCD box, she managed to get a shot away which squirmed under the body of goalkeeper McGuirk and agonisingly crept over the line. It was harsh on the UCD net-minder as she looked solid throughout.

Something special
In truth, there was nothing between these sides and it took something straight out of the top drawer to open the scoring on 20 minutes. 19-year old Katie McCabe’s 30 yard free kick sailed past UCD goalkeeper, Monica McGuirk into the top corner of the net. It was a dream-like strike from the Raheny attacker, whose effort was somewhat aided by referee Michelle O’Neill. The Wexford whistler blew up for a foul on McCabe after here silky skills took her away from several UCD players, when advantage should have been played. However, no little skill was used in applying the finish, which was McCabe’s fourth goal against UCD Waves in two games. On the biggest day in the Women’s footballing calendar, it was a goal befitting of the occasion.
It was almost 2-0 two minutes later as a Raheny free kick wasn’t properly cleared, but the lively Siobhan Killeen couldn’t find a way past Monica McGuirk. UCD decided to change tack, with wingers Russell and Berrill swapping sides. It seemed to work, as the industrious O’Gorman, ploughing a lone furrow upfront, dropped into the right channel more frequently to link-up with Julie Ann Russell. Indeed it was that duo who managed to link-up – via the crossbar – to create UCD’s equalising score on 40 minutes. Russell picked up the ball in midfield, nutmegged Clare Conlon and thrust a shot from 20 yards which smacked off the bar. The sound of the crossbar rattling was still echoing around the vast bowl-shaped arena when the alert Áine O’Gorman expertly turned home the rebound. Game on.

Second half UCD wave
The opening exchanges in the second half provided a continuation of the end-to-end first period. Julie Ann Russell still out on the right wing was having more of an impact on the game with her incisive dribbling. Although it wasn’t until the 73rd minute when her play contributed to an opening. She passed to Áine O’Gorman who fed Jetta Berrill whose shot was deflected wide for a corner. From the resultant corner the ball came to UCD’s Dora Gorman outside the box, but her effort struck the apex of bar and post. UCD were now riding the crest of a wave and two minutes later Áine O’Gorman was brilliantly denied by the Raheny goalkeeper, one-on-one, after she found space between two defenders. It looked destined she’d score.

Late chances
There were two further chances for Raheny in this exciting decider. First UCD’s Rebekah Carroll cleared to the edge of her own box, straight to Katie McCabe, but the plucky forward couldn’t dance her way through when well placed. Then one minute later UCD’s defensive rock – Ciara Grant – made a superb tackle to deny a winner as Raheny turned the screw.
As both teams settled into two periods of 10 minutes’ extra time, a cruel error awarded Raheny with the lead goal. They almost made it more in the dying embers as Noelle Murray thumped the crossbar twice.
In the end Raheny United went on to win and are on-course for a triple domestic double. The only shame was the fact that there had to be a loser on the day and moreover, that 99% of the seats in the Aviva Stadium lay empty.

UCD Waves: McGuirk; Carroll; Duggan; Grant; McCarthy; Gorman; Russell; Thorpe; Ryan (55’ Nolan); O’Gorman; Berrill (77’ Cahill).
Subs not used: O’Reilly (GK); Brien; Mustaki.

Raheny United: Reid-Burke; Keenan (95’ Newman); Walsh; Dwyer; Conlon (63’ O’Farrelly); Slattery; Creagh; Graham; McCabe; Murray; Killeen.
Subs not used: Houldsworth (GK); Barnes; Cronin; Sheehy; Brierley.

Player of the Match: Noelle Murray (Raheny United).

Attendance: 400 (estimate).

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