Continental Tyres Women's National League, General football, Ireland, Women's football

Noelle Murray: “I was highly praised, he’s the play-maker”

The name Noelle is derived from a Latin word, meaning, “birthday (of the Lord)”. So it’s no surprise then to learn that Noelle Murray was born on Christmas Day. Statistically, aside from 29 February, it is considered out of the ordinary to be born on Christmas Day. However, there has been nothing ordinary about Murray’s talent or her displays in helping Shelbourne to the double last season. What’s seldom is wonderful.

Murray’s high performance levels in the red of Shelbourne have been wonderful and anything but seldom. From slotting home from the penalty spot in balmy August – scoring Shels’ first home goal of the season – to stylishly lobbing-in [view goal] the league-clincher against near-rivals UCD Waves on a freezing late-November night. It has been an unforgettable season for the three-time league and five-time FAI Cup winner.

Departure

Murray won’t compete in the Women’s National League next season for the first time since its’ inception, having signed for Glasgow City last week. In a thoroughly deserved move to full-time football, the Dubliner bucks the recent trend that has seen, mainly youngsters move away. Indeed, Savannah McCarthy, Katie McCabe and Jamie Finn – who have recently departed these shores for greener pastures and the lure of professional football – have all done so prior to their 21st birthdays. Murray leaves at 27.

Number One Award

She delayed her departure for Scotland’s vibrant second city, to attend last week’s Continental Tyre’s Women’s National League Awards 2016 in the Guinness Storehouse, where she was nominated for Player of the Year. “I meant to go already, but I delayed it a bit for the awards. I’m just dying to get over now and see what it has in store for me and get to know the girls. I’m dying to get over and just get going now.”
This award clearly meant a lot to her to win and you could see why. It was decided by popular ballot among her peers. There was stiff competition too. Teen goal-scoring sensation and cup final hat-trick hero, Leanne Kiernan and Karen Duggan – whose awards-laden sideboard must be creaking under the strain of innumerable gongs – completed the nominees. Murray’s name was deservedly pulled out of the envelop and she was named Continental Tyres Women’s National League Player of the Year for the truncated 2016 season.

Putting it into perspective, Murray says, “It’s definitely my number one award to date, especially because all of the girls in the other teams voted. It’s a privilege to know that all of the girls are giving you the vote, as they only get to vote for one person and it’s nice to know that they are giving you their vote to win it. We had a great season. You can never do something without your teammates.”

Character

The award comes off the back of a scintillating season with Shelbourne. They completed the league and FAI Cup double – wrestling both trophies back from arch-rivals Wexford Youths, who lorded it over them the previous year. She admits with satisfaction, “doing the double, I think after winning the league and then losing it and then to fight back, it was just brilliant”. Indeed, in the controversial 2015 FAI Cup final shootout, Murray stepped up first and missed, handing the opening initiative to Wexford Youths. Then against the same opposition in the 2016 decider, she missed again, this time in regulation time. However, showing the character that no doubt persuaded Glasgow, she recovered to hook-in the opening goal of the game. She then proceeded to dictate the remainder of the game, providing a platform for her red-hot team-mates to savage a poor Wexford side. Something perhaps Glasgow wouldn’t get from an inexperienced pre-21 youngster? Murray admits the miss gave her, “a kick up the butt to get me going into the final”.

The Play-maker

This central role and mature range of passing in the 2016 cup final caught the eye of ex-Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers manager, Trevor Croly, who was applying the co-commentary analysis for the live televised game. The clearly impressed, Croly drew comparisons of Murray’s display with that of Ireland midfield play-maker, Wes Hoolahan – such was the level of her performance. High praise indeed.

Murray on the comparison, “It was recorded at home and I watched it back afterwards. I was highly praised on the commentary which I was delighted to hear, to be named along with Wes Hoolahan – he’s the play-maker.” Her deeper role on the day allowed her to dictate the play, utilising the pace of Siobhan Killeen, the direct running of Leanne Kiernan and the power of Gloria Douglas to exploit every inch of the vast open spaces of the Lansdowne Road pitch. She admits, “I definitely think I prefer to play in the ten now – just behind the forward – I feel I’m more involved in the game. I feel like I can drop back and help what’s going on behind and then help what’s in front of me as well”.

Future

Put to her that her departure and that of other high-profile names will leave the Women’s National League a poorer place, she instantly replied. “No there’s quality all over the league in fairness. There’s still quality here. The younger ones who are coming up are going to bring it on. It’s going to change over the years, but it’s just going to get better and better, I can see it.”

When speaking about the future direction of the women’s game in Ireland, Murray is confident of a rise in standards and increased professionalism – which is making progress in all areas but the pay packet, or lack thereof. She explains, “People put the effort in, the time and effort people give to football teams is unbelievable, so to get something back out of it is always nice at the end of it.”
She now embarks on her Scottish journey and her first professional contract, earned through effort, hard-work, ability and experience. What’s seldom is wonderful.

Andy Donlan

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Continental Tyres Women's National League, Women's football

Mother’s Day Misery at Morton for Raheny

Raheny United 2-3 UCD Waves (Creagh 32′, 77′; O’Gorman 17′, Nolan 42′, Reid-Burke OG 57′)

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UCD Waves advance on Wexford Youths at the top

If they say a week is a long time in football, then 819 days must seem like an eternity. Raheny United’s unbeaten league era was ended by Wexford Youths in February, after a 27 month unbeaten league period. Now they’ve lost two games in 21 days and look like relinquishing their hold on the Women’s National League trophy. This victory for UCD keeps the title race wide open approaching the final hurdle, with both Raheny United and UCD Waves still to face pole sitters Wexford Youths in an intriguing league climax.

UCD Waves defeated Raheny United at the fourth time of asking this season with a fully deserved victory on a bitterly cold Mother’s Day fixture at the Morton Stadium in Santry. Captain Áine O’Gorman led the way for Waves with the mother of all strikes, beating Ireland goalkeeper Niamh Reid-Burke with a pile driver from 30-yards. There wasn’t a lot on for O’Gorman when she received Orlagh Nolan’s pass, however advancing towards goal, the hard-working striker unleased an unstoppable shot into Reid-Burke’s top right hand corner. It was a strike that Stephanie Roche would struggle to better and it laid the foundations for Waves’ advance on Wexford Youths at the summit. One wonders what might have come to pass for Raheny had they had their full complement for 90 minutes. On the hour mark, Pearl Slattery was red-carded for something she said to the referee. Slattery protested and walked from the pitch, but later re-emerged onto the field at full-time and approached the match officials – a move that is sure to land her in hot water with the authorities.

On the pitch, Raheny United captain, Rebecca Creagh bravely equalised O’Gorman’s sizzler with a header, after Niamh Walsh’s overhead kick struck the underside of the bar following a corner on 32. However Waves were to surf into the half time break in the lead, as they made a set piece of their own pay. The ubiquitous O’Gorman took it and Orlagh Nolan supplied the free header to give her side the lead.

Twelve minutes into the second half Raheny found themselves further behind. Having attacked down the right wing, O’Gorman’s hard work won a corner off Niamh Walsh. O’Gorman dusted herself down and swerved a dangerous set piece into the six yard box, which Raheny goalkeeper, Reid-Burke palmed into her own net amongst a crowded penalty area. Reid-Burke was fresh from her penalty heroics during Ireland’s victory over Costa Rica in the Istria Cup last week. Pearl Slattery’s red card was to follow minutes later, compounding Raheny’s Mothers Day misery. But United weren’t out of it, as in the energetic Katie McCabe and Siobhan Killeen, they had a constant threat. On 77 minutes the latter was to make an impact, as Killeen went down in the box. Captain Creagh reduced the deficit to 3-2 from the spot. There were further half chances for both sides, but Raheny couldn’t further breach the UCD rear-guard, which was well marshalled by young Savanagh McCarthy.

Waves have now crept to within 5 points of leaders, Youths and you wouldn’t bet against final day drama, when Wexford travel to meet UCD Waves next month.

Raheny United: Reid-Burke; Newman; Keenan; Dwyer; Barnes (74′ Shine); Walsh; Slattery; Creagh; Rowe (74′ Brierley); Killeen; McCabe.

UCD Waves: McGuirk; Grant; McCarthy; Brien; Carroll; Thorpe (79′ Mustaki); Duggan; Nolan; Russell; Berrill (65’ Maguire); O’Gorman.

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