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, General football, Women's football

Waves sail home

UCD Waves 4-1 Cork City Women’s FC (Nolan 5’, 28’, O’Gorman 23’, Berrill 70’; Desmond 63’)

After enduring 126 days of frustration, the players of UCD Waves finally crossed the white-wash for a league fixture at their home base of Jackson Park – their first of the season. Even more incredibly, it’s almost 10 months since they hosted Peamount United in a home league game at the tail-end of the 2014/15 season. On this occasion they took their frustration out on a hard-working Cork City side, who had no match for Waves’ midfield creativity or guile going forward.

Waves, and indeed the others in the Continental Tyres Women’s National League must face-up to a fixtures backlog, with time running out to complete the 2015/16 league campaign. Their manager, Eileen Gleeson, speaking in the aftermath of their 4-1 victory over Cork City spoke of the difficulties that lie ahead. “The back fixtures will definitely affect us. There’ll be three games per week, which will be hard to sustain for the girls.” She also seemed to pour cold water over the possibility of extending the league season, were it an option. “I wouldn’t think they’ll extend the league, as we have a lot of students with exams, so we can’t afford to extend it because we wouldn’t have the players available. I think it will be tough for everyone. People will have back matches, teams will be travelling mid-week, will they have players available? I think it will change the landscape of the league.” She is adamant though, that following the lead of the men’s game in Ireland is the only logical step for this fledgling league. “I think that’s what’s coming (a switch to summer football). You couldn’t go through another season like this – three months without a game. It’s nobody’s fault but I think a switch would be positive.”

In the match, midfielder Orlagh Nolan helped herself to a brace inside 28 minutes to put this game to bed early. Her first after 5 minutes, was a well-taken effort from a left wing cross, with the second arriving just before the 30 minute mark, aided by a deflection. Sandwiched in between those goals was a typically tidy lob from skipper Áine O’Gorman, as UCD played into the wind in the first half. O’Gorman might have made it four before the break, but she shanked Chloe Mustaki’s cross over the bar when well-placed. Cork City found it hard to live with the incisive passing of Julie Ann Russell, Caroline Thorpe and Jetta Berrill – the latter linking up well with the former in constant raids down the right flank.

Cork briefly rallied in the second half, pulling a goal back through Ciara Desmond, when her rasping shot dropped under the bar and over the line at the back post via Monika McGuirk’s gloves. That goal failed to take the wind out of Waves’ sails though, as a superb Thorpe pass laid-on a fourth for the home side. The Cork City management team – headed up by Frank Kelleher for the first time – must have been pulling their collective hair out. A mix-up in defence following Thorpe’s pass allowed Jetta Berrill to steal in between goalkeeper and defenders, to coolly slot the ball into the bottom corner for 4-1. Berrill then stung the palms of the over-worked Trish Fennelly on 71, while the Cork stopper kept out Thorpe at the near post on 80, before further denying O’Gorman with a smart stop with her foot in injury time.

UCD will need to tighten-up at the back ahead of next weekend’s visit of Wexford Youths in the League Cup, as they coughed up a few second half chances to Cork – who look a distance off their opponents. They’ll want to avoid a repeat of their league defeat in Wexford earlier this month, where they shipped four goals, Gleeson admitted, “Four mistakes lead to four goals”.

UCD Waves: McGuirk; Berrill; Cahill; Hackett; Prior; Mustaki; Nolan; Thorpe; Cronin; Russell; O’Gorman.
Subs not used: 2 (unknown).

Cork City Womens FC: Fennelly; O’Donovan; Murphy; O’Brien; Duncliffe; Kelleher; Carroll (69’ Hurley); B.O’Connell (59’ Carry); Desmond; Daly; R.O’Connell.
Subs not used: O’Reilly; McNamara; McCarthy.

Attendance: 30 (estimate)

Andy Donlan

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Ireland in the Mini World Cup in Brazil, 1972
Brazilian Independence Cup 1972, General football, Ireland, Minicopa, Republic of Ireland football team

Ireland in the 1972 Mini World Cup

“It was an unbelievable experience”, describes Turlough O’Connor.

It might be stretching it slightly to say that Ireland’s maiden World Cup victory actually came 18 years before that shoot-out victory against Romania at Italia ’90. But in the summer of 1972 the Republic of Ireland contested the Minicopa (or Mini World Cup/Brazilian Independence Cup) in Brazil. Organisers secured over one quarter of the teams who competed in the previous World Cup for this tournament, which marked 150 years of Brazilian Independence from Portugal. Striker Turlough O’Connor was in between a move from Dundalk back to Bohemians – who he had made his name with previously, earning his cross channel move to Fulham – when he was paid a visit by then Ireland boss, Liam Tuohy.

Call-up
“I’ll never forget the call-up. I came around the corner at home and my daughter, Niamh – only 2 at the time – had walked around from our home in Ardmore Drive and there sitting on the wall with my wife was Liam Tuohy. He asked, ‘How would you be fixed to come to Brazil?’ But it was for 3 weeks. Suddenly I was working around in my head whether I’ll be able to get time off work or not.” He’d secure the time off work to join the likes of: Ray Treacy; Joe Kinnear; Alan Kelly; Mick Leech; Don Givens and Paddy Mulligan, in a strong but small Irish squad on the plane to Brazil.
Ireland got their campaign off to a flier in Recife – where they’d play 3 of their 4 games – defeating Asian representatives, Iran, 2-1. Although it could have been a disastrous start for Ireland before a ball was even kicked. The pre-match national anthems were shelved just before kick-off, when it was discovered the music the band were intending to play was that of, God Save the Queen. Bloody Sunday had occurred in Derry that January.

Hope
Next it was onto Natal – a coastal city – which sits just over 600 km south of the equator – for the mid-June clash with Ecuador. O’Connor describes a bleak scene in the northern city. “In ’72 in Brazil in that northern area, the hardship and the poverty was unreal, it was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced before. It was difficult to see. In Natal they had this ship of hope – it was an American ship with doctors and nurses that went in to help the people. It’s amazing to think that when we talk about ’72 in Brazil and you see this happening in Europe now at this time, it’s frightening that it could happen 40 years later.” The ship, the SS Hope, was a re-fitted US Navy ship whose mission was, “No pill and band-aid handout”, instead leaving a legacy of medical knowledge and training.
In the game Ireland came from 2-1 down to defeat the acclimatised South Americans and it was O’Connor who lobbed in the winner with 6 minutes remaining. Ireland managed to win 3-2, even with the second half sending off of Don Givens. The stadium where the match was played will forever be remembered in World Cup folklore, as the re-built version of that arena was that of Suárez bite fame from last summer’s World Cup.

Seeing red
The squad journeyed back south to Recife for the third match against Chile, which was to be O’Connor’s last game of the tournament. The striker received a straight red card for slamming into a Chilean opponent, showing his frustration after he adamantly claims Ireland should have been awarded a penalty. Even now, over 40 years on, there’s animation in the Athlone man’s voice when he speaks of the incident. He didn’t go quietly at the time either, as a match report in the Irish Times describes. Whilst making his way towards the dressing rooms, “On the way, O’Connor tore off his shirt and waved it at the jeering crowd”. Ireland had succumbed to their first defeat of the tournament, 2-1. That red card meant that O’Connor would sit out the final group fixture against Portugal, although Ireland were effectively out – needing to win by a considerable margin against the group favourites.

Unlucky
“Portugal would have been one of the favourites at the time, especially with the squad of players that they had”, explained O’Connor. Mick Leech scored for Ireland in what O’Connor describes as a disappointing 2-1 defeat [view goals]. “We played very well against Portugal and were very unlucky not to get a result. I was really looking forward to that one. I would have loved to play against Portugal and Eusébio too.”
Portugal went on to win the group and qualify for the 8-team elite phase. Then after seeing off: Argentina; Uruguay and Soviet Union, they rather ironically qualified for the Brazilian Independence Cup final against hosts, Brazil. Before a baying audience of over ninety-nine thousand, Brazil defeated their once colonial masters, 1-0 at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Jairzinho’s 89th minute deftly flicked header sealed an emotional triumph for Brazil, as 150 years on, Portugal were once again sent back across the Atlantic empty handed.
O’Connor went on to a distinguished club career as a player and a manager, although he only picked up a handful more Irish caps.

Film stars
Sipping on his tea and nibbling on a digestive, O’Connor reflects on the tournament as a special time. “There was a great atmosphere in the country (Brazil) for football. One thing, because you were representing a country, immediately they were in awe of you and they treated you like film stars more than footballers. That was one of the first times that I ever experienced that”.

For the love of it
The Julies Rimet trophy may not have been on offer for this tournament, but for O’Connor international football was about more than trophies and medals. “Today’s world when you think about some of the guys who have no enthusiasm to play for their country. It saddens me. With the finance and the money, it seems to have taken preference over the pride of actually playing for your country. You are going on a tour of Brazil for three weeks and playing for your country, money didn’t come into it at all. Being picked and presenting your country was far more important than money”.
Today, international cry-offs have become all too common place, as the modern footballer makes vast sums of money and views the evasion of international football as a means to extend their club careers, in a bid to prolong their earning power. However it is O’Connor who will re-call rich memories of pulling on the green jersey in the summer of ’72, when an international cap was priceless.

Andy Donlan

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FAI Cup

Seagulls A Bridge Too Far For United

Bray Wanderers 2-0 Killester United (Douglas 7’, Scully 58’)

Bray overcame non-league Killester United to advance to the semi-finals of the FAI Cup at a rain-swept Carlisle Grounds. For the second round in a row, Bray scored early in the game and eliminated a team in red n’ black stripes. This time however, there was no lineman’s flag to aid their progress – after the awarding of a controversial goal which knocked out Bohemians in the previous round. Some may have believed that Killester required divine inspiration to advance in this tie, against a Premier Division side hitting their peak. Indeed the Cross of Saint Brigid adorns the Killester United crest – St. Brigid was famed for the many miracles it was claimed she performed. No such inspiration was required tonight as the non-leagues matched their hosts in every department, bar the finishing. The axis of Lacey and Keogh were a constant threat to the Bray defence, however they came up short in a match played in the driving rain atop a greasy surface.

It was Bray Wanderers who got off to the better start and they went ahead from a corner after 7 minutes. Powerful defender Hugh Douglas shot into the box and his bullet header bulged the back of the net from 6 yards out to kill the early Killester spirit. It was the first goal that Killester United had conceded in this season’s competition. Bray threatened again from a set piece on 23, but Alan McNally’s header was wide.

The next clear chance was to come to non-league Killester as they edged their way back into this keenly fought contest. The impressive Michael Keogh struck the butt of the post from the edge of the area, but Lacey fired the rebound straight at goalkeeper, Peter Cherrie when he should have done better. Indeed it was Lacey who was centre to the game’s next big opening after 37 minutes. Having been slipped through 1-on-1 with Cherrie, the striker pulled the trigger, but the Scottish stopper saved well with his legs. It was Lacey who nearly made it through on goal again, though the threaded ball, bound for his feet was expertly blocked by Cooney’s sliding leg on the slick surface.

Killester squandered two glorious opportunities after the break before David Scully gave the hosts the insurance goal, turning home David Cassidy’s cross at the far post. Before that Alan Talbot rifled over when through 1-on-1 with Cherrie and the impressive Lacey had his goal-bound shot blocked from his attempt inside the area. There were further chances for both sides after that, as Lyons glazed United’s crossbar on 69, while Lacey stung Cherrie’s hands on 84. United ‘keeper, Keith Donoghue tipped over from Cassidy’s superb lob and saved well in Onwubiko’s 1-on-1 chance in injury time, as Bray’s superior fitness began to tell.

So Bray Wanderers advanced to the semi-finals, but they were made to work hard for the privilege. The Wicklow side will now pray for a kind draw on Monday and dream about emulating 1990 and 1999’s cup glory years, whilst Killester will wonder what might have been.

Bray Wanderers: Cherrie; Barker; Cooney; Douglas; McNally; Cassidy; Kelly; McEvoy; McGlynn; Lyons (Wixted 89’); Scully (Onwubiko 82’).
Subs not used: Fogarty; Gallagher; McDonagh; Mitchell; O’Reilly.

Killester United: Donoghue; McCormack; Kelly (Matthews 72’); Kavanagh; Hand; O’Reilly; Keogh; Chambers (Mooney 79’); Browning; Talbot (Lee 68’); Lacey.
Subs not used: O’Driscoll; McDonald; Farrell; Whelan.

Irish Daily Mail Man of the Match: Hugh Douglas

Attendance: 700 (estimate)

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