By Mike Rafferty at Eamonn Deacy Park Cregmore-Claregalway 3
Kilmore Celtic 2
WITH a performance based on skill, ability, commitment and honest endeavour Cregmore-Claregalway were crowned Women’s FAI U-14 Cup champions at Eamonn Deacy Park on Sunday afternoon.
For the duration, they were by far the better side and a brace of Saoirse Healey goals had them two up at the break, before Aoibheann Costello added a third just after the restart.
However, the Dublin visitors did not know when they were beaten and a spirited revival saw them pull back two goals through Keisa Hutton and Rugile Auskalnyte to make it very competitive until the final whistle.
In a terrific contest Cregmore-Claregalway were the better side from the off and containing a number of players with terrific skill levels they made the perfect start when Saoirse Healy did all the hard work when cutting in from the wing, before drilling a low effort beyond Robyn Murray for a 1-0 advantage after just four minutes.
With Allannah Griffin and Kate Slevin keeping them on the front foot in central midfield, they continued to do the majority of the early pressing, without every over extending keeper Murray.
At the other end, Kilmore Celtic offered occasional threats to the home side, but with Sara Cogley and Chelene Trill outstanding, the visitors seldom looked like making a breakthrough in the last third of the park.
With frontrunners, Healey, Aibheann Costello and Shauna Brennan a constant threat to the visitors, it always looked like it was a matter of time before they added a secong and they did so on 31 minutes.
On this occasion,an Allannah Griffin free kick from outside the box was pushed away by Murray, but like all good strikers Brennan was following up and pulled the half back across the face of goal and from where Healey had the simplest of tap-ins to make it 2-0.
Obviously, the home side were warned at half-time not to sit back on their laurels and they followed those instructions to a tee as they added a third just after the restart.
On this occasion, Player of the Match Brennan threaded in a delivery for Costello to run on to and she was calmness personified as she slotted a low effort past the advancing Murray to make it to 3-0.
They had plenty of opportunities to add to their tally, as Laura Scanlon could not finish a terrific Brennan cross from the left, before Slevin had a shot saved by Murray.
The Finglas based team kick-started their recovery on 46 minutes when a free-kick from half-way was headed clerar of the boc, only for a sweetly struck volley by Keisha Hutton to fly past Hannah Walsh to reduce the arrears to 3-1.
They added a second just three minutes later when a long range free kick by Rugile Auskalnyte got the better of Walsh to make it 3-2 and with twenty minutes left a frantic closing spell ensued.
Thereafter, Cregmore-Claregalway had loads of opportunities to put the game to bed, but a system failure in the finishing stakes ensured a nervous finale for the home side.
The wing play of Brennan was a revelation where her directness and ability to beat people was a joy to watch and after setting up Costello, the striker was denied by a smart Murray save. The goalkeeper continued to excel as she denied both Laura Scanlon and Costello in one on one situations.
Cregmore-Claregalway almost paid a high price for their finishing, as Kilmore could have levelled matters on 62 minutes, but a smart save by Hannah Walsh denied Emma McGrath, before the alert Chellene Trill brilliantly executed a goal line clearance to maintain the status quo.
~Having survived some late anxious moments, the home side were on the attack when the long final whistle sounded and the pitch invasion was merited on historic grounds as Cregmore-Claregalway were crowned champions.
After the game, captain Chellene Trill was presented with the FAI U-14 Cup, while manager Martin Burke expressed his delight at the outcome.
“I am delighted for the girls. They worked so hard for this and it’s a first national title for the club. Now for a time it looked good when we were three up, but the Kilmore girls’ heads never dropped and they made a real battle of it. They threw everything at us in the end, but we kept our cool and indeed could have had a few more goals at the other end ourselves”.
CREGMORE-CLAREGALWAY: WALSH, FLAHERTY (BURKE 73 MINS), O’RIORDAN, COGLEY, TRILL, SCANLON (SEXTON 74 MINS), SLEVIN, HEALEY, COSTELLO, BRENNAN, RESERVES NOT USED: MORAN, DUGGAN, CULLINANE.
KILMORE CELTIC: R. MURRAY, C. MURRAY, O’SHAUGHNESSY, AUSKAINYTE, HAND, MADIGAN, MCGRATH, DARBY, PHILLIPS, GAVAGAN, HUTTON. RESERVES USED: AHMED, O’TOOLE, LESTER, IGBINOSUN, MATTHEWS, BRADY.
REFEREE: JOHN MULROE.