Cup Heartbreak for Girls.
The Women’s soccer team has probably been the most consistently high performers over the last number of years, regularly taking on the larger colleges and punching above their weight as it were. The fact last Wednesday’s Challenge cup game against U.C.D. could be billed as a renewal of their fiercest rivalry speaks volumes for their tradition, (it was the same U.C.D. team who ultimately stopped them in last years intervarsity quarter finals having defeated University of Limerick and Trinity along the way).
With this in mind what transpired on Wednesday should have been no shock, as competitive a game of football as is likely to be seen for the remainder of the year.
The Loss of Irish u-19 Melissa Casserly prior to the game was a huge blow for the girls, and as the Dubliners dominated early proceedings it looked like being one from which they would not recover. With the pressure coming thick and fast it looked ominous but when Mary Bourke pulled off a miraculous save and bravely gathered the loose ball on the line in a sea of bodies, the rest of the girls seemed to take heart and started to impose themselves.
With Aisling Ni Griofa, Aisling Dowling, Maeve Murphy and Fiona Costello putting in a defensive display that could not fail to inspire those ahead of them, Castlebar began to take charge. The incredible amount of hard work Helen Grealish got through in midfield allowed Louise Mulready to show why she is such an exciting prospect, her excellent touch and superb distribution were soon forcing gaps in the Dublin defence. Maureen Coleman and Aisling Ni Griofa in particular were unfortunate not to score from these chances as they saw their efforts go narrowly over and wide respectively.
Helen’s clever chip through for herself created a great opportunity but in the end the effort of getting there had drained her energy and the Dublin girls managed to get back with a last ditch tackle. The final say in the half should have gone to Louise but her honesty kept her upright when then hand on her back must have resulted in a penalty had she lost her footing, as it was she unleashed a thunderous shot only to see the keeper somehow get a hand to turn it away.
It must have been a great relief for the Dublin girls to be able to go in level at half-time followed the bombardment they had received, to their credit however they recovered quickly and when the Castlebar failed to clear an early throw in they were quickest in a confused penalty area to slot the ball home for the lead.
Heads refused to drop and the strong running and great wide play of Ciara Bourke and Ciana Moorcroft quickly had the Dublin girls in trouble again. Rare Dublin attacks were dealt with ruthlessly by Ashling Dowling and her back line, and the pressure eventually told at the other end. Lorraine Lee refused to give up on a long ball and her presence caused the keeper to spill the ball, quickest to gather herself Lorraine got to the ball held off a tackle before delighting the home side with an equalizer.
Celebrations were extravagant, indeed old heads will tell you that a team is at it’s most vulnerable when they have just scored, these girls will never need to be told that again as they found out the hard way! A quick restart found a Dublin winger in space and with their shape momentarily lost the cross that came in was met with a choice of attackers to ease the ball home giving the girls a hill to climb all over again.
That they did this and did so in fine style is to their eternal credit. Maeve Murphy was pushed on from defence and started to cause problems everywhere she showed up. Indeed it was this confusion that led to the Dubliners failing to clear with authority from a packed area. This failure was punished in lethal and spectacular fashion as Louise Mulready pounced from fully ten yards outside the area to meet the ball on the half-volley to send it sailing into the top corner, a better goal or more worthy an equalizer would be hard to find. Pressing now for a winner castlebar pushed on but found the Dublin keeper in fine form to take the game to extra time.
The effort taking it’s toll on both sides, chances were appearing at both ends giving rise to true cup tie last ditch, life on the line defending. Ultimately neither side could find that extra special effort to save the cruelest of decisions the penalty shootout.
Expert spot kicks from Louise, Maeve and Aisling ni Griofa kept it on an even keel as they went into sudden death while further heroics from Mary Bourke kept it alive time and again. Indeed it went down to the very last of the 22 players before the sides could be separated, a successful conversion from this kick was enough and although the Castlebar Girls immediately fell to their knees, they have every reason to feel proud of the part they played in an amazing game of football.
Another group of ladies with every reason to feel proud is the Camogie team. They have just become the first team to represent the college in Camogie. Their first game was against a Sligo side that has traditionally dominated the Northern section and it proved to be a very tough first outing. Other results indicate that future games against Coleraine Queens and Cavan will be much more competitive outings and the girls will soon hope to have their first win under their belt.
The men’s B team put in a great performance against Atlhone, and have only themselves to blame for the lapses of concentration, (one in the first and one either side of half time), that meant they lost a game they dominated.
Super strikes from Alan Ryan and Leon Vaughan weren’t enough to rectify the goals given away and despite great work from Aidan Finnegan, Colin Walsh, Keith Mullins, Eamon Hennessy and Damian O’Malley the lads will leave this one knowing they should have had at least a point.
The unluckiest team in the college at the moment is undoubtedly the women’s Basketball
Team, who, for the second game in a row went down by a single point, this time on the road in Letterkenny. The men’s team are showing great signs of improvement, unfortunately that progression was met by an incredibly strong Letterkenny side who were well worthy of their victory.
The soccer team has a busy week with a trip to Letterkenny on Tuesday followed by the Visit of Blanchardstown on Thursday.
The big game this week is undoubtedly the winner takes all clash in the Hurling with Letterfrack, with qualification for the league semi’s and seeding for the Ryan Cup at Stake motivation should not be a problem for this local derby game.
Finally Congratulations to everyone who were awarded at The Conferring Ceremony in the College last Saturday it was great to see so many old faces again. Good luck for the future in all you do.