Match report from plate final yesterday in Limerick
- Dec 20,2021
Match report from plate final yesterday in limerick
Last time a Mayo Girls side played in a Gaynor National Final at University of Limerick (UL) it was a week after the summer solstice in 2019 and Covid-19 did not exist. It very much existed last year when, despite playing “grading qualification” matches earlier in the year, Mayo teams did not compete in the latter stages of the series. This time around we have had an ongoing issue remaining around Covid which if anything looks like it may get worse. This was indirectly the cause of a Mayo Girls Squad playing a Gaynor Final in UL 2 days prior to the winter solstice. The Plate was up for grabs this time for the U13s compared to the Cup two years ago for the U12s.
Louth was the opposition and the Mayo girls continued their habit of slow starts. Louth had already seen an effort go wide before they put together a well worked move down the Mayo right flank and they edged in front. Only four minutes had elapsed.
The excellent start seemed to inhibit Louth rather than inspire them and they dropped a lot deeper with defence very much on their minds. Cliodhna Dowling brought the first smart save from the opposition keeper on 13 minutes and three minutes later a trademark Amy Murphy corner from our right saw centre-back Aoife Collins denied by a smart save.
Murphy saw another of her sublime corner deliveries not get the finishing touch that it deserved. In the next phase of action captain of the side Roise Burke executed a terrific block tackle on the edge of our box which saw Mayo transition to attack in the blink of an eye and Dowling was desperately unlucky to see her rasping shot cannon back out off the bar. She almost connected with the ball “too well”.
Mayo very much had the bit between their teeth now and on 22 minutes great work by Murphy won a Louth kick-out high up the pitch and when she threaded the ball through Ursula Shaughnessy cut across the defender to hammer home an unstoppable shot.
Louth were very much living on slim pickings by now but both their wide players were still very dangerous and it took diligent defending by the two Aoifes to keep our goal intact. Shaughnessy connected with a volley to another superb Murphy corner to again work the keeper in the final act of the 1st half.
In the early stages of the 2nd half Mayo introduced the combative Siofra Mc Guinness to replace Amy Doherty who, like Kate Byrne at left back, had a fantastic duel with the wide players. The pacy Emma Higgins dropped back from her midfield role to right back.
Louth were very much the bigger more physical side of the two but Mayo centre-back Aine Monaghan let them know that they are no soft touches in Belmullet! The 2nd half carried on in a similar pattern to the first with Mayo carrying by far the bigger threat. Burke stung the hands of the keeper in the 34th minute and, 60 seconds later, Shaughnessy again forced the keeper into a save after another Murphy corner.
Alana Kelly was next into the fray on the left wing replacing the injured Dowling who, despite her lack of inches, carried a wonderful spirit of fight to the opposition. Shaughnessy continued her duel with the keeper and Kasey Ruane was next to be denied by Louth’s number one (and captain).
On 54 minutes a Murphy corner from our left found Ruane at the back post and this time her header had beaten the keeper but unfortunately also whisked by the wrong side of the post. Murphy then had a shot from the edge of the box parried out with the rebound going wide.
A Kelly shot was then brilliantly saved with Shaughnessy quickest to react and force the ball home only for the referee to rule it out for an infringement. Very harsh. The only clear sight of the Mayo goal that Louth got in the 2nd half was when their wide right player got through but Aoife Meaney, not for the first time in her career, pulled off a stunning save. It turned out the flag had gone up for offside too so the Mayo defensive Unit again were impressive.
Despite time running out Mayo continued to play all the football. Ella Mc Loughlin was on by now bringing to three the number of u12s in action for Mayo on the day. A slaloming run by Burke up the inside left channel saw her leave one player in her wake before she was crudely fouled. Up stepped set-piece specialist Murphy to hammer the free-kick over the wall high into the net to put Mayo 2-1 up. Sarah-Jane Kilcawley was the final introduction from the Mayo bench, Louth had one half chance which went wide and the ref’s final whistle was the cue for wild celebrations among the Mayo squad and their sizeable band of supporters.
Speaking afterwards Mayo Girls Head Coach John Flanagan paid tribute to all the Clubs who provide football, the girls themselves and the management team of Kevin Sheeran, Michael Collins, Emma Gibbons, Jessica Lambe and Emma Sheeran. He lauded the fact that this management team have now overseen 2 Gaynor National Titles in 3 years and are actually unbeaten in competitive games since 2018. John said this was all the more remarkable given that all the individuals concerned are still very much involved with their own Clubs at grassroots level. Patrick Lambe of the Mayo Schoolboys/Girls League has always been a true advocate of the female game and it was fitting that Patrick was there to witness this latest triumph.
Manager Kevin Sheeran is a man of few words but there are few men (or women) with the forensic knowledge of the female game in Mayo from U8 up to Senior level and a managerial CV to back it up.
Emma Gibbons and Jessica Lambe from a general coaching viewpoint and Emma Sheeran from a goalkeeping coaching point of view continue to learn from the more experienced Coaches in the set-up but they also all put their own individual stamp on proceedings.
Principal Coach of the group Michael Collins was fulsome in his praise of the panel of 23 players. “Each and every one of the girls has taken on board what we have done with them since getting together in early August. I firmly believe that we have as good footballers here in Mayo as anywhere else and we should always be looking at competing at the highest level. This squad have remained unbeaten all year which is an unbelievable statistic and they have gelled as a group really well. As well as the 15 girls who saw game time in the Plate Final we had a further 8 girls awaiting their chance and this victory is as much about them as anyone else. Their attitude and commitment to both our training sessions and the matches that they played in, was absolutely first class. They are as follows: Melissa Clarke, Kayleigh Coggins, Cara Culkin, Emma Dowling, Niamh Gillespie, Brooke Grimes, Aoibhin Mc Garry and Sadhbh O Donnell. Cara deserves a special mention as she is currently out of action after picking up an unfortunate injury in an earlier game. It should also be noted that the 2 fantastic Aoifes in this squad – Collins and Meaney- were also part of our 2019 U12 Gaynor Cup winning squad. Kevin and I have been doing this for quite a long time and – speaking entirely on my own behalf here- would feel that we probably know a thing or two about selecting and coaching the girls in whatever age group we work with