CHAMPIONS The Mayo ladies squad and management celebrate victory.
Mayo ladies make glorious history
Mayo League 1
A SUPERBLY taken goal from Aoife Herbert after only eleven minutes proved enough to provide Mayo with a first victory in the FAI Women’s Senior Challenge Cup Final at Richmond Park, Dublin on Saturday evening.
The goal from the elusive Herbert was a real touch of class, as she brilliantly lobbed the ball over an advancing Aine Genockey. Once in front, a Mayo defence that had only conceded two goals in the whole competition always looked like holding on.
This victory is a magnificent achievement for Aiden Flatley and Michael Jennings having taken on the best footballers in the country and come out on top. Players of the calibre of Emma Mullin and Herbert are few and far between and their explosive pace meant UCD were wary throughout of being caught on the break.
The Dublin based outfit enjoyed the majority of the possession but captain Michelle Ruane and Karen Lilly were outstanding at centre back. Cara Cooke, introduced at the back in the second half, also performed to great effect and much credit is also due to inexperienced goalkeeper, Yvonne Byrne, who pulled off a string of superb saves, particularly at end of the first when UCD were dominant.
Mayo were on top in the opening ten minutes with a Katie Walsh shot from distance the first real effort of the game on seven minutes. Herbert and Mullin’s lightning pace were already being utilised to good effect with Mullin bursting up the right wing on nine minutes and centring for Herbert, who had the ball taken off her toe by Caroline McEvoy.
However, the game’s only goal arrived just two minutes later when Karen Lilly lifted a ball over the top from deep in her own half. Herbert stayed on side and raced clear of the cover before first timing a brilliant lob from the edge of the box over a stranded Genockey. Herbert’s silky skills were a joy to watch throughout the game and the Killala striker has the ability to make her mark even on a bigger stage than Saturday night.
UCD gradually played their way back into the game with captain Sylvia Gee pulling the strings in midfield and Sandra Mulhall looking particularly dangerous wide on the left. The latter went on a mazy dribble on 27 minutes and laid off a nicely weighted pass to Sharon Cullen, whose low drive failed to trouble Yvonne Byrne.
Mayo always looked dangerous on the break and on the half hour good work involving GAA stars Martha Carter and Triona McNicholas saw the latter find Mullin in the box. The Kilmaine native in turn slipped a pass inside to Herbert, only for the goalscorer to mishit her effort.
The remainder of the first half saw Mayo come under increasing pressure and they most definitely had Byrne to thanks for maintaining their advantage through to the break. Elaine Coholan’s low drive on 41 minutes had the Ballyhaunis ‘keeper at full stretch and the same player brought two more fantastic saves from Byrne on 43 and 45 minutes, the second from a header after a great cross from Gee.
UCD started the second half as they finished the first, creating another good chance from Mulhall after good work from Nicola Sinnott and Rachel Jenkins. In order to combat the expected pressure, manager Flatley went to three centre backs with Cara Cooke replacing Aine McLean and, in truth, Mayo were relatively comfortably for most of the second half.
They were also getting that slice of luck necessary when things are going your way. Gee swung in another tempting cross on 50 minutes but Coholan managed to get in the way of Caroline McEvoy, who couldn’t then direct her header goalwards from six yards.
Cora Staunton and Patricia Coyle was introduced midway through the second half to freshen up Mayo’s hardworking midfield but by this stage Ruane, Lilly and Cooke were lording it at the back. UCD simply ran out of ideas in the last twenty minutes, with Mayo holding on comfortably for a famous victory.
UCD have had tremendous success in recent years, collecting this trophy three times and the Dublin league four times since 2002, so it was no mean feat for this Mayo side to claim an historic victory. They are a very young team and it may not be an exaggeration to suggest that this group of players have the ability to go an emulate their GAA counterparts by capturing a number of national titles.
Y Byrne; A Gallagher, K Lilly, M Ruane, A McLean; T McNicholas, M Carter, K Walsh, J Mulligan; A Herbert, E Mullin. Subs: C Cooke for McLean; C Staunton for Walsh; P Coyle for Mulligan.
A Genockey; N Sinnott, C McEvoy, N Connolly, E O’Herlihy; R Jenkins, S Cullen, S Gee, S Mulhall; E Cohalan, K Kelly. Subs: T McMahon for Cohalan, S Horgan for O’Herlihy.
Referee: C McGowan.