Cup Final bound — United women progress to decider of All-Island cup after spotkick drama in Wexford

Galway United players, from let, Jenna Slattery, Eve Dossen, and Kate Thompson celebrate after their side's victory. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

Galway United players, from let, Jenna Slattery, Eve Dossen, and Kate Thompson celebrate after their side's victory. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

Galway United Women advanced to the Avenir Sports All-Island Cup Final, where they will meet Cliftonville FC, overcoming a strong Wexford Youths side on penalties in Ferrycarrig Park last Saturday evening.

Although it took spot kicks to separate the sides, United were magnificent throughout the tie and turned in arguably their performance of the season. It was enough to make history as the first Galway senior side to reach a national final in the women’s game.

The first half was frantic and United were given an early warning when the in-form Rianna Jarrett blazed over from the edge of the box inside two minutes. Thereafter, Phil Trill’s side settled into the game well and built well from the back as they sought to impose their passing game on their opponents.

New signing Aislinn Meaney made her first start up front and her pace and directness gave the Galway side an added dimension. Gemma McGuinness was a menace also and nearly pounced on a Kate Thompson cross in the early exchanges.

The two front players combined neatly to give the Galway side an early territorial advantage. The midfield quartet of Jenna Slattery, Lynsey McKey, Kate Thompson and Isabella Beletic worked tirelessly to provide the willing runners with ammunition to test the home team’s rearguard.

Penalty claim

Meaney and Thompson linked well to provide a ball for McGuinness who was bundled over in the box in the 8th minute but her penalty claim was turned down.

Wexford maintained a threat on the break and Aoibheann Costello had to be sharp to snuff out a chance for the impressive Abbie Brophy in the first quarter.

United though were excellent and continued to get in behind Wexford’s back four. Meaney, Slattery and Thompson all hit the target in the same quarter but their efforts were comfortably stopped.

A move in the 24th minute epitomised all that was good about their early play. Beletic snuffed out a Wexford attack and immediately delivered to McGuinness in midfield. She laid it off to McKey who expertly pinged it over the top for Meaney. She drove at the Wexford goal and struck brilliantly from the edge of the box only for her effort beat the keeper but not the post.

Despite their dominance they had to survive another scare at the back when a goalmouth scramble saw Emily Corbet and Kylie Murphy go dangerously close for hosts. Jessica Berlin reacted brilliantly to maintain parity.

She had to be at her best again to keep out Jarrett as the hosts enjoyed a purple patch just before the break. Yet it was on the stroke of half-time when a contentious decision denied United a deserved lead.

Slattery delivered a long free-kick, Jamie Erickson won a header and hit the post. Thompson tucked away the rebound but an offside flag ruled it out. McGuinness had been flirting with an offside line but as it was Thompson and not her who poked home, replays would strongly suggest that the goal should have stood.

It would prove costly as Wexford took the lead in the 52nd minute. United failed to clear their lines twice and Murphy capitalised to tee up Jarrett who struck home emphatically.

United responded after a few minutes and Meaney drew another save from Claudia Keenan before the hour mark. Yet they were lucky to stay in it when Nicola Sinnott had a glorious chance from a corner to put her side 2-0 up, her header flashing over the bar.

Deserved equaliser

Nonetheless, when the equaliser came in the 70th minute it was the least United deserved. Costello combined well with McGuinness, who lifted a beautiful diagnoal ball into the path of Thompson who deftly chipped over ‘keeper Keenan to make it 1-1.

McGuinness was to the fore again when United carved out the first of many chances to win in normal time. She won the ball back after pressing high but her cross to substitute Rola Olusola was just cut out with an empty goal gaping.

Two minutes later, more good work from the sub created a chance for McKey whose sharp volley sailed just over. Finally, at the death Slattery was denied by a sharp save from Keenan as United piled on the pressure.

These near misses meant the tie went straight to penalties. Therese Kinnevey slotted home the first before Jessica Berlin made a smart save from the second to give her team the initiative. Unfortunately, her opposite number returned the favour to keep out United’s second as the tension mounted.

Jamie Erickson and Jenna Slattery did the needful when their numbers were called. When Ciara Rossiter’s penalty hit the post it gave Gemma McGuinness the chance to put United through. She capped a sensational performance with the all-important goal to spark scenes of jubilation in the sunny south-east.

 

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