Galway United Women on the cusp of breaking new ground

Galway United: Back row, left to right, Therese Kinnevey, Jenna Slattery, Eve Dossen, Jessica Berlin, Jamie Erickson,  Isabella Beletic.
Front row, left to right, Aoife Costello, Gemma McGuinness, Lynsey McKey (C), Aislinn Meaney, Kate Thompson.

Galway United: Back row, left to right, Therese Kinnevey, Jenna Slattery, Eve Dossen, Jessica Berlin, Jamie Erickson, Isabella Beletic. Front row, left to right, Aoife Costello, Gemma McGuinness, Lynsey McKey (C), Aislinn Meaney, Kate Thompson.

History beckons for Galway United Women's first team on Sunday.

Travelling to the Showgrounds in Sligo, they will face Northern Ireland side Cliftonville in the final of the inaugural Avenir Sports All-Island Cup with high hopes of etching themselves into the annals of the club's history.

Much has already been achieved in a short time with three women's teams fielded this season after the uncertainty caused by the dissolution of Galway WFC. That these sides should be performing competitively at every grade is testament to the character and calibre of all involved.

They have surpassed all reasonable expectations, competing for an all-island title not much more than four months after their first competitive fixture. Most impressive has been the way they have approached their games this season, the brand of football played, and the quality of young, local players evident.

United have consistently gone toe-to-toe with the country's best sides including Wexford Youths, Peamount United, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne. Fearing nobody, they have performances and results to show for their efforts.

From the outset of this tournament, manager Phill Trill sensed an opportunity for his young side as he welcomed the return of several players from exam commitments, while also adding some experience during the transfer window. And this has played out in the Avenir Sports All-Island Cup.

They travelled north to play a strong Linfield side and came away with an impressive win. They were good against Athlone Town, but could not break the deadlock and drew 0-0.

They had to beat Shelbourne to advance from the group stages and did it in style with a 2-0 win over the league champions. They saved their best performance for the semi-final. Having received arguably the toughest draw available, they went down to Wexford and were tremendous in Ferrycarrig Park, deservedly advancing after penalties.

Cliftonville, who sit second in the Northern Ireland Women's Premiership, will provide a formidable challenge, having produced a 1-0 over Cork in their semi-final.

In the build-up, manager Trill acknowledged as much. "Cliftonville are a very good side, they have a lot of senior and underage internationals, but we fear nobody," he said.

The Belfast side enters the final after a home win over an improving Cork City. Perhaps their most eye-catching result was away to Bohemians in the group stages when they emerged 2-1 winners.

They have also been playing in their domestic competitions and enjoyed another big win over Linfield prior to their defeat of Cork. Caitlin McGuinness and Danielle Maxwell have both been in fine form this summer, and United will be acutely aware of the danger they possess.

However, United also have some aces. Aislinn Meaney added a real edge to the attacking spear in Wexford. Gemma McGuinness thrived in supporting her, as she has with every task she has been given this season. The midfield diamond is solid and the structure seems to be inviting the best from each.

Isabella Beletic is combative and composed at the base. Kate Thompson is rangy and quick on the right. Jenna Slattery is a complete player on the left. Veteran Lynsey McKey pulls the strings further forward with class.

At the back, Therese Kinnevey and Aoibheann Costello are quick and strong as full-backs and drive their team forward. Jamie Erickson and Eve Dossen are improving as a partnership with every game they play together. In goals Jessica Berlin and Abbiegayle Ronayne have alternated and both contributed handsomely.

There is strength-in-depth too. Rola Olusola makes a big impression with her pace and directness every time she is introduced. Abbie Callanan hit an unbelievable goal against Shels without which United may not be where they are now.

Aoife Thompson has featured in every league game. Amy Madden was impressive in her starts. Anna Fahey and Jodie Griffin among others have seen plenty of game time and will be pushing for inclusion.

In nearly fifty years of senior football in national senior competitions, Galway United have little more than one FAI Cup and two League Cups to show for their efforts.

Long suffering United supporters understand instinctively what is on offer for this young side on Sunday. They will travel in their numbers in the hope of witnessing history.

Ticket details

•Galway United Friends' Co-op is running a bus to The Showgrounds for Sunday's All-Island final against Cliftonville, departing The Connacht Hotel, Galway, at 12 noon, and picking up along the route. There will be a pick up at The Arches, Claregalway at 12.15pm. The return fare is €5. To book a seat contact Stephen Connolly (085 ) 2206645 ).

• Galway United Season Ticket Holders enter for free to the game. Tickets cost €10 for adults and €5 for U16.They are available to buy from srfcdirect.com/match-tickets/

 

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