Soccer – U/14 Girls SFAI Trophy
Portlaoise AFC 3
Hodson Bay 4
A SUNDAY afternoon kick off was an unusual way to finish the weekend’s football activity with a SFAI Trophy clash. The reward for the winners would be a South Leinster regional final and getting into the round of 32 in the U/14 Girls SFAI Trophy.
Conditions couldn’t have been much better for a January day with no rain and just a light breeze blowing down the pitch. Layla McGonnell was captain for the day and took the toss and Portlaoise lined up to play with the breeze for the first half.
The opening 10 minutes were evenly balanced with neither side creating any clear chances. However, Hodson Bay were dominating possession and territory, with most of the play being in the Portlaoise half of the field. The Portlaoise back three of Aoibhin Moran, Moya Ramsbottom and Layla McGonnell were stretched on a couple of occasions. Sarah Vostinar, making her first start in goals, made a couple of good saves to help settle her nerves.
On the 15 minute mark Hodson Bay moved the ball out to their right wing and got to the by-line. A great cross was whipped across the box and met first time by an oncoming attacker to put Hodson Bay 1-0 up. Hodson Bay kept the pressure on pinning Portlaoise in their own half. The Portlaoise midfield of Lucy Keenan, Ava Donovan, Clodagh Booth and Rachel Kelly were at full stretch to stem the attacks.
On 22 minutes disaster struck. A shot fired in from the edge of the box hit Layla McGonnell on the arm and the referee pointed to the spot. Sarah Vostinar face the penalty and luck was with Portlaoise as the shot went high and over the bar.
That let off seemed to galvanise Portlaoise who then produced their best spell of the first half. Emily Kelly, Maisie Kerry and Leah Brophy came on to freshen things up and Portlaoise started pushing Hodson Bay back. Just before the half hour mark a good Portlaoise attack put Erin Kavanagh through on goal. Kavanagh has been reliable in front of goal all season and this time was no different. She slotted home coolly to bring Portlaoise level.
Not content with getting level Portlaoise continued to push on and less than five minutes later they took the lead. Leah Brophy had pushed up from her defensive duties and picked up the ball just outside the Hodson Bay penalty box. A beautiful curling shot found the top corner giving the Hodson Bay keeper no chance.
Portlaoise were full value for their 2-1 lead at half time and took to the field full of confidence for the second half. However, it was Hodson Bay who started the better of the two sides.
They hit the post five minutes after the restart and were in on goal again but for a great intervention by Aoibhin Moran. However, the pressure soon told when Portlaoise failed to clear their lines and Hodson Bay drew level. The Portlaoise back three were having a great game up against a very strong Hodson Bay front line.
The next 10 minutes of the game were end to end. Aoibhe Ging and Rachel Kelly combined well for a half chance while Sarah Mousley almost got through on goal. Maise Kerry looked like she was through on goal on a couple of occasions, but the Hodson Bay defence held firm.
Then disaster struck again. A battle for possession took place just inside Portlaoise’s half. A Hodson Bay player lashed the ball skywards and towards the Portlaoise goal. The ball struck the Portlaoise cross bar and bounced back into play only to drop right in front of a Hodson Bay forward who slotted the ball home.
They might have been 3-2 down with 10 minutes to go, but Portlaoise pushed forward again. Again half chances came and went. Then Portlaoise won a corner. Erin Kavanagh took it from the left hand side. A beautiful in-swinger skimmed off the head of a defender and into the far corner of the goals.
Both teams were tiring as time ran out, but still the game was end-to-end right up until the final whistle. Extra time after a 3-3 draw. New territory for both sides.
The pattern of the game didn’t change during extra time, with both sides defending as if their lives depended on it and attacking at every opportunity. A Hodson Bay attack split the Portlaoise defence leaving Sarah Vostinar one-on-one with an attacker. It looked as if a goal was a certainty, but Vostinar held her ground well, saved with her feet and quickly gathered the loose ball.
With time running out and penalties looming Hodson Bay got the decisive goal. A kick down field was met on the full by a Hodson Bay midfielder and hit straight down the middle. It split the Portlaoise defence and was dispatched. Unfortunately, Portlaoise had no time to respond.
This was an excellent game by both sides. It had everything; post hit twice, cross bar hit, penalty missed, chances both ends, last ditch tackles and a great long range effort finding the top corner. A huge physical effort was put in by both teams over the 70 plus 20 minutes of extra time.
Every one of the 15 players in the Portlaoise squad today made telling contributions to keep up with an experienced Hodson Bay side. Moya Ramsbottom and the Hodson Bay centre forward had a number of very physical exchanges, but the Portlaoise centre back never shirked at tackle or challenge. Clodagh Booth and Katya Buckova worked tirelessly in the middle of the field. Sarah Vostinar made some excellent saves on her first outing in goal and cleared her lines well.
POM – Moya Ramsbottom
PORTLAOISE AFC: Ava Donovan, Layla McGonnell , Erin Kavanagh, Moya Ramsbottom, Leah Gibbons, Katya Buckova, Sarah Vostinar, Sarah Mousley, Lucy Keegan, Clodagh Booth, Hannah Scully, Emily Kelly, Rachel Kelly, Aoibhin Moran, Aoibhe Ging, Leah Brophy, Maisie Kerry