SFAI U/16 National Cup
PORTLAOISE U/15 girls travelled to Donegal Town to play Drumbar in the round of 32 of the SFAI National Cup. Portlaoise, last year’s winners at U/14 are now playing the U/16 competition so every opponent is not just a step up in level but also a step up in age.
Drumbar have always had pedigree in girls’ soccer so it would be a big test, especially after the three and a half hour journey. That said, Portlaoise very quickly asserted themselves upon the hosts. Not having Ciara Breslin (hamstring) gave way to Leah Brennan and Keelin Moore to lead the front line, big shoes to fill with Breslin’s absence. Emma Francis singlehandedly took control of the midfield, always looking to bring Anna Keegan and Leah Brophy on the wings into the game.
Drumbar were under pressure yet kept Portlaoise at arm’s length and they were indeed dangerous on the counter. On 24 minutes Keelin Moore found space to blaze in a shot but the Drumbar keeper was good for it. On her kickout though, the ball was too low and hit Leah Brennan, who took one touch before chipping the out of position keeper.
A Drumbar corner saw keeper Doireann Brennan make an incredible save, testament to her development. The work ethic deserved the goal. Aoibheann Bourke was busy in centre mid and Sally Morgan began to influence the game more. Niamh Dundon, Emily Flynn and Holly Murphy were as solid as you could wish them to be. Maisie Kerry was now on for Moore. A free kick from 25 yards saw Holly Murphy score a beautiful goal, incredibly well taken.
Portlaoise were in control on starting the second half pushing for their third goal. Saoirse Carrol Connell was now on. Bourke was finding more space and the third Portlaoise goal was saw Maisie Kerry score with a excellent shot right of the 18 yard box up and over the Drumbar keeper.
Lily O’Meara arrived on the left wing, industrious as ever. Drumbar however weren’t done and Portlaoise energy levels were dropping fast. They scored to make it 1-3. Fresh legs were needed and on came Elizabeth O’Conner, Lucy Moran and Anna Keegan. It was exactly what was required.
The Drumber resurgence never really materialised and the girls in green got the job done with a very complete performance. Emma Francis put in a Rolls Royce of a performance and her partnership with Bourke and Morgan most definitely blossoming.