U17 Girls Connacht Cup away to Ballina Town

Our U17s lined out in their Connacht Cup 2nd round fixture against Ballina Town in Ballina on a rainy Saturday. This group of girls already knew the importance of  lining out in their first every Cup fixture but they were there to make a name for themselves and that they certainly did.  The nerves were evident but the passion and drive was even stronger as the starting 11 lined up on the pitch you could see the determination in their eyes. The girls played against the strong wind in the first half but you could barely tell from their excellent passing and superb shots on goal. 

Colemanstown’s girls started strong and were instantly on the attack with the midfield set up of Saoirse Moran, Leah Moran, Lauren Keary and Sinead McManus constantly feeding the ball to the starting forward two of Rachel Gannon and Saoirse Cooley. The girls constantly took their shots and just showed the immense power as they struck from the edge of the box only to edge over the bar. Leah Moran opened the scoring on 4 minutes as she sped down the left wing and ran straight for goal and struck for goal giving Colemanstown the lead only 4 mins into the game. The girls kept on the attack and with the defensive forces of keeper Nina Bujak and her defensive 4 of Lucy Kenny, Ruth Murphy, Shauna Hynes and Molly Fahey the girls up front were constantly fed brilliant through balls. Molly Fahey worked tirelessly down the left wing feeding fantastic balls to Leah Moran. The girls went on the attack again with a cross from Rachel Gannon floating in front of Leah Moran for a volley only for her to see her effort just go over the crossbar, the gasps were heard throughout the grounds. Ballina weren’t giving up though and their intensity grew as they found their feet and their fantastic no.14 who was on fire all day got the ball to her feet and was one on one with Nina but Nina wasn’t going to let it past her easily and with fantastic technique made her presence felt in the goal, spread her body and blocked the shot for it to roll out for a corner – easily the moment of the match for me. Shauna Hynes was absolutely outstanding in defence and she has to be acknowledged for the work she put in all day constantly putting pressure on what was a fantastic forward duo for Ballina.

The water break came and the girls were determined they needed another goal as they knew this talented Ballina team were growing in confidence.  The game resumed and the girls went on the attack again this time with a brilliant through ball from Lauren Keary to Rachel Gannon only for Rachel to be closed down. Lauren Keary must get a special mention as she covered every inch of the pitch working tirelessly to help her defence and to feed ball up front. Ballina went on the attack instantly and caught our girls on the hop as they instantly scored to make it 1-1 on the 25minute mark. Sinead McManus was phenomenal in midfield doing a lot of the dirty work in the middle of the field winning the ball to pass forward for the strike force and was constantly there as a back up for them when the support was required –  fantastic work Sinead. Captain Leah Moran was not giving up and was instantly on the attack again and another blinder from the edge of the box just scraped over the crossbar again for her. But she didn’t stop there she was on attack again after a great clearance by Lucy Kenny landed to Leah, she ‘keepy uppied’ it over her and her markers head, it landed to the feet of Rachel Gannon who fed a great through ball for the on running Leah Moran for another volley only to just go wide. A fantastic piece of play to end the first half. 1-1 half time. 

The girls regrouped and knew they had more in their tanks and they went out with all guns blazing. A new record was set for the girls as 20seconds into the half a brilliant ball by Molly Fahey landed to Leah Moran who powered the ball to the top of the net from the edge of the box. This seems to be Leah’s signature style.

But Ballina weren’t giving in – a through ball for a controversial offside was allowed giving our defenders no chance and Ballina equalised 5 minutes into the half. The defensive force of Saoirse Moran slotted back into right back while Niamh Kennedy came on into midfield and she didn’t spare a second to make an impact constantly on the ball, motivating her teammates and putting in the tackles. Niamh and Sinead McManus was a dream team in central midfield. A fantastic shot on goal by Saoirse Cooley was blocked by the keeper but it fell to the feet of Niamh Kennedy who cool as a breeze slotted it to the back of the net to make it 3-2 15 mins into the 2nd half. Rachel Gannon was absolutely superb all day up front and her superb crosses were a joy to watch. Ballina didn’t stop there and another quick clearance from them caught our girl’s off-guard and they equalised on the 17th minute of the 2nd half. 

The remainder of the half was tit for tat as each team went on the attack only to be closed down. Lucy Kenny and Ruth Murphy worked tirelessly in their central defensive roles all day and dug deep to make those clearances. Keva Hynes was introduced up front and her amazing footwork and stamina was fantastic to watch as she danced past the Ballina players. Niamh Kennedy had the last shot of normal time with it just slipping over the bar. A nail biting 40 minutes had come to an end and extra time was on the cards.

Extra time.
The girls went out strong once again and just 2 mins in and Rachel Gannon was straight in on goal only to be closed down by their defence. Lauren Keary showed yet another master class of footwork and gave a fantastic ball to Leah Moran who’s shot sped across the goal mouth and ran wide. Orna McNama was introduced and her fantastic athleticism was a joy to watch. It’s hard to believe this was only her 2nd ever match – well done Orna. 

Half time in extra time
The introduction of Sina Schwitalla created a fantastic burst of energy for the girls up front as she instantly put the work in and got stuck in , such a joy to watch. Another controversial offside created another goal for Ballina and Colemanstown’s young guns were absolutely heartbroken when the goal was allowed as it appeared they were all a little confused as to how it could be allowed. Their heads instantly dropped as there was only 1 minute left in extra time and Ballina ran in for another goal to add salt to the wound. The girls put up a fantastic fight all day and passionately spoke after how if they put that performance in during the league there’s nothing that should be able to stop them. Hopefully it can drive them on to prove a point. Lucy Kenny for her fantastic defensive efforts and Leah Moran for her teamwork and goal scoring were acknowledged after the game with certificates. A special mention must go a fantastic keeper in Nina Bujak who was a demanding force all day motivating her team, standing strong and closing down oncoming dangers. A true star and one to watch for the future.

Final score: Colemanstown 3- Ballina Town 5 (AET)

Match Report by Laura Parker

Squad as follows: Back row L-R: Rachel Gannon, Lauren Keary, Sinead McManus, Leah Moran, Nina Bujak, Lucy Kenny, Saoirse Cooley, Shauna Hynes, Keva Hynes.

Front row L-R: Ruth Murphy, Molly Fahey, Saoirse Moran, Orna McNama, Niamh Kennedy, Sina Schwitalla.

Missing from team photo: Eabha Rohan, Sinead Rohan , Ailish Molloy