Latest Laois Sport: National Cup Glory for Portlaoise AFC
Laois side wins National Cup with stylish display
U14 Girls SFAI National Cup Final
Portlaoise 2-0 Greystones
After a long campaign starting last October with some memorable triumphs along the way SFAI Cup Final day was eagerly awaited by the Portlaoise U14 Girls team. They and their large group of travelling supporters arrived at the AUL Grounds in Dublin in good form and good voice.
Their opponents on the day, Greystones, had their own story which also included some excellent results including a heavy 6-1 defeat of Killavilla in their semi-final. So, the Portlaoise management and team were in no doubts that they had the biggest test of their season in front of them when they lined.
Portlaoise lined up in their now familiar 3-4-3 formation, with the ever cool, calm and collected Doireann Brennan as the last line of defence. Her defenders Holly Murphy, Emily Flynn and Niamh Dundon have become a great unit as the season has progressed and that defensive strength has been the foundation of several clean sheets on the way to the final. A midfield pairing of Leah Brennan and Emma Francis have been ably supported all year by Aoibheann Bourke and Leah Brophy on the wings. The front 3 for Ciara Breslin, Maisie Kerry and Sally Morgan have provided Portlaoise with a steady supply of goals throughout the season, given the right supply.
Greystones took kick off and quickly moved on the attack with a long ball launched forward resulting in a goal kick. Niamh Dundon took the goal kick and the game started to settle down. The opening 20 minutes were very even with neither side creating any clear-cut chances. However, Portlaoise looked like the more dangerous team, with Greystones unable to muster any clear sight of goal. Ciara Breslin was fouled just out side the box. The resulting free kick hit the wall, but broke to Breslin who finished neatly, but was unfortunately pulled back for offside.
The Portlaoise attack continued to hound the Greystones defence making sure that every clearance made was under pressure. This resulted in a lot of territorial advantage for Portlaoise. Play moved down the other end with Greystones winning a free kick from a dangerous position just outside the box. The freekick found a gap in the wall but was hit straight at Doireann Brennan for an easy save.
Strength in depth has been a hallmark of this team all season long and so it proved once again. The introduction of Saoirse Connell-Carroll, Anna Keegan after 20 minutes of the first half gave the team a bit more of an attacking edge. The breakthrough when it came was not a surprise to the Portlaoise team and management. An excellent through ball from Niamh Dundon allowed Ciara Breslin to get free of the Greystones defence. A wicked bounce on the hard ground meant that Breslin still had a lot to do, but she managed to keep her cool as she has done on so many occasions this season. She slipped the ball past the outrushing keeper and had luxury of wheeling away to celebrate as the ball crossed the line. The roar from the Portlaoise fans would do credit to any cup final.
Portlaoise continued to press with the front three linking up well on a few occasions. Sally Morgan was very unlucky just to be closed out by desperate Greystones defending when she tried to get a shot away. Maisie Kerry’s hard direct running, skill and passing meant that the Greystones defence always looked one mistake or slip away from conceding a second. She was very unlucky with a header from a right wing cross that skimmed the Greystones crossbar.
A 1-0 half time score line was the least that Portlaoise deserved. The rotation continued with Keelin Moore and Elizabeth O’Connor coming into the action. The pattern from the first half continued. The Portlaoise defence was clearly on top with Greystones struggling to mount an attack. Captain Holly Murphy was calm and composed and ensured that good ball was played out from the back when the opportunity presented itself. Niamh Dundon and Emily Flynn had their opposing numbers well marshalled.
The tough windy conditions meant that the game broke up a bit with a lot of ball being put out of play. This allowed Greystones to get a foothold in the game and resulted in their best spell of the match. They started to get on top in the middle of the field with their key players getting more time on the ball. This allowed them to get on the front foot but barring a couple of free kicks that were well dealt with, they got no nearer to a goal.
Just as Portlaoise looked to be flagging a little they got back on the front foot and put the game to bed. A ball from halfway by Niamh Dundon to the edge of the penalty area was touched on by Ciara Breslin to Maisie Kerry. She had been unlucky with a couple of chances in the first half, but having rotated back on, she made no mistake in putting Portlaoise 2-0 up. A clinical finish finished in the bottom left-hand corner. All the Greystones keeper could do was watch it nestle in the back of the net.
With 10 minutes to go the game had real cup final atmosphere that was really added to thanks to a large travelling support from both teams. However, it was clear there was only going to be one winner.
Greystones continued to press, but with increasing desperation, and were unable to unlock the Portlaoise defence. The final act in the game was a Portlaoise attack that didn’t end in a goal, but it did end with a huge roar of celebration as the final whistle sounded.
Every member of the squad has contributed in the run to this cup final and the way they all celebrated shows how tight this group has become over the season. It was an excellent all round performance today and despite
Portlaoise are U14 Girls SFAI Cup Champions for 2022!
Portlaoise Squad – Doireann Brennan, Niamh Dundon, Holly Murphy, Emily Flynn, Aoibheann Bourke, Sally Morgan, Emma Francis, Leah Brennan, Leah Brophy, Keelin Moore, Saoirse Connell Carrol, Ava Donovan, Anna Keegan, Ciara Breslin, Maisie Kerry, Moya Ramsbottom, Lucy Moran, Aoibheann Moran, Emily Bawa, Elizabeth O’Conner, Lily O’Meara, Layla McGonnell