SHELBOURNE booked their second FAI Women’s Cup final in a row on Saturday as they saw off north Dublin rivals Bohs to book a place against Athlone Town.
Bohemians came into this game knowing that a win against their North Dublin rivals was essential if they were to win any silverware this season and they started well, creating a number of half chances for centre forward Erica Burke.
But with too many passes going astray, neither side managed to take control of the game until the 28th minute when Shelbourne broke the deadlock. Bohemians ace Niamh Prior fouled Abbie Larkin inside the visitors’ box and Noelle Murray rolled home the penalty to put Shelbourne into the lead.
Anne-Marie Byrne played well for Bohs having replaced Prior at half-time, and Larkin was a tireless presence in the Shels side but, in truth, neither side looked overly impressive in the second half.
This favoured the home side and the longer the game went without a decisive move by Bohemians the more certain it looked that it would be Shels’ day.
And so it proved. A free-kick from Bohs’ Lisa Murphy deep in added time may have caused some fluttering heartbeats among the home support as it dropped like whistling ordinance into the Shels area, but it was dealt with by the home defence and the final whistle sounded soon afterwards, sending Shelbourne into their second consecutive final.
Wexford will not be able to defend the Cup this year – having beaten Shelbourne in last year’s final – after they were undone, three times, by Maddison Gibson at Athlone Town Stadium.
For the first of her hat-trick, Gibson curled a magnificent shot into the far top corner of the Wexford goal. It was the type of goal that deserves to go viral.
Gibson led the line magnificently for the home side, chasing everything and never giving the Wexford defence a moment’s peace.
This was rewarded on the half hour when Gibson forced an error from Nicola Sinnott and Wexford keeper Maeve Williams, allowing her the chance to scoop the ball into an unguarded net.
Down by two at the break, Wexford made two changes, sending in Jess Lawler and Emma Walker but 15 minutes into the second half Gibson scored again, securing her hat-trick and ending any hopes Wexford had of turning the game around.
Again it was Muireann Devaney who created the chance, winning possession in midfield, but Gibson still had a lot to do, running 30 yards before floating the ball over Williams from the edge of the area.
And so Athlone march on to the final, the club’s first senior final since the men reached the FAI Cup final in 1924.
Caption: Noelle Murray (second from right) celebrates after scoring against Bohemians