LORETO Balbriggan retained the Leinster Junior Division 1B title at Grange Road with a dramatic shoot-out win over St Columba’s after a wonderful six-goal contest in normal time.
The game got off to a cracking start with a strong attack from the Columba’s girls with Cilia Holdermann – a star for Corinthian’s first team this year – scoring the first goal in the first four minutes.
Loreto Balbriggan initially looked shocked to be chasing the game so early but they kept their composure and soon employed an effective close-marking job on the Whitechurch outfit’s midfield.
Daisy Pereira proved her athleticism in this game while still managing to stay in the game herself which was crucial. In response Loreto Balbriggan secured a short corner and went direct with the shot, captain Caoimhe McCann bringing the game to 1-1.
The game was a serious battle for each ball between the two sides, going tit-for-tat and end to end with nothing separating the teams.
There were several fast breaks from Columba’s putting Loreto’s defence under pressure with the support from both teams on the sideline roaring the girls on, adding to the tense atmosphere.
Another exchange of goals followed; Holdermann netted for Columba’s, Ella Moynihan equalised for a second time for 2-2 at half-time.
Columba’s went close on several occasions to retaking the lead for a third time in the second half but Balbriggan’s fantastic goalkeeper Aoife Gleason produced eight crucial saves. The confidence and composure by this 14-year-old was outstanding.
She is one of the many players still eligible to play on the junior school team next year. Grace Murray and Ella Markey, in alternatiing sweeper roles, made some superb interceptions.
Hannah Tighe’s reverse clearance up the line on the left showed to be an excellent tool with Aishing Patterson or Eva Murphy on the end of them. In the last five minutes, Loreto Balbriggan scored an excellent team goal, started by a clearance up the line by Erika Mitchell, setting up the 3-2 goal by Nicole Ford, assisted by Katie Lloyd.
They tried to shut out the tie in the closing minutes but Holdermann once again was unstoppable at times and she equalised with barely 100 seconds left for 3-3.
Loreto Balbriggan, however, held their nerve in the shoot-out with McCann, Patterson and Mitchell all scoring in the first three rounds while Columba’s could only get by the brilliant Gleason twice in five attempts.
Captain McCann said after the game: “Having Aoife in the goal relaxed everyone who was taking an eight-second shuttle; we knew we could trust her to hold off some of the other team’s shots.
“We had experienced shuttles in the semi final only four days before against St Raphaela’s, this also meant the players were used to the stressful situation.
“Eight seconds is longer than you think… that is what our coach kept reminding us!”