|27 March 2021||4:00 pm||LOI Women's Premier Division||2021|
Shelbourne edged a tight encounter against Athlone Town in terrible conditions in the midlands yesterday afternoon with a 2-0 victory for the visitors in the opening weekend of the SSE Airtricity Women's National League at Lissywollen Stadium.
The opening ten minutes featured a flurry of corners for Shels where Alex Kavanagh's delivery caused issues for the Athlone Town defence but when Saoirse Noonan's left foot volley fly wide of the post it allowed the Midlander's to get a breather and find their feet in the game.
It didn't take long for Athlone to create a goalscoring opportunity themselves. A long ball out of defence was added to by Muireann Devaney and Katelyn Keogh broke through the Shels defence only to see Amanda Budden save well, deflect her lobbed effort wide of the post. The resulting corner found it's way to Kellie Brennan who's powerful effort found the side netting of Budden's goal.
Great work from Emily Whelan set Jess Gargan free down the right hand side and her cross found Jamie Finn in acres of space in the Athlone box but Devaney managed to close the space and force her effort wide after 25 minutes of the clash.
Kayla Brady picked up a booking for a pull on the shirt of Emily Whelan. Alex Kavanagh's free kick found the head of Jessie Stapleton who couldn't get her header on target.
Former Ireland Women's manager Noel King, who was making his own Women's National League debut as Shelbourne boss, will have been happy with the performance of his side who had some lovely phases of play in the first half as they battled their way into the blustery wind.
Five minutes before half time, Emily Whelan managed to create another opportunity for Jamie Finn but her header couldn't find the target. Unmarked on the six yard box Finn will be disappointed not to have forced a save from Ronayne in the Athlone goal.
It wouldn't be the last scoring opportunity though as an inch perfect through ball from Rachel Graham cut open the Athlone defence as Emily Whelan got the better of Leah Brady, rounded the stranded Ronayne only for Brady to recover and stop her goal bound effort. Whelan's follow up shot was stopped by Ronayne who had also recovered.
That passage of play reflected the entire half as Shelbourne dominated but the work rate of a resolute Athlone Town side proved to be equal to the flowing football of the last season's league runners up. Athlone will have been the happier dressingroom at the interval.
Shelbourne started the second half as they finished the first on the attack. With the strong wind playing a massive effect. Jessie Stapleton got her head on a Kavanagh corner but it was cleared off the line by an Athlone Town defender.
Kavanagh's dead ball distribution was a continuous threat for Shels as she forced a save from Ronayne from a long range free straight in front of the goals. Ronayne gathered the ball at the second attempt.
On 52 minutes a great ball from full back Fiona Owens put Keogh into space and she whipped a cross into the Shelbourne box, attacking the cross Kellie Brennan ended up on the ground but the referee deemed the challenge from Jess Gargan to be okay and waved away the penalty shouts from the home side.
Shels finally made the breakthrough on 67 minutes as captain Pearl Slattery decided to take matters into her own hands. Rachel Graham tidied up a scrappy midfield period with a pass back to the centre half on the half way line.
Slattery pushed into the middle and her pass found Emily Whelan who played it back into the path of Slattery on the edge of the box. Her deft lobbed finish left Ronayne with no chance as it dropped just under the crossbar and nestled in the back of the Athlone net to lift the tension that had been building within the Shels side.
Athlone battled for the remainder of the game but the game was put beyond doubt when Emily Whelan burst into the box and managed to nick the ball before the momentum of Ronayne saw her catch the Shelbourne forward with her trailing arm to give away a spotkick.
Alex Kavanagh and Saoirse Noonan appeared to have a brief discussion about who would strike the penalty but it was the deadball expert Kavanagh who dispatched it despite Ronayne getting her hand to the ball.
The last decent effort of the game would fall to the home side and debutant Muireann Devaney who burst from midfield onto a dropping ball and powered an effort goal wards but wasn't able to unduly worry Budden in the Shelbourne goal.
Overall Emily Whelan, Alex Kavanagh and Jess Stapleton impressed for the victors while Muireann Devaney, Fiona Owens and despite a few nervous moments Ronayne in the Athlone Town goal were best for the home side.
Noel King will be happy with the result and the performances from his side as they get their season up and running. Tommy Hewitt will be happy with a much improved showing from an Athlone Town side who look far stronger than last season.
|Athlone Town Stadium|
|Athlone Town Stadium, Old Rail Trail, Garrycastle, Athlone East Rural Electoral Division, The Municipal District of Athlone — Moate, County Westmeath, Leinster, N37 N1F2, Ireland|