Athlone Town lifted their first ever FAI Women’s Cup Final with a penalty shoot out victory after an exhilarating 2-2 draw with Shelbourne at Tallaght Stadium this afternoon.
Both sides led as the momentum of the game swayed between the finalists as Athlone gained revenge for their defeat to the same opposition last season.
The first opportunity arrived for Athlone with just three minutes on the clock. A corner wasn’t dealt with by Shelbourne as it bounced around a few bodies before Jessie Rossman got her toe to it but couldn’t direct it goalwards and the defending champions cleared their lines.
Maddie Gibson almost opened the scoring for the Midlanders as she found herself with the freedom of Tallaght. The inch perfect pass from Laurie Ryan found the American but she took her shot too early and didn’t bother Amanda McQuillan in the Shel’s goal.
Athlone would eventually make the breakthrough and it all stemmed from great work down the right hand side as Kellie Brennan won the ball and found Scheriff who played a glorious pass out wide to Roisin Molloy. The cross was deflected goalwards by the left leg of Maiggie Pierce and as the ball rebounded of the upright Dana Scheriff was on hand to tap in her easiest goal of the season.
The emotions on either side of the clash threatened to boil over as Shelbourne were lucky not to be reduced to 10 players when first Megan Smyth Lynch pushed Roisin Molloy in retaliation for a poor challenge and saw just a yellow card before Canadian Christie Gray challenged her former team mate Katie Keane with her left knee finding the face of the young keeper as she slid for the ball.
Smyth-Lynch would be withdrawn in tears before half time with an injury which finished her involvement in the game as the defending cup winners found themselves a goal down at the break.
Both sides continued to impress through the second half and Katie Keane was counting her blessings as she dropped one cross but Noelle Murray was unable to capitalise and her looping effort dropped onto the top of the net.
Keane wouldn’t be so lucky quarter of an hour later when a routine catch once again found it’s way out of her grasp and Jemma Quinn made absolutely no mistake to level matters and sent the sizeable Shels contingent in the 3,526 strong crowd into raptures.
Maddie Gibson came close to restoring the lead on two occasions with two powerful efforts from just outside the box. The first clattered off the top of the crossbar with McQuillan beaten and moments later her attempt from almost the exact same spot went just past the near post as the Shels stopper appeared to have her angles covered.
Quinn would have one more attempt before the end of the second half. A great touch from a long ball saw her control the ball on the edge of the Athlone box. She found her range but an excellent full length dive from Keane saw the ball pushed out to safety.
Quinn would provide the breakthrough approaching half time in extra time when Pearl Slattery sneaked into the box and was beautifully picked out by Noelle Murray. Slattery laid the ball back to Quinn who picked her spot and found the net. Quinn’s celebration evoked memories of Brandi Chastain’s shirtless celebration after the USA’s maiden World Cup in 1999.
Her delight was short lived though as Athlone Town substitute Gillian Keenan got on the end of a Muireann Devaney centre with three minutes left on the clock. She duly dispatched the ball to the back of the net and it would take penalties to decide the destination of the cup.
Although Maddie Gibson saw her initial effort rebound to safety, two misses from Amanda McQuillan and Alex Kavanagh would send the Midlanders into raptures as they secured their first ever FAI Women’s Cup Final.