As the dust somewhat settles on last Sunday mornings game in the MSL u12 Shield Final we can now reflect on what was another historic day for our sister club RFA Swans on the pitch. The Swans players, coaching staff, a crew of parents and supporters all descended on Willow Park FC in Athlone. The hospitality was second to none and the playing surface like the Aviva in pristine condition. Swans were up against Portlaoise, who we have played on a number of occasions this season both in competitive and non competitive games.
The game started brightly, with a quick tempo and an atmosphere of nervousness in the air. In the opening exchanges both teams struggled to get the ball down and the main form of attack was a direct ball over the top. This was actually causing both sides a few problems. Mid way trough the first half Swans got their first passing move going when Ava Cummins found captain Ciara Purcell who in turn found Abigail Molly, Abigail's shot just flew past the post. Portlaoise responded with a few chances of their own but Swans Keeper Rachel Flood stud firm. Katie Tully , Emily Pierce and Emily Mc Sherry were all working well and getting some vital interceptions and tackles in as the half developed and Portlaoise began to get a foothold in the game. However towards the end of the first half a fantastic block by Emma Manning who was just after being introduced as a change in the Swans defence saw the ball land to Purcell who slid a quality pass to Grace Daly. Grace's first touch was excellent as she headed towards the Portlaoise goal but her shot just went past the outside of the post. Portlaoise then played another pin point pass over the top of the Swans defence to their on rushing striker. Rachel Flood dashed from her goal to put pressure on, and thankfully the Portlaoise shot having trickled past Rachel's foot found the foot of the post. Half Time 0-0
The second half got under way in more or less the same fashion that the first had ended. It was increasingly looking like the one goal was going to win the shield for either side. Swans began to play with a bit more composure and started to get the ball on the ground and string some passes together. Portlaoise made a number of changes and it was soon after this that one of the players introduced took the game into her own hands. She picked the ball up in midfield and dribbled at and through the swans defence with blistering pace to find the bottom corner of the Swans net giving the girls from Portlaoise a huge boost and grip on the title. The Swans girls needed a response and as mentioned previously the change in approach soon paid off. Emily Mc Sherry out wide found Abigail Molloy, who passed infield to the skipper Purcell who played a ball over the advancing Portlaoise defender. Livewire Grace Daly raced on the ball and with the Portlaoise keeper advancing from her line Daly expertly lifted the ball over and out of the reach of the keeper into the net. 1-1 and scenes of celebrations on and off the pitch. The girls celebrated the equaliser with each other in great fashion. Coach Steve Cummins who is a lifelong Everton fan that has being clearly watching too much Liverpool this season raced down the like Jurgen Klopp fist pumping and embracing his fellow coach Ed Purcell.
With the score now level the last ten minutes were going to be a crucial. Again just like a boxing match both teams exchanged blows in terms of decent attacks and shots on goal. Our girls have had many battles this season and over the past few weeks have had a number of very competitive games in which they had to dig very deep. The game looked like it was heading for extra time until up popped goal machine Abigail Molloy . After some great work and a serious of passes on the right hand side of the pitch , Abigail picked up the ball, dribbled past two players before releasing that rocket of a shot at the Portlaoise goal. The keeper did get a hand to the shot but thankfully it was too hot for her to keep out. Heartbreak for Portlaoise, but unbelievable joy for the Swans as the ref blew the final whistle. History makers, Champs, and unbelievable celebrations. We at both the academy and our girls sister club RFA Swans pride ourselves on sportsmanship, respect and integrity. Our post match celebrations were put on hold until we shook hands and thanked our wonderful competitors and their coaching staff for an amazing game of football. We have build up a great relationship with Dave McCall and his Portlaoise side this season. As Steve eluded to in his post match comments, all the games between both sides are always heartstoppers and I'm sure we will have many more of them next season.
For our Swans Girls, coaches and parents we would like to congratulate you all on an amazing season. Steve Cummins and Ed Purcell have being brilliant all season long, friends, mentors, and quality coaches to the girls. We hope to see this side continue to grow and improve and most importantly continue to enjoy their football.
Swans Squad in Full. Rachel Flood, Emily McSherry, Ava Cummins, Katie Tully, Emma Manning, Zara Corroon, Ciara Purcell, Abigail Molloy, Grace Daly, Emily Farrell, Emily Pierce, Amy Leavy , Caitlin Reddin (u11s)