All-Ireland heartbreak for brave Ramsgrange
HAVING PRODUCED great displays to win the Leinster final and the All-Ireland semi-final, Ramsgrange Community School came up against a strong St. Brendan's side from Belmullet, Co. Mayo, in the F.A.I. All-Ireland Senior Girls' 'B' soccer final in Athlone I.T. on Wednesday last.
Ramsgrange had brought four busloads of supporters to cheer on the girls in their first All-Ireland final, and the first decider for the school. Excitement was rife in the area before the game. The school was inundated with good wishes from local businesses and the local community from primary schools to soccer clubs and from past students and past and present teachers alike.
The game started with a fast pace and Belmullet came out of the blocks the quickest, scoring an early goal two minutes into the match. The Ramsgrange girls didn't panic however, and steadily played their way back into the game.
Shannon Doyle and Fiona Rowe were active up front early on, but a solid St. Brendan's defence put paid to their early efforts. After 25 minutes St. Brendan's played a pass in behind the defence to put their centre-forward one-on-one with the Ramsgrange 'keeper, Kathryn Whelan.
Despite a strong suspicion of offside, the St. Brendan's striker kept her cool and slid the ball into the bottom corner of the net. It was backs to the wall now for Ramsgrange who badly needed a goal to get back into the match. It took five minutes for a response when the ball was played through to Shannon Doyle who struck a lovely shot from 20 yards which sailed into the roof of the net.
The second-half started as the first had finished with both teams evenly matched and battling for possession in the middle of the pitch. Despite the best efforts of Sinéad Rowe, Róisín Murphy and Eimear Mullan in midfield, a strong St. Brendan's defence stopped balls being played through to the strike partnership of Shannon Doyle and Fiona Rowe.
Tara Walsh also ran up and down the line all day with no joy as St. Brendan's fought hard to maintain their one-goal cushion. When they did break up the pitch a strong Ramsgrange defence of Noirín McMahon, Amy Butler, Siobhán Rowe and captain Elaine Whelan kept them at bay.
With 15 minutes to go Danielle Odham came on to replace Tara Walsh who had put in a massive effort. Five minutes later Lydia Hickey came on to replace the tiring Amy Butler who had also given it her all. The fresh legs seemed to liven up the match for Ramsgrange and they threw the Kitchen sink at the St. Brendan's defence for the final five minutes.
The St. Brendan's defence stayed strong and dealt with all that Ramsgrange could throw at them. Into added time Ramsgrange got one last chance. Sineád Rowe played a lovely ball into the box from a free-kick which was met with a powerful header from Shannon Doyle. Unfortunately for Ramsgrange, the St. Brendan's 'keeper was in the right place and gathered the ball which ensured that their one-goal lead stayed intact until the full-time whistle.
While Ramsgrange were very disappointed to lose such a tight and enthralling match, the girls did their school proud. They played out of their skin in every game up to and including the final and they left Athlone with their heads held high.
A mention must be given to Ramsgrange's managers, Barry Molloy and William Gillard, for their time and dedication in coaching the team to its successes this season. Without them the girls' success would not have been possible.