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Soccer: Bríde battle to within whisker

COLÁISTE BRÍDE dramatically lost out in their first ever FAIS National First Year Girls final, but they will come back stronger next year.

That is the view of team manager John O'Shea, who guided the school to the brink of All-Ireland glory in only their second season in the competition.

Bríde went into last week's national decider with local side Blackwater Community School in Waterford looking to add to two Leinster titles won at different age groups already this season.

In a tight first-half it was Blackwater who went closest to taking the lead when they cannoned a free kick off the crossbar, but defender Annie Stafford in particular made sure they got no further.

Stafford led by example with a courageous opening-period display as Bríde lived off counter attacks.

Rita Davitt cut in from the right and threatened with a shot early in the second half as the Wexford school began to take control.

Despite their growing confidence, goalkeeper Tamara Furlong was called into action in dramatic fashion.

Furlong did well to tip a dangerous close-range shot on to her own crossbar, before showing cat-like reflexes to retrieve the rebound as it looked like falling at a rival player's feet.

Scoreless at full-time, the game went into extra-time, where the Leinster champions should have won out.

Niamh Cloke-Rochford's ability from a dead ball had been key to Bríde's progression this far and she went close five minutes from the end with another great effort from a free kick.

Minutes later the same player and Rita Fortune went agonisingly close to winning the game for their side from a corner.

The latter saw her goalbound shot deflected wide from a corner after Cloke-Rochford's original header from the set piece came back off the crossbar.

Blackwater's luck brought them to penalties, where they came out on top thanks to their goalkeeper, but Bríde are only taking the positives from the game.

"It has been a brilliant season despite the loss because this is still only our second season in the competition and we have gained some crucial experience," said manager O'Shea.

"To win a Leinster title, get some national experience and hold our own even in defeat is something we will look to consolidate on now.

"This group are going to go on in the coming years and represent the school and the future bodes well. The under-14 girls will step up to under-16s and these girls will go up to under-14s with two Leinster titles won between them. We are making great strides in soccer and the important thing is that we build on this year in the coming years.

"It was great to see that we had two bus loads of supporters down at the national final and they showed great support for the girls. The entire school is so proud of the team and hopefully a lot more students will start playing the game and it can expand even more.

"We had an awards night on Tuesday night and the exposure the success has given the school in the local area can only be good for us in the long term."

COLáISTE BRíDE: Tamara Furlong, Ellen Gahan, Niamh Cloke-Rochford, Shannon Somers, Clodagh Coughlan, Mary Tyrell, Annie Stafford, Rita Fortune, Shauna Klince (Aisling Byrne 75), Rita Davitt, Amy Banville. Sub: Aisling Byrne for Klince 75. Subs not used: Bridin Doyle, Dervla McCabe.