Sunday 24 March 2019

Town dig deep to collect title

New Ross Town 2 Tombrack United 1 (AET)

Jenny Delaney receiving the trophy from league Chairman Daire Doyle
Jenny Delaney receiving the trophy from league Chairman Daire Doyle

Brian Carty

It looked only a matter of time before Tombrack United would find the net against a tiring New Ross Town outfit.

While both sides had expended enormous amounts of energy in a keenly-contested Nolan Health and Fitness Cup final at the Moyne Rangers ground, it appeared that United had more left in the stamina tank as the clock ticked closer to extra-time.

New Ross were dead on their feet but were still repelling everything that was thrown at them, with each block greeted by encouragement from the sideline. And the instruction from their mentors ahead of the extra period was clear: 'dig deep girls'.

But instead of the expectant onslaught from Tombrack, New Ross somehow managed to find a second wind, and ultimately goals from Jenny Canning and Lina Smitaite saw them take home the silverware in dramatic circumstances.

The watertight nature of the game had extended into extra-time until a ball into space from the hard-working Lina Smitaite on 97 minutes set Canning clear, and she had the presence of mind to lob outrushing Tombrack goalkeeper Aishling Kavanagh for a precious goal.

And they doubled their lead four minutes after the interval when Smitaite nodded home from close-range from Sandra Murphy's in-swinging corner.

It was a case of hanging on to what they had thereafter, although they were made sweat when Tombrack were awarded a sympathetic penalty which Shannon McGovern crashed home off the underside of the crossbar.

Tombrack also fashioned one last chance to force a penalty shoot-out, but the influential Sarah Merrigan had a shot well contained by Ross captain Jenny Delaney much to the delight of her loyal band of followers.

That action-packed conclusion was preceded by a largely mundane regulation time, with both teams displaying plenty of heart without any real semblance of attacking quality.

Tombrack were perhaps the more inventive of the two, and managed more shots on target throughout the day, with their best chance arriving a minute shy of half-time when Mary Boland was denied at the near post by Delaney.

Indeed, Boland and Merrigan were central to most of United's most positive passages of play, although in Rebecca Caulfield they found an opponent in defiant mood.

In fact, Caulfield engineered a vital last-ditch sliding tackle to prevent Boland from finding the net 20 minutes from time, and she always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

Her colleague, Sandra Murphy, ceaselessly ran the hard yards up front for the victors throughout, and she twice forced Aisling Kavanagh into strong saves just before the entertainment reached fever-pitch.

New Ross Town: Jenny Delaney (capt.); Amy Lawlor, Rebecca Caulfield, Bríd McGrath; Leah Arnold, Jenny O'Keeffe, Zoe Rossiter, Lina Smitaite, Lauren Rossiter; Sandra Murphy, Jenny Canning. Subs. - Denise Malone for Arnold (HT), Nikki Kelly for Smitaite (107).

Tombrack United: Asling Kavanagh; Mary Martin, Tia Byrne, Eimear Whelan, Breda Cushen; Mary Boland (capt.), Sarah Merrigan, Kelli Maguire, Shannon McGovern; Ciara Ryan, Amie Walsh. Subs. - Leanne Kenny for Walsh (61), Shauna McGovern for Ryan (95).

Referee: Noel O'Connor.

New Ross Standard