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Monday, March 27, 2023

Heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat for St Attracta’s in All Ireland final

St Attracta’s suffered a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat in their FAI Schools All Ireland final against Scoil Mhuire of Buncrana at Gortakeegan in Monaghan on Monday afternoon.

he sides couldn’t be separated in 90 minutes, and extra-time passed by without either side getting an all important goal.

It came to penalties, and Scoil Mhuire’s Hollie Ferguson saved two penalties to see her side claim silverware.

St Attracta’s needed extra-time in their semi-final to see off Munster champions St Mary’s of Midleton, while Scoil Mhuire were 1-0 winners over Leinster champions Colaiste Phobal Ros Cré in their semi-final.

The two sides were well familiar with one another coming into this tie, with the Buncrana school winning the Under 17 schools All Ireland semi-final against St Attracta’s in Donegal town last year.

And, St Attracta’s Kerri O’Hara and Jessica Casey were coming up against their new Sligo Rovers team-mates, Keri and Jodie Loughrey.

The last meeting between this sides went to extra-time, and this game was equally as tight, although the Tubbercurry school shaded the early stages.

Hollie Ferguson in the Scoil Mhuire goals was kept on her toes in the opening minutes, but St Attracta’s were finding it difficult to find a way past Jodie Loughrey in the Scoil Mhuire defence.

A threatening cross from the left from Ellen Kelleher was well claimed by Ferguson, before the Scoil Mhuire goalkeeper was called into action again two minutes later to get in the way of Rebecca Doddy’s dangerous ball over the top.

Eimear Hunt in the St Attracta’s defence did well to dispossess Chloe Rutherford after she was played in by Niamh Harkin.

A super stop from Ferguson on 10 minutes denied St Attracta’s an opener, after Jessica Casey picked out Lauren Normanly with a fine through ball.

But, Normanly couldn’t steer her shot away from Ferguson, and minutes later Normanly was through on goal from Kelleher’s pass.

But, the touch was too heavy and Ferguson came off her line to make the save.

Eimear Hunt and Cara King were dealing well with everything that the Ulster champions threw their way, cutting out Keri Loughrey’s ball for Bria McGilloway on 22 minutes.

You got the feeling that Scoil Mhuire were yet to settle, and although not at their best for the opening 30 minutes, the Donegal side were still well in this game. 

Just before the half hour mark, a rare mistake from Ferguson handed Attracta’s an opportunity as the Scoil Mhuire ‘keeper failed to make the clearance.

Doddy was caught off guard, and couldn’t capitalise on the error, and luckily for Scoil Mhuire, Jodie Loughrey was on hand to eventually clear the danger.

The Connacht champions did have the ball in the net on 35 minutes, but the linesman’s flag was raised as the officials felt the ball had gone out of play before Kerri O’Hara hit it into the net on 35 minutes.

Scoil Mhuire were starting to find their feet as half-time approached, with Keri Loughrey really settling into the game and controlling everything her side did.

A mistake from Ciara Walsh allowed the Scoil Mhuire captain through, but a fine recovery from Walsh dispossessed Loughrey.

Heidi Gill’s shot over the top lacked the pace it needed to trouble Macayla Burke in the Attracta’s goals, before Ferguson did well down the other end to come off her line to claim Ellen Kelleher’s inviting cross from the left.

It was a tense affair, with both sides cautious in some regard.

Attracta’s had a penalty claim waved away just after the re-start when Eimear Hunt went down in the box, before Lauren Normanly smacked the crossbar from inside the box 11 minutes into the second-half.

Sienna Bradley tried to find McGilloway with a dangerous pass, but Burke again was wise to it and came off her line to save.

Ferguson then got her fingertips onto Kerri O’Hara’s brilliant effort to force it onto the crossbar.

Scoil Mhuire spurned several good opportunities in the second half, as both sides started to tire.

St Attracta’s defended for their lives for the final 20 minutes as the Donegal side started to apply serious pressure.

Macayla Burke was brave between the posts and was key to keeping St Attracta’s in the key towards the end.

Scoil Mhuire really should have gone ahead  three minutes into extra time as Keri Loughrey found McGilloway but Burke made herself big and saved the shot.

O’Hara dispossessed Ferguson on the goal-line before trying to cut inside, but Jodie Loughrey cleaned up again.

Burke did well to save Jodie Loughrey’s free, despite an awkward bounce, while Normanly and O’Hara forced saves from Ferguson as extra-time was coming to an end.

And so, this tie went to penalties.

Jodie Loughrey put her side ahead, with Kerri O’Hara levelling the score.

Keri Loughrey scored Scoil Mhuire’s second penalty, but Ellen Kelleher’s spot kick was saved.

Niamh Harkin’s penalty was saved by Burke, with Eimear Hunt scoring St Attracta’s next penalty to make it 2-2 after three each.

Leah Deehan scored her penalty, but Jessica Casey’s penalty was again saved by Ferguson.

And, when Ciara McGee scored her penalty to make it 4-2, it was game over, Scoil Mhuire claiming their first title at this level since 2003/04/

St Attracta’s: Macayla Burke, Eimear Hunt, Ciara Walsh, Leah Walsh, Cara King, Jessica Casey, Kerri O’Hara, Ellen Kelleher, Rebecca Doddy, Lauren Normanly, Amy McCarthy.

Scoil Mhuire: Hollie Ferguson, Alanna Graham, Ciara McGee, Leah Deehan, Jodie Loughrey, Heidi Gill, Bria McGilloway, Keri Loughrey, Chloe Rutherford, Niamh Harkin, Sienna Bradley (Cliona O’Donnell, 60).

Referee: Paul McGeown.

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