Eureka retain Leinster title

Story by Fergal Lynch

Wednesday, 29th February, 2012 4:52pm

Eureka retain Leinster title

Eureka's Joanna Byrne surges clear of Kathy McEvoy of Alexander College during Friday's FAI Leinster final at Leixlip.

Defending champions Eureka, Kells retained the FAI Schools Senior Girls Leinster Cup with a penalty shoot-out win over Alexandra College at Leixlip on Friday.

It's generally accepted that it is better to be lucky than good, but for the Meath girls both proved worthwhile as they clinched the title for the second year-in-a-row.

The good aspect of the Eureka success saw them wear down their opponents with a dominant first-half performance before eventually moving into a two-goal lead in the opening 10 minutes of the second-half.

However, the lucky part of the win came in the closing stages of normal time and in extra-time as they were pegged back by a determined Alexandra College side, Leinster champions in 2010, and had to hang on to force a penalty shoot-out.

There were also further elements of brilliance and good fortune in the penalty lottery as Jennifer Newman brilliantly saved twice before Shianne Swarres was fortunate to see her decisive kick rebound off the crossbar and the goalkeeper and into the net to secure the cup.

On the overall scheme of things Eureka were deserving of their win.

They were the more positive, constructive side throughout and it was only when Alexandra turned to substitute Caroline Healy that the Dubliners began to look threatening.

The talented Healy was ruled out from the start because of troublesome shin splints, but when she made an appearance at the three-quarter stage she made a telling impact and inspired the Alexandra College recovery.

Prior to Caroline Healy's arrival the Kells girls had looked very comfortable and should have been more than two goals to the good.

Niamh O'Keeffe and Joanna Byrne were immense at the centre of the Eureka defence and kept Alex's other danger player Emily Beatty quiet while in midfield Jackie Kavanagh and Swarres ensured plenty of possession for the Meath school.

Aine Bennett was a constant thorn as the lone front player, but she was rarely isolated in attack as Ciara Carry, Edwina Olwell, Leah Newman and Swarres also got forward at every opportunity.

However, despite dominating possession for the majority of the game Eureka struggled to trouble Caitlin Ni Mhaighin in the Milltown school's goals.

Byrne's dangerous corners proved to be Eureka's biggest threat, but they struggled to make them count and that gave Alexandra the belief to stay in touch.

In a dull, one-sided opening half Eureka dominated possession, but struggled to trouble Ni Mhaighin.

Bennett went close with a flicked header while Swarres was denied by an excellent tackle from Erica Hinkson. Byrne also had a chance from a 20-yard free, but she drove her effort straight at the defensive wall.

The most serious attack Alexandra could muster resulted in a 25-yard free kick which Juliette Beatty hit high and wide as the sides went in at the break scoreless.

However, after the resumption the tempo increased with Eureka on the front foot.

Within eight minutes of the restart Bennett forced a corner and from Byrne's delivery substitute Rebecca Goodwin nodded in from close range.

Two minutes later another substitute, Roisin McFadden doubled the Kells girls lead when her long-range effort deceived the Alexandra goalkeeper.

That lead should have been further stretched eight minutes later when Goodwin failed to finish in a goalmouth scramble and after the introduction of Caroline Healy, Alexandra came more into the game.

Just seven minutes after her arrival Caroline Healy forced Newman into an excellent save, but the rebound fell kindly for her sister Rachel to tap the ball to the net to halve the deficit.

Two minutes later Caroline Healy set up Emily Beatty, but her shot hit the side netting. Both sides had chances, but it was Alexandra who pressed hard for an equaliser and they were rewarded three minutes into injury-time.

A goalmouth scramble following a corner saw Sharon Mullen handle and the referee pointed to the spot. Caroline Healy converted the spot kick and the game went to extra-time.

The Alexandra game changer Caroline Healy was forced off with a recurrence of her injury for extra-time. She made a reappearance in the closing minutes of the added time and almost grabbed a winner, but Swarres brave block ensured penalties.

In the shoot-out Newman was the hero saving from Emily Beatty and Hinkson. Successful kicks from Byrne, O'Keeffe, Bennett and Swarres ensured Eureka retained their title and were crowned Leinster champions for the ninth time.

Eureka Kells - Jennifer Newman; Kelly Tormay, Sharon Mullen, Niamh O'Keeffe, Janna Byrne, Shianne Swarres, Edwina Olwell, Leah Newman, Jackie Kavanagh, Ciara Carry, Aine Bennett, Subs - Roisin McFadden for Mullen 27 mins, Rebecca Goodwin for Carry half-time, McFadden for Swarres 60m, Swarres for Goodwin 72m; extra-time - Goodwin for L Newman, Carry for Goodwin, Goodwin for Mullen; Aoife Brady, Cara Brady.

Alexandra College - C Ni Mhighain; R Healy, G Conway, S Gleeson, E Hinkson, K McEvoy, C Praga, J Beatty, A Cowhey, E Beatty, A Nugent. Subs - A Roopnerasing for Parga 35mins, C Healy for Nugent 60m, Parga for Roopnerasing 60m, Roopnerasing for McEvoy 68m, L McCollum for Parga 77m, McEvoy for C Healy 80m,; extra-time - C Healy for McEvoy, Parga for McCollum.

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