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St. Nathy’s are Connacht Champions

ST NATHY’S V CALASANCTIUS COLLEGE:
 
On the 17th of May, in glorious sunshine, St Nathy’s took on Oranmore School, Calasanctius College, in the U15 Girls Division Two Final. The venue was the salubrious Athlone Town stadium and kick off was set for 10.45.
St. Nathy’s started nervously and the south Galway school dominated proceedings, looking particularly dangerous in the attacking third of the pitch. As early as the third minute, St. Nathy’s had a let off, when a powerful shot by Calasantious’ left winger, beat our goalkeeper, but cannoned back into play off the far upright.
Gradually, however, St. Nathy’s grew into the game as our mid-field trio began to dominate proceedings and a number of half-chances were created, without unduly troubling the Galway goals.It was therefore, somewhat against the run of play, when Calasanctius College took the lead mid-way through the first half. A long, hopeful ball out of their defence was allowed to bounce unchallenged into the St. Nathy’s penalty area, where the very dangerous number nine, managed to get behind our defence and calmly place the ball beyond  St.Nathy’s custodian, Meabh Lavin.
To their credit, our girls never let their heads drop and buoyed on by a small, but vociferous group of supporters, who sang and chanted encouragement non-stop from start to finish, we dominated proceedings for the remainder of the half. Tori Duffy could consider herself very unlucky not to have equalised six minutes before half time, when her close range finish, after a sweeping St. Nathy’s move, was belatedly ruled out for off-side. As the half-time whistle blew, we all trotted into the dressing room, to regroup for the second half
The dressing room was very calm and positive during the half-time discussion. The calmness came with the assurance that we had been in this position before ‚Äď as recently as the semi-final a week previously. The positivity came from our improved performance as the half wore on. Coaches, Mr. Creaton and Mr. Nealon offered some advice and words of encouragement on how the team could improve further and the senior players also had their say. The girls ran out for the second half with a renewed sense of determination.
This determination manifested itself by camping in the Galway school’s half for the opening minutes of the second half. But they were a well drilled outfit and clear-cut chances were at a premium. As the early momentum wore off, with no reward, the joint coaches were considering changes. However, ten minutes into the second half, we got our just reward for all hard work. Saerlaith Dillon played a fine ball down the right channel and Tori latched onto it. Her power and pace took her beyond the Galway school’s defence; however her run took her wide making the angle for a shot difficult. Undeterred, our number nine, unleashed a rocket of a shot into the top right hand corner of the net. Cue joyous celebrations on the pitch and in the stands. A goal worthy of both the final and the surroundings.
The game became a cagey affair after that as the players became more cautious and tired a little in the intense heat. Nathy’s finished the stronger, but could not get that second, vital break-through and the final whistle blew indicating twenty minutes of extra time to be played.
This also proved to be a cautious affair as both teams knew the next goal would be decisive. There were still chances at both ends; Katelin Donavan fired just over the bar from inside the box and at the other end, Meabh made a stunning point blank save to keep us level, right at the death. The final whistle blew and the dreaded penalty shoot-out loomed.
Two weeks previously when staying back after school, we had practiced taking penalties for just such an eventuality. Centre-back, Aicha Bouhouch had proved particularly adept at converting them and this had stuck in the back of Mr.Creaton’s mind. With two minutes of extra-time remaining, Aicha was introduced to the action, with the penalty shoot-out in mind. Tori would have been another obvious candidate, but an injury had forced her off.
So the five brave girls were selected and they were, Aoibhinn Conway ‚Äď who got out of her sick bed to play the entire game, Saerlaith, Mila Clancy, Aicha and joint-captain, Siofra Haran. Our other joint-captain, Meabh faced the opposition penalties and what a heroine she turned out to be! Oranmore went first and Meabh got a powerful hand to the ball to turn it away. Up stepped Aoibhinn and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net- the perfect start! Things got even better, as Meabh made another splendid save from the second penalty and Mila successfully converted hers. Oranmore had their first success with their third penalty and Saerlaith was desperately unlucky when her shot beat the keeper, but hit the post. 2-1 now and the nerves were jangling again. Meabh helped to settle these nerves with remarkably her third save in four attempts. Now if we converted our next penalty we were Connaught Champions. Who should that responsibility fall to? ¬†Fate had decided it would be Aicha and up she stepped, as cool as cucumber, to plant the ball firmly in the bottom corner of the net and spark wild celebrations from players and supporters alike!
This group of girls have now gone unbeaten over two seasons and have won all of their eleven competitive games during that period. Their coaches are hugely proud of all they have achieved while representing the school.
 
A special thanks to Johnny Grennan Roofing also for his continued and vital sponsorship of the team. Also, to Willowbrook Glamping for their sponsorship of our first year and u17 teams this year.
 
 
 
 
 

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