McCarthy leaves it late for Wilton
A DRAMATIC 84th minute finish from Shaunagh McCarthy helped Wilton United to overcome the stubborn challenge of Whitehall Rangers at Home Farm FC yesterday afternoon and claim the FAI Women’s Intermediate Cup for the third time in their history.
With clear-cut opportunities proving to be few and far between throughout, the prospect of extra-time loomed large in the north Dublin venue. However, when McCarthy was picked out in an advanced position, she fired beyond the reach of Whitehall netminder Grace McAuley Ryan to swing the tie in Wilton’s favour.
Although their Metropolitan counterparts were playing close to their home patch, Wilton never allowed the occasion to get the better of them. Player of the match Laura Lynch offered considerable protection to the back three of Deirdre Callanan, Zoe Murphy, and Eimear Roantree, while the experienced Barbara O’Connell linked up effectively with Lauren Murphy in central midfield.
Slightly tentative during the early exchanges, Wilton became more of a threat in the final third. When the lively McCarthy was released in space on the left wing, she was presented with a clear run into the Whitehall half.
Her eventual shot drifted past the far post, though it did serve as a signal of their attacking intent. Wilton’s quest for a breakthrough continued into the latter stages of the half – and they were close to unlocking the Rangers defence in stoppage-time.
Susan McCarthy (the captain of the side in her final game for the club) moved the ball out wide towards Shaunagh McCarthy, but she was once again off-target at an awkward left-hand angle.
With so much at stake on the day, Wilton manager Pat Bowdren decided that reinforcements were required heading into a crucial second half. Roisin O’Connell and Michelle Browne entered the fray for Amy Bowdren (niece of Pat) and Lauren Murphy, respectively, and with the acton becoming more frantic, cool heads were required at both ends of the pitch.
Lynch continued to take the game by the scruff of the neck, cutting off the supply line to the Whitehall front-line at every available opportunity. The lively Charlene Graham kept Wilton custodian Allie Ashley on her toes with a curling free-kick, but she cut an isolated figure as the half progressed.
Whitehall defended heroically at times, though, and they denied space to Roisin O’Connell and Browne inside the area on a couple of occasions. Indeed, in spite of the pressure that Wilton were exerting on them, John Morgan’s side looked set to hold out.
They didn’t count on the intervention of Shaunagh McCarthy as she conjured up a goal that will live long in the memory of Wilton’s loyal supporter base. Whereas most players would have passed up an opportunity to shot from a distance of 30m on the right flank, the tireless McCarthy had something else in mind.
The flight of her left-footed drive completely deceived Ryan and drifted spectacularly into the back of the net with just six minutes remaining.
McCarthy was close to doubling her side’s advantage on 87 minutes, only for Ryan to spare Whitehall’s blushes with a point-blank stop. This signalled a late push for an equaliser, but Wilton held firm to record a magnificent triumph.
WILTON UNITED: Allie Ashley; Deirdre Callanan, Zoe Murphy, Eimear Roantree; Laura Lynch; Amy Bowdren (Roisin O’Connell 46), Barbara O’Connell, Lauren Murphy (Michelle Browne 46), Shaunagh McCarthy (Jenny Coughlan 89); Susan McCarthy (Catherine Cooke 69), Erica O’Sullivan.
WHITEHALL RANGERS: Grace McAuley Ryan; Natasha Graham, Amy Henry, Jennifer Kett (Sinead O’Kelly 86), Niamh O’Doherty; Aileen O’Brien, Rachel McLoughlin, Rosie Doyle (Michelle McCain 61), Helen Cooney (Ann Marie Keegan 56); Michelle Walls (Debbie Burnett 46), Charlene Graham.
Referee: Claire Purcell.