Shels beat City in opening day clash
IT WAS a disappointing start to the new Women’s National League season for Cork City at a sunny Tolka Park on Saturday against 2019 runners-up Shelbourne.
Supplementing a Pearl Slattery opener, Ciara Grant and Rebecca Cooke found the net to put an impressive Shels in the driving seat. Saoirse Noonan did pull a goal back for the Leesiders late on, but they ultimately fell short at the hands of the north Dubliners.
Despite living off a limited supply of possession, the visitors were generally comfortable in their defensive shape. That was until Shels struck a cruel blow in the 12th minute.
Rising high to meet a set-piece delivery on the right flank, Slattery headed beyond the reach of Cork skipper Maria O’Sullivan. The hosts were expected to push on from this point and, while Sophie Liston had a goal-bound strike blocked just shy of the half-hour mark, it was the closest Cork came to finding the net in the opening period.
Down at the opposite end, Shels right-back Cooke was desperately unlucky to see a brace of efforts rebounding off the woodwork. At 1-0, City remained within touching distance of a positive result.
Unfortunately, they were hit with another sucker punch in first half stoppage time when Ciara Grant (best known for her exploits with the Donegal ladies footballers) nodded home Alex Kavanagh’s cross.
City midfielder Becky Cassin produced a fine save out of Rachael Kelly on the resumption, but the outcome was placed beyond doubt courtesy of Cooke’s looped finish on 50 minutes. Lauren Singleton and Nadine Seward were subsequently introduced for City, and Kelly scrambled to save a header from the latter on the hour.
With Noonan switching to a lone striker role, Cork threatened more in the final third during the closing-quarter. Christina Dring was denied by a low save from Kelly and substitute Lauren Egbuloniu was narrowly squeezed out by the Shels defence off an ensuing attack.
Noonan coolly slotted a penalty past Kelly with a minute of normal time remaining – after Dring had been fouled inside the area – and City can take some encouragement into Sunday’s home encounter with champions Peamount United.
SHELBOURNE: Rachael Kelly; Rebecca Cooke (Jess Gleeson 69), Pearl Slattery, Rachel Graham (Jess Gargan 69), Isibeal Atkinson; Jamie Finn, Ciara Grant, Alex Kavanagh (Mia Dodd 79); Jessica Ziu, Emily Whelan, Kate Mooney (Ella O’Connell 90).
CORK CITY: Maria O’Sullivan; Zara Foley, Ciara McNamara, Danielle Burke, Nathalie O’Brien (Lauren Singleton 54); Eabha O’Mahony, Becky Cassin (Kate O’Donovan 85); Sophie Liston (Lauren Egbuloniu 73), Saoirse Noonan, Eadaoin Lyons (Nadine Seward 54); Christina Dring.
Referee: Paula Brady (Dublin).