League Report: Shamrock Rovers 4 – 4 Athlone Town
Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
In a grandstand finish in Tallaght Stadium, Dana Scheriff's equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time secured the Athlone Town player the top scorer in the league and meant Shamrock Rovers missed out on runners up spot in the Women’s Premier Division on their return to the top level of the women’s game
The 4-4 draw was only the second time the Hoops had dropped points at home this season - crucially for their title ambitions their only loss was to champions Peamount United.
Having dropped out of the league in 2014, Rovers had joined the women’s underage leagues in the last few seasons before new Hoops Head Coach Collie O’Neill assembled an eye catching talented squad for their return to senior football.
The volume of players they signed from Shelbourne and Peamount United caught the headlines but the squad gelled very quickly to mount a title challenge even if they came up short of the Peas.
The Rovers average age in the starting lineup for the year was just 22.4 and the midseason signings suggest that O’Neill’s team will be title contenders again in 2014.
Nineteen-year-old Scarlett Herron and 17-year-old Joy Ralph, who came in during the summer, again showed their quality with Ralph scoring and providing three assists.
The Hoops rattled the cross bar through Jaime Thompson in the 24th minute but took the lead in slightly fortuitous fashion just before the half hour mark. It did involve a good passing move, as it often does with the Hoops, with Rovers recycling the ball well.
When it came into Ralph she took the ball in well with her back to goal before passing wide to Lia O’Leay on the left. Her centre seemed to catch Athlone Town goalkeeper out as the ball found the back of the net just below the crossbar.
Athlone Town, who will be back in this venue for the FAI Cup Final against Shelbourne next week, equalised five minutes after Rovers’ opener with a superbly taken goal from Madison Gibson.
She ran onto the ball from deep and pushed wide by Jessica Hennessy still managed to get a left foot shot away that flew across Amanda Budden and into the top corner of the goal.
The Hoops had the lead at half-time though after Ralph got on to Kayleigh Shine's loose touch in the box. The teenager took a touch and hit a low right foot shot into the back of the net by Katie Keane. The chance came after O'Leary popped up on the right and involved Hoops skipper O'Gorman in the move.
Eyes were on both O’Gorman and Athlone’s Dana Scheriff who both began the game on 11 goals topping the league’s goalscoring charts. Scheriff stung the hands of Hoops keeper Amanda Budden in the 14th minute with a fine turn and shot from the edge of the box but that was as close as either came to scoring in the first half.
O’Gorman started the match with 198 career goals in the League of Ireland but couldn’t add to that tally in the first half – a touch off her knee in the seventh minute her only clear cut chance in the opening 45.
The centurion Ireland international cracked one off the crossbar ten minutes into the second half just before O’Leary scored her second. Savannah McCarthy and Herron played the ball around on the left before O’Leary cut in and drove to the edge of the area before shooting home for 4-1.
Rovers’ fourth came on the hour mark from O’Gorman when Ralph’s touch allowed her to beat Keane and grab her 12th of the season and look to secure her top scorer and second spot for Rovers but Athlone Town put in a spirited comeback.
Scheriff scored soon after to draw level with O’Gorman in the goalscoring charts and to give her team a glimmer of a hope in the game reducing the deficit on Rovers to just two.
Eight minutes from time Ciarán Kilduff’s side grabbed another as Gibson’s corner came off McCarthy’s head for an OG to make the score 4-3.
Incredibly with the Hoops sitting second in the in-running table they conceded a 94th goal to Scheriff which meant they finished the season in third behind runners up Shelbourne.
The visitors will take confidence from the strength they showed in the second half to earn a point - finishing fifth in the league - with their thoughts will now turn very quickly to the upcoming FAI Cup final next weekend here in Dublin 24.
Shamrock Rovers: Amanda Budden; Jess Gargan, Jessica Hennessy (Abby Tuthill 90), Shauna Fox, Savannah McCarthy; Melissa O’Kane, Scarlett Herron (Aoife Kelly 67); Áine O’Gorman ©, Jaime Thompson (Maria Reynolds 83), Lia O’Leay; Joy Ralph (Stephanie Zambra 67)
Subs not used: Summer Lawless, Lauren Kelly, Alannah McEvoy, Orlaith O’Mahony, Tiegan Ruddy.
Athlone Town: Katie Keane; Kellie Brennan (Kate Slevin 64), Jesi Lynne Rossman, Kayleigh Shine, Shauna Brennan; Lauren Karabin (Gillian Keenan 85), Laurie Ryan; Roisin Molloy (Isabel Ryan 64), Chloe Singleton (Muireann Devaney 64), Madison Gibson; Dana Scheriff.
Subs not used: Antea Guvo, Katherine Hess, Lucy Jayne Grant, Mary Philips, Carly Wetzel
Referee: Aaron O’Dowd
Attendance: 500 (estimate)
extratime.com Player of the Match: Dana Scheriff (Athlone Town)