All-Island Cup report: Shamrock Rovers 4 – 0 DLR Waves

Joy Ralph, pictured playing in draw with Shels last week, scored Rovers' first goal in win over DLR Waves

Joy Ralph, pictured playing in draw with Shels last week, scored Rovers' first goal in win over DLR Waves Credit: Matthew Lysaght (ETPhotos)

Christine Allen reports from Tallaght Stadium

Shamrock Rovers motored past DLR Waves in Group C of the Avenir Sports All-Island Cup with an emphatic 4-0 victory to secure their first win across all competitions this year. 

The pitch at Tallaght Stadium looked as plush as a luxury carpet under the beating heat of the sun as the sides sauntered onto the turf to the backdrop of The Foundations’ ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ - both sets of players watched closely by senior women’s international manager Eileen Gleeson, who observed from under the shade of the West Stand.

Collie O'Neill's side made one change to the starting XI that controlled the game at Tolka Park last week with Jaime Thompson replacing Shauna Fox. Meanwhile DLR waves head coach Laura Heffernan brought in Rugile Auskalnyte, Eve O’Brien and Bronagh Kane for Eve Badana, the injured Neema Nyangasi and Aisling Meehan. 

The Hoops pressed hard in the opening minutes, fuelled perhaps by manager Collie O’Neill’s public declaration that this game was a “must win”, following a frustrating six week spell in one point purgatory.

Thompson’s fluency on the ball made an immediate impact in the opening minutes for the home side. The Clonee native sliced DLR Waves open, her quick feet playing a key role in the build up to the Rovers opener. 

In the fifth minute, Thompson surfed over the Waves backline, with March Player of the Month Joy Ralph springing as if breaking through water for a breath of air and heading Lia O’Learys one touch cross up and over the DLR waves net minder to make it 1-0 to the Hoops.

Minutes later, Michelle Doonan threatened to level the score with a long range lob over Amanda Budden, the Douglas native no doubt relieved to see the ball fly a yard wide of her post.

As the first half ticked on, the women in teal were hungry for more, dominating possession in spells and playing with a real bite, passing with a flair and fluidity that left the visitors red faced from exertion.

Such control of the game led to a flurry of chances for the Hoops to score a second - O’Leary driving the ball at Waves keeper Auskalnyte who did well to keep her side within touching distance of the Dublin 24 outfit, frustrating both Áine O’Gorman and Stephanie Zambra with her quick reflexes.

Up top for DLR, Doonan was marked closely by Maria Reynolds and Jessica Hennessy, the tall and imposing defenders well aware of the firepower in the former Peas player’s arsenal.

“You have that Michelle!” DLR coach Heffernan encouraged Doonan as she chased another long ball - only to watch Hennessy clear for the home side.

O'Neill's XI may have felt hard done by had they entered the break with only one goal to show for their efforts, yet they needn’t have worried.

A switch of play ignited by a deft stepover from Hennessy that linked well with another driving run from Thompson ended with a threaded ball through to O’Gorman. The Wicklow native did just enough to get her boot to the ball and play in O’Leary who had timed her run to perfection at the back post.

As the net ballooned behind Auskalnyte in the 41st minute, the Portmarnock native shook her fist in celebration.

Multiple shot stoppers in quick succession denied both O’Gorman and Zambra from adding a third just shy on 45 minutes. The Sky Blues were thankful to anchor at port as the whistle signalled the end of the first half.

Before play resumed, the visitors made a triple substitution that did little to alter the one-sided contest, DLR’s Tobin Jones marshalling her back line in a fruitless attempt to stop the rot.

Seven minutes into the second half, Ralph looked set to score a brace, a dink from O’Leary and a deft pass from Scarlett Herron placing the Greenhills native in an enviable position to bag her second.

Ralph let fly with the outside of her right boot, Auskalnyte doing well to parry the shot. Yet she was unable to deny O’Gorman who was on her bike the second the keeper made contact, cutting the ball into the back of the net.

Doonan had a half a chance to pickpocket one back for Heffernan's side but Budden this time had her number and was quick off her mark to smother her efforts.

Rovers looked like they could punish the visitors further. O’Gorman’s touch on her square ball for Zambra was just a little too heavy for her striking partner to reach, while O’Leary turned Amber Cosgrove for dust on the left wing, her white boots glinting in the afternoon sun as she kept the pressure on the fresh legs of Oleta Griffin.

A double substitution for Rovers and DLR followed as the game entered into the final 20, Lauren Kelly entering the fray in the centre with Ralph switching to the right lane.

The Hoops' Alannah Prizeman too made an appearance, Budden applauding her attempt on goal in the 79th minute, while Lauren Kelly almost netted a fourth for Rovers.

Yet that privilege would fall to 15-year-old Ella Kelly, who, having made her senior debut at the tail end of March, showed no signs of nerves when two minutes on from her switch with O’Leary, she netted her first senior goal for Shamrock Rovers.  

Muscling past Amber Cosgrove to take advantage of a driving run by her Under 17’s teammate Katie O’Reilly, Kelly calmly secured the Hoops their fourth in the 90th minute.

The game ended 4-0 to the women in teal, who next welcome defending Premier Division Champions Peamount to Tallaght Stadium - no doubt hopeful that this All-Island Cup win provides the spark needed to ignite the rest of their season.

The kids are well and truly alright.

Shamrock Rovers: Amanda Budden, Jessica Hennessy, Maria Reynolds, Aoife Kelly, Stephanie Zambra (Alannah Prizeman 71), Lia O’Leary (Ella Kelly 87), Aine O’Gorman, Joy Ralph (Katie O’Reilly 87), Scarlett Herron, Jaime Thompson (Lauren Kelly 70), Melissa O’Kane
Subs not used: Shauna Fox, Summer Lawless, Shannon Coady, Hannah Martin
Booked: None
DLR Waves: Rugile Auskalnyte, Chloe McCarthy, Hannah Tobin Jones (Oleta Griffin 73), Isobel Finnegan, Rebecca McMahon, Eve O’Brien, Taylor White, Bronagh Kane (Nadine Seward 46), Amber Cosgrove, Michelle Doonan (Nicole Keogh 73), Eve Conheady, 
Subs not used: Ruth McDonnell, Eve Badana, Robyn Bolger
Booked: None
Referee: David Berry Player of the Match: Jaime Thompson