WLOI Report: Sligo Rovers 1 - 4 Shamrock Rovers


Aine O'Gorman was on the mark again Credit: David Ribeiro (ETPhotos)

Top drawer performance shifts Shamrock Rovers into the top 6 of the SSE Airtricity Women's Premier Division as The Hoops put on a show at The Showgrounds.

The Rovers Women possess quality in spades—that much has been clear since the Tallaght outfit entered the Women’s Premier Division in 2023 to a mixed reception, the debutants finishing 3rd and just missing out on 2nd place by a hair's breadth.

Shoulders must now surely be dropping within the walls of the Dublin 24 powerhouse as the results secured by Collie O'Neill's squad begin to accurately reflect the talent it contains.

Losing to a side that sits at the bottom of the league was never going to be an acceptable result for a team that is sure to have known in recent weeks that sitting two from bottom did not line up with the standards set by a club that prides itself on being one of, if not the best, to ever do it in this country.

Yet the environment is likely to have been one of ‘how can we support and change the situation?’ as opposed to a line of pointed fingers.

The positive body language seen between players suggests a team with no fractures, and despite their disappointing league start, not one head has dropped nor turned —a testament to not only the players themselves but also to those who are out of camera shot.

With two convincing away wins solidified on the bounce, the Rovers Women have now risen back to their full height as they move to within five points of 4th-placed Peamount, who they face in the quarter-final of the Avenir Sports All-Island Cup on June 22nd.

At The Showgrounds, in the shadow of the green hulk of Benbulben, Shamrock Rovers never looked in danger of losing - even when they went a goal down in the first half.

As the teams readied themselves for the kick-off, Sligo’s Leah Kelly watched Rovers marauding winger Lia O’Leary closely.

The Sligo native attempted to mark the ‘Portmarnock phenom’ tightly - no easy task (the clue is in the name.)

The Hoops started on the front foot and won two corners in the opening minutes as Katie O’Reilly feinted and weaved on the right lane, forcing Alice Lille to clear.

Sligo tempered the play and attacked in fits and starts, with Kelly chasing the ball down the right wing.

The PE teacher met her match in Scarlett Herron - the number twenty continuing to be an industrious fit for the Hoops in the left-wing back position.

Skipper Muireann Devaney did justice to her crest as she tussled with Joy Ralph and co as the women in green and white prodded for an opening, while O’Leary had success as she cut inside and fought to shrug off Kelly Crompton, who was hot on her coat-tails.

Aine O’Gorman looked lively for the visitors and got the better of Devaney on the left lane, powering a cross into the box where Stephanie Zambra, who celebrated her 35th birthday this week, lay in wait—her shot sailing over the bar in the 8th.

Summer Lawless showed bravery in her decision to sprint off her line as Emma Doherty tore forward for Sligo on the break, but was caught in no man's land by the number 9, who spun past.

It was Herron to the rescue as Lawless backpedalled, the Monaghan native channelling her inner Keano as she slid on the turf and tackled Rovers out of trouble.

A clever switch of the ball from left to right by Jodie Loughrey almost had Kelly clear in on goal, but once again Herron had the Bit O’Red’s number and made a crucial intercept.

Rovers had several chances to take the lead through Ralph in the first, but Amber Hardy did well to parry the Greenhills native’s shot and header, while in the 18th, it was the inside of the far post that denied the number 19 assassin at a clip.

It was a real sucker punch when, against all odds, Sligo Rovers took the lead in the 22nd.

A slick passage of play between Kelly, Doherty, and Crompton led to a set piece - Sarah Kiernan finishing with a towering header in what was a surreal turn of events for both sets of fans.

The visitors knew that the scoreline was unjust and fought tooth and nail for the leveller as halftime approached.

Stephanie Zambra, who has made a real difference to the versatility of the Rovers attack since returning to the starting line-up was alert to pick up O’Gorman’s spinning ball across goal before it could go out for a goal-kick.

Zambra showed persistence to deliver the ball back inside the D and Ralph finished with a clinical header in the 48th.

The number 10 pumped her fist at the assist and slapped O’Leary’s hand in celebration before jogging to congratulate Ralph.

A blinding sun welcomed the players for the second half as the Hoops pressed for their second.

Jessica Hennessy looked a strong candidate once again for a centre-mid role, her towering frame charging straight down the pipe.

O’Gorman scored what looked to be an easy number in the 54th on foot of an O’Leary whip, and the visitors began to cruise.

Rovers dominated possession, ruling the roost on the left lane as Sligo scrambled.

Their third goal came in the 58th, when Sarah Kiernan miscued her clearance and fired the ball into the back of her own net.

O’Reilly looked once again like a player beyond her seventeen years as she cut inside and swept past Devaney on the right, while O’Kane struck a beauty of a ball to the number 57, the centre mid continuing to remind this reporter of a young Keira Walsh.

O’Reilly and O’Gorman pressured as the Hoops hunted for their 4th, with substitute Anna McDaniel doing well to keep the ball out of danger for Sligo.

The visitors almost secured their next in the 74th when a visionary ball from Hennessy landed at Ralph’s feet.

The former DLR Waves forward cut inside and struck with her preferred left boot, forcing Hardy to make a sublime save and parry wide.

Yet in the 81st, it was hard luck for Hardy when O’Gorman headed the ball into the path of the Under-19 Irish international, who did not miss a second time, securing her brace.

Maria Reynolds showed quick feet and turned McDaniel in the 85th as the home side fought in vain to win a consolation prize.

Yet Tommy Hewitt’s eleven never looked like scoring in the second, with two tame efforts from Doherty and substitute Paula McGrory in the final five doing little to trouble Lawless.

Hardy made a save worthy of a Golden Glove Award in the 90th when she blocked O'Gorman's strike at close range, denying the skipper her second.

The contest ended 4-1 to the Hoops, who now sit in a respectable 6th place as the season speeds past the midway point.

Sligo Rovers WFC: Amber Hardy; Kelly Crompton, Keeva Flynn, Leah Kelly (Paula McGrory 60), Sarah Kiernan; Muireann Devaney, Eimear Lafferty (Anna McDaniel 67), Alice Lillie, Jodie Loughrey, Keri Loughrey (Jessica Casey 82); Emma Doherty.
Subs not used: Caoimhe O'Reilly, Lauren Devaney, Kelsey Munroe, Rachel McGoldrick, Katie Melly.
Booked: Keri Loughrey (78).

Shamrock Rovers WFC: Summer Lawless; Jessica Hennessy (Ella Kelly 74), Scarlett Herron, Maria Reynolds; Aoife Kelly, Aine O'Gorman, Melissa O'Kane (Alannah Prizeman 86), Lia O'Leary (Fiona Owens 86), Katie O'Reilly (Shauna Fox 74); Joy Ralph (Lauren Kelly 86), Stephanie Zambra.
Subs not used: Amanda Budden, Clodagh Daly.
Booked: None.