The Downpatrick FC Ladies team enjoyed a deserved 3-0 win over their rivals Ballynahinch Ladies FC last night at Dunleath Park in Downpatrick in a hard-fought South 1 NIWFA semi-final.
On a beautiful summer’s evening with the pitch almost as hard as concrete, the two teams squared up for a long-awaited duel. It was destined to be a close match as the Ballynahinch ladies were the only team to have beaten Downpatrick this season, but Downpatrick have trained well and are fit.
The match started off with Ballynahinch making the running at the Downpatrick goal with a few very useful attacks putting the homeside under pressure. At 10 minutes, Ballynahinch won a corner and Caoimhe Mulholland made a great header but it was caught by Downpatrick keeper Catherine McCormick who had a sound game and was on form. This was followed by another two excellent attacks by Ballynahinch and Mulholland again made a great volley at the Downpatrick goal. There was no doubt that the visitors meant business.
However, after 15 minutes of pressure, Downpatrick withstood the storm from Ballynahinch and started to press forward with a testing volley from Morgan Shannon. Downpatrick won their first corner but no heads were on the ball as it sailed past the goalmouth.
Aine Smyth made a great cross from the right after taking on three players but Downpatrick quickly responded with Kyla Trainor passing to Amy Nicholson who almost got the ball in the net.
Trainor was coming more into the game playing on the right wing and led the charge against Ballynahinch with a great volley which was held by Ballynahinch keeper Vicky Cherry-Black. The game at this stage was fairly evenly balanced with both sides giving their all. An excellent cross from Downpatrick’s Orla Boyle in midfield to Emma Carling up front almost provided a dividend showing that all the Downpatrick team were straining their sinews to win the match.
Half way through the first half, Downpatrick were showing they could defensively handle the quick Ballynahinch attacks and Aine Smyth from Ballynahinch playing in centre midfield was in the thick of the action.
But Downpatrick kept fighting back and defender Any Higgins took a free just outside the Ballynahinch box and the bar just inched over the top bar.
It was Downpatrick’s Morgan Shannon who opened the scoring in the 29th minute as she picked up the loose ball in the Ballynahinch box and found space to bury it into the back of the net to to put her side in the lead.
Shortly after after more Downpatrick pressure, the home side won a free kick again just outside the box and Orla Beattie just sent it a fraction over the bar.
Ballynahinch fought back with several attacks and Smyth made an excellent cross into the danger zone at the Downpatrick goal but keeper McCormick was on the ball and smothered it.
It was a credit to the Downpatriock defenders that they managed to keep Ballynahinch from scoring in the first half after a number of well organised attacks.
In the second half, Downpatrick certainly stepped up to the plate and started off with a great cross from Kyla Trainor which Boyle almost toed in.
But just five minute sin to the second period, Downpatrick’s Aimee Higgins crossed to Orla Beattie who slotted the ball in to the Ballynahinch goal. Boyle and Higgins were proving to be a successful combinations and pulled off a few excellent moves following this goal.
With the mounting pressure by Downpatrick, Ballynahinch conceded a free kick just outside the box and Orla Trainor squared yup to the ball and blasted it into the top of the net just 15 minutes in the second half. With a thre goal lead and Downpatrick well up on their toes, Ballynahinch had an uphill task ahead of them.
Trainor made an excllent cross but Carling just missed the header to go four up. But Ballynahinch fought back and Mulholland took a great run through the centre with her forwards in place but the strong Downpatrick defence held out and the attack was eventually extinguished by keeper McCormick.
Approaching the 30 minute mark, a good move by Paige Smyth to Kyla Trainor who crossed to Tasha Ferris saw Tasha’s shot hit the crossbar. The Downpatrick pressure had gone up a gear making it difficult for Ballynahinch to mount an attack.
In the dying embers of the game, the result was looking certain as Downpatrick kept up the pressure. Ballynahinch did look threatening at times but failed to convert their efforts into goals and Downpatrick proved to be the dominant force overall.
If the Downpatrick Ladies get through the final and win their next three league matches they will be looking at a double silver year, which would be a great achievement for the Downpatrick club.
Downpatrick FC Ladies: Catherine McCormick, Orla Sharvin, Orla Beattie, Clara Kerr, Orla Boyle, Natasha Ferris, Ammie Higgins, Morgan Shannon, Emma Carling, Kyla Trainor, Amy Nicholson. Subs: Jenny Fitzsimmons, Paige Smyth, Caoimhe Robinson, Leah Milligan, Ciara Higgins, and Michelle Madine.
Ballynahinch Ladies FC: Vicky Cherry Black, Aoife Toner, Caroline Kennedy, Lauren Lewis, Helena Majury, Chloe Burke, Olive Smyth, Caoimhe Mulholland, Mel Holland, Tammy-Lee Rogan, Hannah Majury. Subs: Olivia McDonagh, Leanne Dumigan and Cara Tumelty.