Athlone Town win inaugural President's Cup
In the inaugural staging of this competition for SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division teams, first-half goals from Noelle Murray and Alex Kavanagh put Shelbourne ahead before Muireann Devaney and Roisin Molloy brought Athlone back into it. Then substitute goalkeeper Ciara Glackin was the hero of the shoot-out by making two superb saves.
Uacharán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins was in attendance in Athlone Town Stadium for what turned out to be an exciting encounter between the teams who finished first and second in both the League and FAI Women’s Cup last year.
The opening goal arrived on eight minutes when an attempted cross from Maggie Pierce hit Murray but she was quick to bring the ball under control and chip it over goalkeeper Nyla Peterkin from inside the penalty area.
Athlone attempted to respond after that early set-back but they were dealt a further blow on 13 minutes when Kavanagh fired in a penalty after Shauna Brennan was adjudged to have handled a cross from Siobhan Killeen.
The Reds were dangerous on the counter attack with Jemma Quinn volleying over the crossbar from distance and was then denied by Peterkin following a breakaway.
Athlone, who had five players making their debuts, pulled one back through Devaney on 37 minutes as she poked the ball into the bottom corner of the net following a neat exchange of passes with Scarlett Herron.
Manager Tommy Hewitt made two changes at the start of the second half with youngster Glackin taking over from Peterkin between the posts and midfielder Kate Slevin coming on for Herron.
There was a noticeable difference to Athlone’s play after that and they hit back on 67 minutes when Molloy blocked a clearance from goalkeeper Courtney Maguire and the ball rebounded into the back of the net.
With the scores level at full-time, the contest needed to be decided by a penalty shoot-out. And the drama continued with Maguire saving from Kellie Brennan before Glackin denied both Ruvimbo Mucherera and Christie Gray with fine stops to win it for the hosts.
Athlone captain Laurie Ryan got to raise the President’s Cup trophy following a presentation from Uacharán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins and FAI President Gerry McAnaney.
This victory will feel special for Athlone but their focus will quickly turn to next week’s League campaign kicking off on March 4.
Athlone Town: Nyla Peterkin (Ciara Glackin 46); Julia Weithofer, Nausica Costantini, Kayleigh Shine, Shauna Brennan; Roisin Molloy (Kellie Brennan 83), Laurie Ryan, Muireann Devaney, Scarlett Herron (Kate Slevin 46), Maddison Gibson; Chloe Singleton.
Shelbourne: Courtney Maguire; Maggie Pierce, Pearl Slattery, Jessie Stapleton, Keeva Keenan; Siobhan Killeen (Kerri Letmon 61), Alex Kavanagh, Rachel Graham (Nadine Clare 61), Megan Smyth-Lynch (Ruvimbo Mucherera 71); Noelle Murray; Jemma Quinn (Christie Gray 71).
Referee: Louise Thompson.