Shelbourne win 2022 EVOKE.ie FAI Women's Cup
Goals from Player of the Match, Jessie Stapleton, and club captain, Pearl Slattery, saw Shelbourne overcome Athlone on a day that showcased the best of women's domestic football with 5,073 spectators in attendance.
A nightmare opening set the tone for Athlone Town, searching for their first ever FAI Cup win, and two goalkeeping errors all but decided the destination of the 2022 trophy.
The game started brightly with both teams creating openings within the first three minutes. But the opening goal was still a surprise, Niamh Coombes letting an Alex Kavanagh free from the right slip from her grasp. The ball then bounced into the net off the back of Shelbourne’s Stapleton with just six minutes on the clock.
It was the start Athlone didn’t want and while they pressed forwards at every opportunity it was Shelbourne who looked the more confident on the ball. That confidence turned into end-product on 23 minutes when a Megan Smyth-Lynch corner from the right was only half dealt with by Coombes and, as the ball popped up dangerously, Slattery powered in to hammer home a header from point blank range.
Two up and cruising Shelbourne began to look like they were enjoying themselves and their pass-ing took on an exhibition quality. Athlone shifted Maddison Gibson into the centre of their attack to partner Emily Corbet but opportunities for either to threaten Amanda Budden’s goal remained rare.
When they did come, Athlone’s chances were mostly generated by Roisin Molloy, always willing to take on her marker and consistently the most dangerous looking player in blue and black. Despite her efforts Athlone went in at half-time with a mountain to climb.
Within seconds of the restart Coombes pulled off a fine save low at her right hand post to turn away a Smyth-Lynch volley. But on 50 minutes Shels almost claimed a third when a Keeva Keenan cross cleared the keeper and looked headed for the net only to bounce away off the bar.
On the hour Athlone made a triple change in an effort to turn the tide, sending Kellie Brennan, Kate Slevin and Kayleigh Shine into the fray. And moments later Molloy’s pass was inches away from releasing Brennan on goal. Molloy then sent a fierce shot spinning just wide before Scarlett Herron tested Amanda Budden’s reflexes from distance.
With 20 minutes left Athlone had the ball in the net, Herron heading in off the underside of the Shels bar, but the assistant’s flag ruled it out much to the disgust of the Athlone support.
Athlone’s efforts had now become dominant and Gibson tested Budden before Slevin blazed over from a tight angle. In response, Noel King sent on the vastly experienced duo of Heather O’Reilly and Rachel Graham but still Athlone poured forward.
On 78 minutes Brennan slipped a sideways pass to Gibson who couldn’t keep her effort down and moments later Alex Kavanagh executed a superb saving tackle to deny Gibson. But as the minutes slipped away it became clear that it just wasn’t going to fall for the Blue & Black.
With fresh legs coming on and Athlone hearts flagging, Noel King’s side played out the five minutes of added time to claim, not only the 2022 EVOKE.ie FAI Women’s Cup to add to the SSE Airtricity Women's National League, but also the much coveted double that evaded them last year.
Shelbourne: Budden; Gargan, Stapleton, Slattery, Fox, Kavanagh (Starr 90), Larkin, Murray (Quinn 90), Smyth-Lynch, Keenan, Doyle.
Athlone Town: Coombes; Hennessy, Devaney, Keenan, Corbet, Ryan, Gibson, Monroe, Molloy (Daly 89), Herron (Grant 90), O’Kane.
Referee: Seán Grant.