Salthill Devon 6
St Joseph’s 0
Salthill Devon u-16 girls made history in Tolka Park on Sunday when they retained the WFAI u-16 Cup with an emphatic display of skill, commitment, and clinical finishing.
Despite just four of last year’s starting 11 available, Salthill brushed aside their Dublin opponents St Josephs by 6 - 0.
Worthy winners, Salthill Devon advanced to the final the hard way. They had two difficult away assignments in Belmullet and Killalla before being drawn away to competition favourites Stella Maris in Dublin. On that occasion they came away with a magnificent 3-2 victory before finally enjoying their first home draw in the semi-final, where they faced a very experienced and organised Ennis outfit, Lifford United, who had won the u-14 All-Ireland two years previously. Despite being a goal down at half time, they came back in the second half and ran out 2-1 winners.
In the final Salthill asserted themselves from the kick off, with Ina Butler and Tessa Mullins totally bossing the mid-field exchanges. Jenny Heggerty was her ever reliable self at the centre of defence, while Becky Walsh, although carrying an ankle injury, never put a foot wrong and led by example.
The first Salthill goal came on 18 minutes when Ina Butler connected with the ball 45 yards out and it went in over the despairing hands of the Joey’s keeper Sophie Delaney.
If the first goal was fortuitous, the second was well carved. Defending a corner, Tessa Mullins had to make a double header to clear the Salthill lines. The ball broke to right full Emma Carter who made a pass up field to Dora Gorman. Good interplay between Gorman and attacking partner Tara Lawless resulted in Gorman, who was awarded Player of the Match, slipping the ball past the advancing keeper, bringint the score to 2 - 0.
. Salthill continued to dominate for the remainder of the first half and were unlucky not to increase their lead when a well taken corner by Butler was headed onto the cross bar by Walsh just minutes before half time.
St Joseph’s started the second half with great determination and Amy Keating had an opportunity to get one back but Caoimhe McBrien made a great save. The Salthill full backs Ciara Holland and Emma Carter enjoyed control. Holland, a seasoned campaigner, showed a very cool head throughout, while uoung Carter at right full was a revelation, and her passing and distribution were a feature. In front of her Shauna Jackson, who has still two more years at this age, was a constant threat down the right side and linked excellently with her forwards. On the left side Lauren Ashmore never put a foot wrong and was always available in helping out at the back.
The game finished as a contest when a beautifully delivered free kick was floated in by Butler and skipper Becky Walsh headed home with aplomb. Delaney had no chance in the Joseph’s goal.
Laura Carroll came on the left side for Ashmore and young Grace O’Donnell for the injured Lawless on 60 minutes and two minutes later O’Donnell made it four with a delightful chip over the advancing keeper. With eight minutes remaining Salthill introduced Laura Parker, Ciara Payton, and Aoife Molloy.
Butler made it 5 - 0 when her long-range effort found its way into the net with time up. As the referee played two additional minutes Laura Carroll was on hand to take advantage of a defensive mix-up and concluded the scoring for an impressive victory.
Salthill Devon can now complete an historic double on October 5 when they take on their city neighbours Galway Bohs in the intermediate final in Terryland Park.
Salthill Devon u-16 girls: Caoimhe McBrien, Ciara Holland, Emma Carter, Jenny Heggerty, Becky Walsh (capt ), Lauren Ashmore, Ina Butler, Tessa Mullins, Shauna Jackson, Dora Gorman, Tara Lawless. Subs Laura Carroll, Grace O’Donnell, Laura Parker, Ciara Payton, Stephanie Wynne, Aoife Molloy.