The Galway & Distict League Ladies team were given a huge boost ahead of their EUFA Cup qualifying in September at the prestigious Manchester Umbro Cup.
Up against the best ladies teams in Britain, the Galway ladies made it all the way through to the elite final, only to be pipped by Everton - the team considered the No 2 in England.
Everton, who were the pre-tournament favourites and winners of the English FA Cup final over Arsenal, claimed the trophy by just 1 - 0.
Galway were drawn in a group with Reading, Preston North End, Stockport, and Everton, while the second group included Glascow Ladies (last year’s winners ), Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Portsmouth.
In Galway’s first game against Reading, a great corner from Julie-Ann Russell was met on the full by Niamh Fahy and her header flew by the keeper to give Galway a deserved lead. Although they dominated the game, they conceded a late goal with the game finishing in a 1-1 draw.
Galway then played Preston North End, producing a suberb performance to win by an impressive by 3-0, with goals from Kara Mullins, Susie Cunningham, and a fantastic volley on the turn from Lucy Hannon.
In their final game on Saturday, Galway managed to put three past the weakest team in the group, Stockport. The goal scorers were Kara Mullins, Ruth Fahy, and Julie-Ann Russell, who was aconstant threat to every right back she lined up against.
The situation was now clear with Everton beating the remainder of the teams, they were going to top the group, and for Galway to qualify they would need a draw against Everton as Reading had a better goal difference having beaten Stockport 5-0.
The final group game was played Sunday morning with Galway needed a draw against Everton to qualify in second place. Stephen Lally introduced Becky Walsh and Theresa Fahy to strengthen the defence, and although conceding first, Kara Mullins curled a great free around the wall for a brilliant equaliser. There were sterling performances from Annette Clarke, Aine Hannon, Ruth Fahy, Michelle Glynn, and Meabh De Burca.
As a result Galway advanced to the semi-finals where they met Blackburn Rovers who had topped their section, while Glascow City faced Everton. Galway played brilliantly against Blackburn, but despite dominating for long periods, they could not break down the Blackburn defence and the match finished goalless. All 10 penalties were expertly taken and it went to sudden death. Annette Clarke, who started and finished every game, blasted the 11th penalty high and wide of the keeper, while Blackburn hit the crossbar to ensure Galway were through to the final. Galway’s successful scorers were Susie Cunningham, Ruth Fahy, Meabh De Burca, Niamh Fahy, Aoife Burke, and hero of the hour Annette Clarke.
Everton, who beat Glascow City, also on penalties, boasted five current England internationals in their team and were an impressive side. But the Galway ladies started well and had the better of things in the first period. However as the game wore on Everton began to impose themselves and midway through the second half a speculative long-range effort inched its way under the bar past the despairing hands of Galway keeper Melissa Casserly to seal the title.
Galway manager Stephen Lally said: “ I am very proud of the team. To come over here and compete against opposition like this gives us great confidence and belief in ourselves when we go to Sarajevo for the EUFA Cup qualifying in September.
“We were as good as the best teams here and I believe we will be as good as the best over there as well.”
Lally paid tribute to captain Niamh Fahy who headed down to London to join up with the Arsenal Ladies for pre-season training with a view to signing.
“ Niamh was unquestionably the best player at this tournament over the weekend. She is undoubtedly the best player in Ireland at the moment and is going to be huge loss to our squad. We are all delighted for her and we know that Arsenal are getting the ‘real deal’.
Galway’s next game is in Irish Senior Cup on August 10 before they head to Bosnia in early September where they will take on the champions of Belarus, Switzerland, and the host nation Bosnia–Herzegovina in the EUFA Women’s Cup.
Galway & Distric League: Melissa Casserly, Aine Hannon, Theresa Fahy, Annette Clarke, Niamh Fahy (capt ), Julie-Ann Russsell, Emer Flatley, Meadbh De Burca, Michelle Glynn, Kara Mullins, Susie Cunningham, Lucy Hannon, Aoife Burke, Deirdre Connell, Paula Kelly, Ruth Fahy, Heather Duffy, Tara Gavin, Tina Hughes, Jessica McSweeney, Becky Walsh, Anna McCormack .