15 March 2011
WITH a goal, being the player fouled for an equalising penalty and an assist to boast, Lynsey McKey inspired University of Limerick to a historic fourth WSCAI Intervarsities National finals Cup title against a devastated Institute of Technology, Sligo at Cork Institute of Technology last Saturday.
By PETER McNAMARA
UL, seeking to become only the second college to ever win the prestigious competition for the fourth successive year following on from Thomond College's dominance between 1982-85, won a ding-dong affair at IT Sligo's expense leaving the westerners reeling and regretting relinquishing a 2-1 lead with 25 minutes of regulation time remaining.
The Munster side, back-boned by Irish internationals and captain Jenny Critchley, Ruth Fahy and the sensational Julie-Anne Russell, appeared the ever so slightly classier outfit from the outset, spraying the ball around with a little more competency and ease.
However, it was IT Sligo that came closest to breaking the deadlock as early as the 11th minute when Deirdre Doherty intelligently played captain Hazel McCafferty through on goal but from an acute angle the midfielder powered her shot wide of the post.
With 24 minutes played, UL took the lead, a lead they held until the 53rd minute.
Jenny Downey intuitively chested the ball into Lynsey McKey's path marginally outside the six-yard box following a corner that ping-ponged around the area affording McKey the opportunity to drill through the cluster of bodies and give the defending champions the advantage.
Seven minutes later IT Sligo's Doherty picked out Maria Harrington who by-passed two UL defenders with a degree of panache before unleashing a thunderous effort at goal that lacked the precision in the end to trouble goalkeeper Laoise O'Driscoll.
Eight minutes into the second-half UL had a fantastic opportunity to double their lead as McKey, onside, found herself one-on-one with goalkeeper Sarah Finnerty but the IT Sligo net-minder made herself big, narrowing the angle and made a fine save which galvanised her side.
Similar to UL's opener, IT Sligo subsequently levelled proceedings as Deirdre Doherty smashed a breaking ball into the bottom corner following an inevitable goalmouth scramble that ensued from a corner.
Within 60 seconds of the restart, UL thought they had retaken the lead when Jenny Critchley had the ball in the net but the midfielder was ruled offside.
A further 60 seconds elapsed before IT Sligo turned the game on its head, and deservedly so at the time as Maria Harrington powered her way through from the right wing and ruthlessly sent a bullet of a shot into the far corner.
A stunned UL huddled in the centre of the pitch in an attempt to regroup and regroup they did as IT Sligo's lead lasted a mere eight minutes.
McKey, a constant menace to the IT Sligo rearguard, was expertly found at the back post by Ruth Fahy with a delightful through-ball and just as McKey was about the cut inside the defender and pull the trigger from all of seven yards, was upended with Aidan O'Regan having no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Fahy, who had played a key role in orchestrating the penalty in the first place, stepped up to the plate and side-footed into the top corner to restore parity with 17 minutes of normal time remaining.
The momentum had now swung back in UL's favour but there was little to choose between the sides in the exchanges that followed in the immediate aftermath.
Doherty had a free-kick fired wide for IT Sligo while at the opposite end, Finnerty made another wonderful save, this time smothering the ball from the feet of Jenny Critchley as the UL star attempted to knock it past her from three yards.
However, with just two minutes of regulation time to go, UL scored what proved a tournament winner.
With the deftest of touches from McKey at the edge of the area, a host of players were rendered redundant in the play allowing captain Critchley a clear sight at goal and from all of 10 yards she rifled past Finnerty to send the UL contingent into raptures.
IT Sligo battled gamely in search of an equaliser in injury-time but UL stood firm ensuring the Cup remains with them for one more year at least.
UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK: Laoise O'Driscoll, Siobhan O'Sullivan, Lorna O'Connell, Jennie Brennan Karen Duggan, Susan Critchley, Jenny Critchley (capt), Ruth Fahy, Lynsey, McKey, Jenny Downey, Julie-Anne Russell.
Subs: Aimee Jordan for Susan Critchley (60), Nicolette Miller for Downey (81).
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INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, SLIGO: Sarah Finnerty, Aine Hannon, Amy Gerrity, Caroline Ormsby, Sarah McMoreland, Hazel McCafferty (capt), Maria Harrington, Roisín McCafferty, Deirdre Doherty, Orla Devanney, Lucy Hannon.
Subs: Flood for Aine Hannon (19).
Referee: Aidan O'Regan (Cork).