WU17: Shelbourne 2 Sligo Rovers 1

A resolute second half performance from Sligo Rovers, including a penalty converted by Ciara Henry, wasn’t enough to rescue a draw after two early Rebecca Cooke goals had put Shelbourne in front at Tolka Park this afternoon. The hosts running out 2-1 winners in a thrilling game with plenty of actions at both ends of the pitch.

Both sides created changes but the first fell to Irish underage international Emily Whelan who’s effort from the edge of the box was comfortably saved by Abbiegayle Ronayne in the Sligo goal.

There was little the net minder could do to keep out Cooke’s opener minutes later as she found a gap in the Rovers defence and stroked the ball home.

Leah McHugh had a decent shot from distance plucked from just under the crossbar by the Shelbourne keeper before disaster struck. Whelan played the ball to Cooke who prodded the ball past Ronayne to double the home sides advantage.

Alva Munnelly and Roisin Molloy both had opportunities to get Sligo on the scoresheet but neither really bothered McGuire in the Shels goal in what was a lethargic first half performance from the Bit O’Red in very hot conditions in the blazing Drumcondra sunshine.

The second half was a much more even affair, a few substitutions on the Rover’s side, particularly the introduction of Helen Monaghan, Sarah Kiernan and Leah Duffy gave a new impetus to the visitors with Kiernan causing problems for the Shels full back.

Chance after chance went a begging for the westerners before it finally clicked a few minutes from the end of the game. A surging run from captain Kelsey Munroe saw her feed the ball ahead of Leah Duffy who reached the ball ahead of McGuire in goal. The referee, who had an excellent performance throughout the encounter, had no hesitation pointing to the spot.

Ciara Henry took responsibility and showed nerves of steel to power the ball out of the keepers reach and create an interesting last five minutes. Despite having the lions share of the possession and chances, an equalising goal didn’t materialise and the result means a third defeat on the bounce for Sligo.

Head Coach Damon Kearney was happy with the performance in the second half: “We were lacking a bit of fight in the first half, we just never really got going and we needed to show a bit more through the second period. We had a discussion in the dressing room at half time and we asked the girls for a better performance in the second half.

“It’s been a learning curve for this bunch of girls over the last few weeks and after a fantastic performance on the opening day in Peamount, followed by a decent outing against Galway at home, the energy levels and effort had just dropped. It wasn’t acceptable and we told the girls so at the interval.

“The second half showing was more of what we were looking for from them and to be fair to the girls they stepped up to the plate. We created a few opportunities and eventually after some great work we created the penalty and Ciara put it away nicely.

“We play the Donegal League twice over the next two weeks. They’ve been finding the going tough so far at this level. We’ll give them the respect that they deserve, prepare well during the week and if we show the hunger and desire that was evident in the second half today we’ll give a good account of ourselves next Saturday against Donegal in Sligo.”