PAFC 2-4 Birr
Portlaoise U14 girls welcomed Birr to Rossleighan Park for their shield semi final 2nd leg on a bright but windy Saturday morning.
Birr played with the wind behind them and got off to the perfect start after 5 minutes when a long range effort sailed into the back of the net. The Portlaoise back four of Leah Nolan, Leah Malone, Bronagh Carroll and Ava Prendergast were under pressure but were defending well and playing a supply of good ball to their midfielders. Alva Quinn was always available on the right wing and throughout the half Aimee Donovan and Kate Corcoran worked hard to to close down the Birr midfield and got some good ball to their strikers.
Bernitta Ohaa and Ciara Mardsen both had chances before Portlaoise eventually got a deserved equaliser on 25 minutes. Amy O’Brien and Alva Quinn linked and then played the ball to Ciara Mardsen who set up Rachel Horan to score. However Birr responded well and within minutes restored their lead. Their midfielder played a great through ball to their striker, and although Mairead Keane came out to narrow the angle the finish to the net gave her no chance. Portlaoise defended well then to get to half time down 2-1.
The home girls started the second half on the front foot and Bernitta Ohaa had their first shot of the half within minutes. Portlaoise piled on the pressure aided by the wind but were unable to convert this possession into any clear chances. Birr were dangerous on the counterattack and after 10 minutes of the half an attack and a mix up in the Portlaoise defence allowed their striker to make it 3-1. Moments later things got worse when a cross into the box was finished to the net from close range.
To their credit, the Portlaoise girls did not give up and they upped their game and began to dominate. Aimee O’Brien played numerous balls in behind the Birr defence and Portlaoise pushed the Birr team back with great pressure across midfield. It looked like they had their just reward when Rachel Horan put Sophie Scully through on goal. Sophie was fouled in the box but the Birr keeper made a great save from the resultant penalty. Alva Quinn and Ciara Mardsen had chances blocked before Ciara scored from a free kick after Rachel was fouled. The comeback looked on but Bernitta saw here effort blocked near the line and then Holly Dunne’s effort was somehow saved after Bronagh Carroll had hit the post.
Portlaoise finished strong and kept going until the end but unfortunately lost the tie 6-5 on aggregate. Manager Dave McCall and the girls should be very proud of the improvement they made in only their second season together.
Team Mairead Keane, Leah Nolan, Leah Malone, Bronagh Carroll, Ava Prendergast, Alva Quinn, Aimee O’Brien, Kate Corcoran, Rachel Horan, Ciara Mardsen, Bernitta Ohaa, Aimee Donovan, Leah Byrne, Holly Dunne, Sophie Scully, Keelin O’Hara, Taylor Leavy.