On a beautiful Easter Saturday morning at Frank O Connell Park, Portlaoise girls U14 traveled to Birr for the first of their two legged semi final shield tie.
It felt like a cup game and it began in a similar fashion as both teams were eager to take the game by the scruff of the neck. It was pulsating end to end football but it was the home side who settled into the game after a frantic 15 to 20 minutes. Bronagh Carroll and Leah Malone steadied the ship at center back while Holly Dunne and Bernitta Ohaa took to their new roles at left and right back superbly. Portlaoise began to grow in confidence as the the midfield trio of Kate Corcoran, Rachel Horan and Amy Donovan began to find some space to provide for the Portlaoise forwards of Leah Nolan, Ailbhe Quinn and Ciara Marston. Leah Byrne arrived in on the 20th minute and she was a constant threat from the attacking left position.Amy O’ Brien made her appearance on the 25 minute in center midfield adding some steel to the team as a unit. It wasn’t until the 32nd minute when Portlaoise patience was rewarded when Marston provided the assist with a great square ball to Ailbhe Quinn who finished clinically from 8 yards. Birr were not to be deterred though and within two minutes, they were back on level terms when Portlaoise Keeper Mairead Keane was put under pressure from the tenacious Birr forwards who capitalised on a loose ball to then finish from 12 yards.
In the second half, Portlaoise began brightly and began to take control of the tie. Leah Nolan was deployed to right back as Taylor Leavy made her appearance with some excellent off the ball runs on the right of midfield. Rachel Horan went close as did Kate Corcoran but they found the Birr keeper in excellent form. Ciara Marston went agonizingly close with two efforts within three minutes, one of them rattling the bar. Birr countered at any opportunity and were unlucky not to score on two occasions. Portlaoise pushed for the winner and it finally came from some late drama in the last 2 minutes when Leah Malone punted a high ball forward over the Birr defense and to the Birr goalkeeper to collect, however the ball was fumbled and it fell to the feet of Ailbhe Quinn who found herself in the right place at the right time again to finish calmly into the open net. Portlaosie’s persistence paid off, yet it was a cruel blow to the Birr keeper who had had a fantastic game and it was a difficult pill to swallow for the Birr girls. In the end they live to fight another day back in Portlaoise for the second leg.
Birr 1-2 Portlaoise
POM: Leah Nolan