St Andrew’s prevailed over Loreto, Beaufort this afternoon to take the senior schoolgirl’s cup back to Booterstown after a three year hiatus, ousting the reigning champions in the process.
They took the long-route in doing so as both side’s defences put in herculean stints to keep the score-sheet blank until the sixth minute of extra-time. Lauren Kingston got the vital opener from close-range, picking up the pieces after Courtney Watkins free-in was missed by younger sister Chloe.
Kingston, though, snaffled up the chance to slide in from an acute angle and break the deadlock. And victory was assured four minutes from time when Courtney Watkins scored an absolute wonder-goal – one worthy of winning any final. She twisted inside and outside two defenders as she drove toward the circle to find space on the left-edge before unleashing an unstoppable low bullet on her reverse.
Loreto did still have time to win two corners while Hannah Matthews solid hit and Sarah Barnwell’s effort both needed to be dealt with by Tiffany Ellis.
Indeed, the 15 minutes was incident-packed as both sides wearied after an hour of energy-sapping play. Defences were on top for the most part – Saints’ sweeper Niamh Atcheler was named player of the match – with chances hard to come by.
Gillian Pinder’s trickery did create an early opening while Katherine O’Farrell’s effort from the right baseline flashed up before the eyes of Ellis and across the face of the Andrew’s goal. Chloe Watkins’ drag-flick was palmed over the bar by Jennifer Duffy from the only corner of the first half.
The second period provided slightly more of the same. Atcheler managed to sniff out attacks before they occurred and bring them to a halt while the Loreto back four of Zoe Ennis, Jenna Early, Niamh O’Reilly and Jasmine Redmond were equally resolute.
In midfield, the battle between Irish development players Hannah Matthews and Chloe Watkins was an edgy one – the player’s contrasting styles making for one of the focus points of an intriguing chess match.
As time wore on, the elder Watkins became more of a threat up front. She fizzed one reverse into the side of the net while her surging runs won a brace of corners. Neither were converted before the final hooter and so extra-time was needed.
Beaufort opened stronger, winning two corners for Sinead McGirr to bash toward Ellis but the Andrew’s goalkeeper stayed strong. And from the impending break-out, a free was won on the edge of the Loreto circle.
Courtney Watkins laid up for Chloe but her miscue proved a key intervention for Kingston to snap up the crucial game breaker. Courtney Watkins then added the second, meaning she was assured of lifting the trophy as co-captain – with Jenny Doran – receiving the silverware from 110-time Irish cap and 1998 senior cup winner Nikki Symmons.
* For more of The Hook’s photos from the Senior School’s final, click here. For Paul McGirr’s set of pictures, click here.