USA strike late to end O’Flanagan’s resistance

Women’s Senior International
USA 2 (M Vittese, L Shealy) Ireland 0
Two final quarter goals saw USA make it two wins from two at Spooky Nook after a physical, hard-fought battle that saw four yellow cards brandished.

Grace O’Flanagan was the key performer for Ireland, making a series of great saves in the first three quarters including a stunning block in the 43rd minute from Erin Matson, showing some amazing reflexes.

Early on, the Railway Union keeper kept out Kathleen Sharkey’s low corner shot while the striker flashed another chance wide on her reverse. The US press was high, fast aggressive and Ireland initially struggled to outlet and the first quarter ended with Amanda Magadan testing O’Flanagan.

Loren Shealy and Yvonne O’Byrne during the Ireland vs USA series. Pic: Mark Palczewski

The feisty nature of the tie cranked up a notch in the second quarter. Shirley McCay’s brilliant sliding tackle on Jill Witmer in midfield upped the ante, almost putting Nikki Evans through on goal such was the forward momentum of it.

But McCay was over-zealous soon after, slipping into a challenge that drew a yellow and a corner which Ashley Hoffman saw parried over the bar. Ireland, though, showed greater composure on the ball and more intricate passes helped unpick the press to a greater extent.

And they started to create serious attacking plays in the third quarter, notably when Ali Meeke won a corner though the injection was not stopped. Alyssa Parker took a yellow for not retreating when Katie Mullan was on the charge.

No goals, though, accrued by three-quarter time and Parker was readying for a return when USA won their fourth corner. It was smartly slipped under the arm to the right of the stopper where Michelle Vittese slammed home her second goal in two ties.

Within a minute, she was taking her first of her two yellow cards in the closing 13 minutes. Ireland won another two corners in that in this endgame.

Just before the second of them, though, the hosts made the game safe with a delightful piece of work from Sharkey on the left baseline, feeding Caitlin van Sickle who popped into the path of Loren Shealy to score.

Ireland will play the third tie in the series on Saturday evening at 11.30pm (Irish time).

USA: J Briggs, E Matson, M Gonzalez, M Vittese, J Witmer, A Hoffman, J Young, A Dessoye, L Moyer, K Sharkey, C van Sickle
Subs: L Shealy, A Parker, T West, A Magadan, A Manley, A Campbell, A Widdall

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, G Pinder, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, D Duke, E Curran, A Meeke, Z Wilson
Subs: Y O’Byrne, N Evans, N Carroll, E Beatty, C Watkins, H Matthews

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