McAuley on the double as Muckross Park push on

Schoolgirl’s Senior Premier League playoff
Muckross Park 4 (R McAuley 2, A Kelly, E Clarke) St Andrew’s 2 (H Marshall, H McKenna)

Rachel McAuley’s double underpinned a superb Muckross Park performance to earn their place in the Leinster Schoolgirls Senior Premier League semi-finals, knocking out the reigning champions St Andrew’s in the process.

The Marlborough Road side had been thrust into a three-team playoff after the preliminary group phase of the competition, all tied on 13 points from six games.

They duly negotiated last Saturday’s first playoff with Alexandra College 2-0 and they proved too strong for the Booterstown outfit on Wednesday afternoon, setting up a semi-final with St Gerard’s.

Muckross looked the more assured from the outset but Andrew’s nicked a shock lead from their first attack 12 minutes in. Sarah McCready pounced on a loose ball out of defence to win a penalty corner which was eventually turned in by Hannah Marshall.

But Andrew’s were unable to hold onto the advantage very long as Aoife McNulty was set free down the left wing. She picked out Emer Clarke – a wonderfully assured presence in midfield throughout – and she coolly slotted home the equaliser two minutes after falling behind.

McAuley then created Muckross’s second with a quickly taken free, locating Aoife Kelly who swept home on her backhand. Creator turned scorer soon after, completing a run of three goals in 13 minutes, as McAuley fired a vicious shot past Phoebe Moore to extend the lead out to 3-1.

It was no less than the hosts deserved as they attacked with pace and vigour, laying on some lovely first-time passes with Sophie Barnwell a constant threat down the right, too.

Andrew’s were living off scraps but they did introduce Irish underage international Sally Campbell in the ssecond half to give them more purpose. She was carrying an injury, limiting her pitch-time, but did win a corner early in the second half.

It went awry while Muckross converted their next set piece, McAuley gobbling up a rebound for 4-1 and they stayed well clear until three minutes; Hilary McKenna pulling back a consolation effort.

The semi-finals of this competition are set for next Friday as part of a quadruple header in Grange Road with Mount Anville playing High School in the Premier semi-finals along with Gerard’s v Muckross while the Claudia Tierney Cup semis will be on the back pitch at the same time.

Elsewhere, the second round draw of the Senior Cup was made in midweek with some high level ties to be played. Gerards and Muckross have still to complete their first round tie and will go on to play Wesley in what will be an eye-catching tie.

High School meet St Andrew’s in another cracker while at least two Senior One sides will go through to the quarter-finals with Loreto Bray meeting Newpark while the winner of Cross and Passion and Loreto on the Green will play Santa Sabina.

Muckross Park: L Travers, M Cole, S Lanigan, N Ferry, L Shaw, S Barnwell, E McGrane, E Clarke, R McAuley, A Kelly, A McNulty
Subs: C Cullen, K Grennan, N Shaw, E O’Gorman, R Cuddy

St Andrew’s: P Moore, S McCready, H Marshall, A Sarratt, S Brooks, D Aikens, L Bateson, H McKenna, J Meates, J Gibson, H Donoghue
Subs: A Lord, J Keane, S Campbell, L O’Reilly, K Orr

Senior Premier League semi-finals (Friday, January 23; Grange Road): Mount Anville v High School, 11.30am; St Gerard’s v Muckross, 1pm

Claudia Tierney Cup, semi-finals (Friday, January 23; Grange Road back pitch): Alexandra College v Loreto Beaufort, 11.30am; Kings Hospital v St Andrew’s, 1pm

Leinster Schoolgirls Senior Cup, second round draw (to be played by January 24): Wesley College v St Gerards/Muckross Park; Rathdown v Holy Child Killiney; St Columbas v Alexandra College/Newbridge College; Loreto Bray v Newpark; Mount Anville v Our Lady’s Terenure; Cross and Passion/Loreto on the Green v Santa Sabina; Loreto Foxrock v Loreto Dalkey; High School v St Andrews College

School Girls Premier Section A