Friday evening last, saw Longwood’s amazing U14 Girls crowned Division 3 League champions after a pulsating final victory over a strong Simonstown Gaels team.
With Simonstown having home advantage for the final and a previous victory over our girls in an earlier round of the competition, it was understandable that they would enter the game as favourites. But Longwood were undaunted.
The game was played in truly awful conditions with wind and rain an unwanted companion for players and supporters alike. Despite the inhospitable weather, both teams deserve enormous credit for serving up a thrilling game of football.
Longwood played with the wind at their backs in the opening half and used this advantage to telling effect. Two goals from Kayleigh Maguire and Isabela Giles, in addition to some excellent points, one particularly outstanding effort from Ellie Saunders, saw the girls take a seemingly commanding 2-4 to 0-2 lead to the half-time break.
The mood of Longwood’s travelling supporters quickly changed as the home team dominated the third quarter. Simonstown drew level with ten minutes to play and they looked the more likely winners.
Longwood needed their leaders to stand up and be counted. And they were up to the task. Their defence, superbly marshalled by Ellie Saunders, Gabby Smyth and Kenzie Johnson, closed down their opponent at every turn. Against the wind and a wave of blue attacks, they stood firm, and prevented any further scores in normal time.
At the end of normal time, the teams were tied at 2-4 apiece.
The heavy underfoot conditions were taking their toll on the players, with many having to retire with cramp. Could they survive an additional twenty minutes?
To Longwood’s credit, they dominated extra time. They held their opponent scoreless while adding an impressive 1-1 in the increasingly difficult conditions. The decisive goal arriving late on when a long ball by the hard-working Caoimhe Dixon was expertly controlled by Izzy Fahey, whose subsequent cross was drilled to the roof of the net by the onrushing YuRu Wang. A fantastic goal, worthy of winning any final. The Longwood crowd erupted in joy.
Just a couple of minutes later an even louder cheer greeted the final whistle. The players, saturated and exhausted, celebrated with their team mates, coaches and supporters. Aisling Foran was delighted to accept the cup on behalf her team.
So a brilliant end to a fantastic year for this team. They produced their best performance on the day that really mattered. From Airah Alawiye in goals, to Natalie Collins, Tilly Leigh and all their amazing defenders, to the midfield dynamos of Ella McCann and Aisling Foran right the way up to their energetic forward line where Isabella Giles and Sarah McQuade caught the eye, they worked tirelessly for one another throughout the contest. It was a complete performance with every player making a valuable contribution, the essence of teamwork.
Hard luck to Simonstown – they played their part in an epic final and we wish them well for the future.
But this was Longwood’s day!
Well done to all the girls. They lifted our spirits and represented our club and community with tremendous credit. They thoroughly deserved their celebrations on Sunday afternoon.
Huge credit must go to the coaching team – Mark, Marie and Julie – who have given so much time and effort to the team. Their commitment and dedication was rewarded on Friday. We cannot thank them enough.
I’m sure coaches and players are looking forward to a well-deserved break before we see them in action again next year. We can look to the future with optimism.
Maigh Dearmhaí abú!! 🤍🖤🏁🏁🏁
Longwood U14 Panel: Airah Alawiye, Lucy Moran, Gabby Smyth, Ellie Saunders, Kenzie Johnson, Natalie Collins, Tilly Leigh, Aisling Foran (Capt), Ella McCann, Molly Lawlor, Kayleigh Maguire, Isabella Giles, Caoimhe Dixon, Sarah McQuade, Caoimhe Brangan, Roisin Murray, Kelly Murphy, YuRu Wang, Izzy Fahey, Sadhbh Sharkey, Lucy O’Sullivan