Alexandra College and St Andrew’s will contest the Leinster School’s Senior Cup final next Tuesday following impressive wins at Grange Road yesterday over Mount Sackville and Mount Anville, respectively.
In the tighter of the two fixtures, Alex struck three times in the second half – twice in the last ten minutes – to eventually break the resolve of a tough Mount Sackville outfit, winning out 3-0.
There was little to separate the sides for long periods with Orla Fox and Emma Sweeney master-minding a solid defensive set-up for Sackville while Ireland underage soccer international Olivia Smartt provided an excellent outlet down the right flank to cause plenty of problems.
Deirdre Duke – off the back of Tuesday night double for Hermes against Loreto – was a clear and present danger in the Alex attack. Her pace and stealing skills combined to create three top chances, two on the open side and one on the reverse, which Alison Garrigan did well to keep at bay.
Alex took the lead in the game’s final quarter when Robyn Traynor bashed a loose ball home first time and, with Sackville chasing the game, the Milltown school notched up two late goals to reach the final.
First, Kate Lenehan’s powerful corner strike fell Aisling Burke’s way on the rebound to double the lead before the excellent Emily Beatty reached the end-line before supplying the perfect cross for Erica Hinkson to sweep home.
St Andrew’s hopes of retaining the title, meanwhile, were kept on track with an impressive 2-0 in spite of an injury early in the second half to Niamh Atcheler and a Chloe Watkins’ sin-binning.
Gillian Pinder was the creative force at the hub, setting free the runs of Sophie Marshall and Sarah Woodroofe while using her own skills to ghost past defenders.
Her pass set Marshall free down the right flank and she played a superb square ball to Watkins to roll home just ahead of the despairing dive of Ciara Walsh.
It was a deserved lead after a dominant first ten minutes which accrued three penalty corners. But Mount Anville, egged on by sizable supporter’s club, responded well, earning two corners of their own while Lisa McCarthy’s battle with Watkins was a high quality battle in the centre of the park.
Aisling Naughton’s indefatigable energy on the break and the work-rate of Ciara Noble meant it certainly was not one-way traffic.
But Andrew’s – with three players involved in the Irish senior set-up – always had the edge in quality and they reacted well in the second half after Atcheler was carried off with what looked to be a jarred knee injury.
A superb Pinder run eliminated three players and while her shot was brilliantly blocked by McCarthy, the bounce of the ball fell kindly for Shauna Kavanagh to tap into an empty net.
Watkins was binned soon after for a rash tackle during which time Naughton earned a corner and created a chance of her own, haring down the right but neither found the right side of the post.
And it was Marshall who went closest to adding a goal but, again played in by Pinder, her stinging aerial was brilliantly saved by Nicola Walsh with a diving glove, capping a fine personal game between the posts.
Alexandra College: L Porter, L Lenehan (capt), N Gray, D Duke, E Beatty, A Burke, L Gibney, R Evans, R Traynor, S Gibbons, S Mulkerrin, G Mulkerrin, E Hinkson, J McArdle, H McDermott, K Lenehan Mount Sackville: Alison Garrigan, E Sweeney, O Fox, A McDiarmada, M Spillane, R Hinkson, A O’Brien, S Quinn, S McLoughlin, S O’Connell, P Cashin, O Smartt, D Gibney, S Hinkson
St Andrew’s: T Ellis, N Atcheler, L Stephens, V Taaffe, L Pinder, H Sarratt, C Watkins (capt), G Pinder, S Woodroofe, S Marshall, H Meredith, H Kinsman, S Kavanagh, A Spain, L Gray, J Lavery Mount Anville: N Walsh, L McCarthy, A Naughton, C Walsh, J Maguire, K O’Connor, J Ryan, J Fennelly, C Noble, G Appleby, R Murphy, L Smith, A Crotty, N O’Connor, A O’Shea, A O’Connell, K O’Donovan
* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from the Alexandra College vs Mount Sackville game, click here while photos of the Mount Anville vs St Andrew's game can be seen here (more to follow). For the Irish Times take on the games, click here while the Evening Herald will be carrying a page on both semi-finals with photos this afternoon.