All-Island Cup Report: Galway United 2 - 2 Athlone Town

Isabella Beletic

Isabella Beletic Credit: Martin Doherty (ETPhotos)

‘Galway United cannot be beaten!’ a tweet reads after the Group D Avenir Sports All Island fixture comes to a thrilling close - Athlone Town and the Tribeswomen sharing the spoils in what was a highly competitive contest that ended in 2 goals a piece.

Under an overcast sky in Eamonn Deacy Park, the Athlone Town starting eleven, decked in white, listened intently as skipper Laurie Ryan dispensed a passionate team talk to her huddle in the moments before kick-off.

Both sides were heavily rotated for this fixture with Maria O’Sullivan back between the sticks for the home side, a decision that would prove fruitful for Galway United manager, Phil Trill.

Casey Howe, white socks at half-mast, looked to have springs beneath her boots - so lively was the Northern Ireland international in the opening minutes.

Athlone Towns April Player of The Month almost opened the scoreline in the 2nd minute when she pounced on a mistake by Eve Dossen and swung a Mohammed Ali-esque upper left with her boot through the ball.

Julie-Ann Russell was equally tenacious for the women in maroon and white, engaging in a feisty battle with Kellie Brennan on the left flank.

Sprinting to reach a long ball, Howe toyed with United defender Jamie Erickson just inside the box, shaping up for the shot with a faint before sweeping the ball over the crossbar.

A maroon-colored siren was now flashing behind O Sullivan’s net every time Howe’s white boots touched the ball, the twenty-one-year-old gliding like a gazelle between the left and right flanks.

“Someone call the police!” a spectator shouted (allegedly), as the ball slipped through Lucy Jayne Grant's legs, Howe showing her striker's acumen in the 21st minute and letting one fly from long range having sighted O’Sullivan off her line.

Even the seagulls that circled Eamonn Deacy Park were left flustered as the white shirts celebrated.

Yet the maroon and white chequered flags that danced in the light breeze did not serve to signal a surrender on behalf of Trills eleven, and the women from the west worked to get a foothold on the turf against an Athlone Town side that was brimming with confidence.

Skipper Jenna Slattery fought tirelessly for United, whipping the ball into the danger zone on several occasions and turning Roisin Molloy in midfield, while Erickson marshalled her backline in the face of an ever-present Athlone threat, knocking the ball off the toes of Gillian Keenan in the 32nd at a crucial moment.

O’Sullivan would deny Athlone Town a second just shy of the break, her quick reflexes parrying Keenan’s header at the back post.

It was 1-0 to the visitors at half-time, but United's pedigree would shine through in the second.

Russell, who covered every blade of grass over the full ninety, dug out a shot at the edge of the box one minute into the restart, the well-executed strike narrowly sailing past Katie Keane’s right-hand post.

Howe would deliver several deep looping balls into United's D and was rewarded for her set-piece quality when her captain Ryan scooped a long ball through to the number nine.

Perhaps seeing her first goal in her mind's eye, Howe opted to chance a lob once more over O’Sullivan, yet the Cork native was not to be beaten by the Fermanagh ace on this occasion.

Amanda Smith instructed Slattery as Ryan received treatment on the turf on foot of a strong challenge from United's number 6.

Galway United then upped the tempo, Dossen making her presence felt at the back, while Russell continued to nip at the heels of the visitors.

Substitute Aislinn Meaney would secure the equalizer for the home side in the 57th minute.

Angling her body behind a deft pass from Aoibheann Costello that cut the women in white open, the former IUP Crimson Hawks player fired the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

Ciaran Kilduff and Trill would make several changes for the final 35.

Madie Gibson entered the fray in the 62nd minute for Athlone and The Town moved up a gear, attacking in waves.

O’Sullivan would once again keep her side within the match, shuffling across the goalmouth and tipping a flash header from Howe wide and to the left, before standing tall and refusing to be drawn by Hazel Donegan who fired straight into the goalminders path.

Meaney would chance another effort on goal, the angle proving this time to be too obtuse.

Athlone took the lead again in the 79th, Gibson

creating chaos in the box with her corner whip. Kate Slevin took full advantage of the scramble and muscled the ball into the back of the net.

With ten minutes left to play, seven maroon shirts tore towards the Athlone goal at the tip-off. Galway were determined not to lose the contest - Pride is a powerful motivator.

With fresh legs taking to the field, the women in maroon pushed on, substitute Rola Olusola looking lively from her first touch.

United would equalise in the 88th minute, Jodie Griffin taking advantage of a miscommunication in the Town's defence and poking the ball home at the back post to make it 2-2.

The competitive needle was evident in the four remaining minutes of stoppage time, as both sides desperately searched for a winner despite having secured qualification to the knockout stages of the All Island Cup.

Yet both teams were destined on this occasion to share the spoils in what was a fair result for a contest that oozed quality.