Report: Christine Allen

Shamrock Rovers advance to the quarter-final stage of the Avenir Sports All Island Cup following a 2-2 draw in Belfast in which skipper Áine O’Gorman bagged a brace.

The Hoops made two changes to their starting eleven from last weekend’s league defeat at Turner’s Cross, with Summer Lawless replacing Amanda Budden between the sticks with Joy Ralph starting in place of Aoife Kelly.

The sides lined out under a blaze of white at the Seaview stadium, Rovers decked in teal while Crusaders donned black and gold.

Rovers started on the front foot and would open the scoreline in the 7th minute. Lia O’Leary drove down the left wing and crossed into the box where Ralph muscled Beth Chalmers out of the equation before teeing up her captain for the strike.

O’Gorman would place the ball into the top corner with the aid of a wicked deflection that deceived Maddy Harvey-Clifford.

Crusaders struggled to keep pace with Rovers’ sweeping passages of play, Katie O’Reilly’s quick feet on the right flank beating Darcy Boyle and Abigail Redmond.

The visitors were unable to take advantage of their dominance however and were left to rue their missed opportunities when Crusaders Emily Reid showed dexterity to win the ball in midfield.

Boyle threaded it through to Darcie McNeill who left untracked, dinked the ball with her left boot over the advancing Lawless to make it all square in the 17th minute.


After the restart, a quartet of passes which started with Shauna Fox deep in the visitor’s half would lead to a one-v-one between Ralph and the Crusaders keeper – however, the Ireland U19 international couldn’t guide it past the ‘keeper.

The heat was as unrelenting as Rovers waves of attack and the teams stopped for a water break in the 22nd.

On returning to play, a heavy touch from Summer Lawless was pounced upon by McNeill with the ball trickling into the back of the net to give the hosts the lead in the 32nd minute, against the run of play.

2-1 to the home side.

A downward header from Jessica Hennessy trickled wide and to the right of the home side’s post and at the other end, Crusaders did little to trouble Lawless with their set pieces, the Rovers keeper untroubled.

After the restart, Ralph came within inches of netting the equaliser when the number 19 controlled an O’Reilly pass and rocketed the ball beyond Harvey – Clifford’s outstretched gloves – and her left-hand post.

Minutes later O’Leary feinted and slipped the ball to O’Gorman, the skipper looked certain to score but was denied by the feet of the Strikers’ goalminder from close range.

Crusaders captain Julie Nelson and defender Abigail Redmond were kept on their toes and did well to make several crucial interceptions to keep their side a nose in front.

Yet The Hoops kept on coming.

O’Gorman nearly found the net in the 65th, heading the ball downward before attempting an audacious lob – Harvey-Clifford tipping the ball clear with her fingertips in what was an exhibition in goalkeeping.

Calls for a penalty for the home side were waved away when substitute Mairead McCann took a tumble in the box with 20 minutes left on the clock.

Stephanie Zambra replaced Ralph in the 72nd while Aoife Kelly came on for Scarlett Herron in the 74th.

At last, Rovers’ dominance paid off with a deserved equaliser in the 81st minute. The lively O’Leary was once again the provider as her fizzed cross was steered home by O’Gorman at the near post.

In the final ten minutes, Rovers pushed for the win and Zambra would hit the outside of the far right-hand post at the death.

The game ended two goals a piece with a point sufficient to secure the Hoops passage to the knockout stages of the Avenir Sports All-Island Cup.

The Hoops return to league action on Saturday when they face table-toppers Galway United at Tallaght Stadium – kick off at the later time of 7:35 pm.