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Women’s Football Blast – Up The Race

This weeks WFB is all about the title race.

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Women’s National League Results – Round 25

Wexford Youths 5-2 Sligo Rovers
Goals: Kylie Murphy 31′ (1-0), Ciara Rossiter 41′ (2-0), Emma Doherty 43′ (2-1),
Kylie Murphy 59′ (3-1), Emma Doherty 61′ (3-2), Kylie Murphy 78′ (4-2),
Ciara Rossiter 80′ (5-2)

Cork City 0-5 Peamount United
Goals: Áine O’Gorman 38′ (0-1) / 71′ (0-2), Stephanie Roche 72′ (0-3),
Alannah McEvoy 81′ (0-4), Ellen Dolan 90′ (0-5)

DLR Waves 1-2 Shelbourne
Goals: Megan Smyth-Lynch 8′ (0-1), Jessie Stapleton 13′ (0-2), Kate Mooney 16′ (1-2)

Treaty United 0-7 Athlone Town
Goals: Scarlett Herron 14′ (0-7), Emily Corbet 27′ (0-2) / 28′ (0-3) / 36′ (0-4), 50′ (0-5),
Scarlett Herron 50′ (0-6), E. Corbet 80′ (0-7)

Bohemians 1-2 Galway
Goals: Katie Lovely 59′ (1-0), Ellerose O’Flaherty 74′ (1-1), Jenna Slattery 83′ (1-2)

Five goals for Emily Corbet puts her level with Áine O’Gorman at the top of the scoring charts on 19 goals. Stephanie Roche and Ellen Molloy are on 16, but Molloy will miss the rest of the season through injury, Kylie Murphy’s hat trick takes her up to 14 goals in the league.

Wexford made a big statement having lost back-to-back games to Athlone Town. Athlone themselves put up the biggest score of the weekend. Peamount deserved their win on the weekend but the 5-goal margin was harsh on Cork. Galway’s win over Bohs coupled with a defeat for Waves means the Tribeswomen are in pole position finish in the top half.

Table

Title Race

When we started these Women’s Football Blasts at the end of August we were debating whether it was a 2, 3, or 4 team race in the Women’s National League for the title. Now, heading into the penultimate round of games, it is still possible for any one of Wexford Youths, Shelbourne, Peamount United, and Athlone Town to win the league.

If teams finish level on points they will be separated on head to head record in the fixtures between the teams in question. This goes in the order of points gained in the games between the teams, then goal difference in the games, then goals scored in the games, then away goals scored in the games. If they are still level there will be a play-off, it could potentially be a three-way play-off.

Permutations

Thanks to Ronan McCarthy for the graphics explaining the permutations. Follow @RonanTheGreek on Twitter.

Here’s how each side can still win the league, their current points tally, and who they play in their final two games.

Wexford Youths

55Pts

R26 – Peamount United (A)

R27 – Shelbourne (H)

Shelbourne

54Pts

R26 – Sligo Rovers (H)

R27 – Wexford Youths (A)

Peamount United

52Pts

R26 – Wexford Youths (H)

R27 – Galway (A)

Athlone Town

52Pts

R26 – Galway (H)

R27 – Bohemians (A)

The title race could be decided this weekend. If Wexford beat Peamount coupled with Sligo losing would mean Youths win the league. It is still possible that all four teams finish level on points.

Thoughts

A little while ago when Wexford closed the gap on Shelbourne, it seemed like the league was destined to be decided in the meeting between the two sides in the final round of the season. The picture has become more crowded since then, but the reality is if either side win their final two games they will be champions. It’s still in Wexford’s hands, but they have the toughest run-in, and any slip up hands over the initiative to the chasing pack.

This weekend’s meeting between Youths and Peas is a huge game, even relative to what the games between those sides usually are. If Peamount win, they will be ahead of Wexford on head to head. Wexford having home advantage over Shels on the final day could, in a round-about kind of way make Peamount favorites. Then again, Peas face Galway, who you may remember had a dramatic say in the title race last season coming from 2 goals down to beat Peamount 2-5 and send the trophy to Shels. Shelbourne could effectively be out of the title race this weekend if they lose to Sligo as they did in their previous meeting, or they could find themselves top of the table. We haven’t even factored in Athlone yet, who have the most complicated permutations and need a lot of favors, but still are in the mix until at least this Saturday.

It’ll be interesting to see how all of this impacts upon the season finale, the cup final. If either Shels or Athlone face a heartbreak or are involved in big celebrations on the final weekend, it will have an impact on the meeting between the two on November 6th.

There are so many turns the title race could take, or it could all end this Saturday. It’s been he most exciting title race we’ve seen in the WNL, and whoever claims the league title will have their work cut out in defending it next year alongside trying to qualify for the UCL.

Elsewhere

Galway will guarantee a place in the top half with a win or two draws in their remaining games. DLR Waves have the easiest run-in on paper of the sides looking to finish 5th, but the Waves will need 6 points and to hope Galway lose both their games as their goal difference is far superior. Even if Bohs win their final games and Galway lose their there is 28 goals between the two sides, so it looks unlikely to say the least.

If Sligo get anything from their final games they will realistically be safe in 8th place, as Cork have a much worse goal difference.

For the teams outside the top 4, it’s all about finishing the year on good form and laying a solid foundation for next season.

Up Next…

Women’s National League Fixtures – Round 26 – Saturday 22nd October

Shelbourne vs Sligo Rovers
14:00 / Tolka Park

DLR Waves vs Treaty United
16:00 / UCD Bowl

Cork City vs Bohemians
17:00 / Turners Cross

Peamount United vs Wexford Youths
17:20 / PRL Park

Athlone Town vs Galway
19:00 / Athlone Town Stadium

Cailín in Green

Since we last brought you a Women’s Football Blast Ireland have qualified for a World Cup. Amber Barrett getting on to Denise O’Sullivan’s ball and scoring by doing what she called Big Toeing it is what made the difference.
Ireland were super in the game against a Scotland side ranked above them. It was a disciplined performance in which Ireland kept their shape well and controlled the midfield. Courtney Brosnan was Bonner-esque in saving a penalty early on, and the USA-born goalkeeper had a super game where she refused to let anything get past her.
Ireland have made the World Cup. It’s history. Forget outrage for the sake of outrage, anybody who doesn’t understand the magnitude of this achievement needs some serous education.
After the WNL season has come to a close we’ll have a special WFB where we look back at Ireland’s campaign.

Before You Go

Make sure you follow @PostToPostSport on Twitter and PostToPostSport on Instagram.

And if you’ve enjoyed any of our stuff please take a look at our fundraiser for Ireland’s National Autism Charity. You can read up on the different challenges we’ve done and why we chose to raise money for As I Am. The link to donate is on our charity fundraiser page, all donations are greatly appreciated and every little bit goes a long way.

The Women’s Football Blast will be back next week with all the Irish women’s football you can handle.

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Women’s Football Blast – Play-Off

Due to work commitments we were unable to bring the WFB to you last week, but we’re back with a particular focus on next Tuesday.

Cailín in Green

We’ve been counting down the days until Tuesday 11th October for some time despite not knowing who the opponents are. After Thursdays first round games we know Scotland will be the destination for Ireland.

The Scots will be favourites, but it’s the lesser of two evils. Austria were strong in the Euros over the Summer, picking up two wins and putting it up to eventual champions England. Scotland are a team Ireland are more familiar with in terms of personnel, and it’s a shorter trip. Scotland will go into the game as favourites, but Ireland will benefit from their opponents having played 120 minutes just 5 days earlier. Scotland are looking to make their second consecutive appearance at a World Cup, having made their major tournament bow in the 2019 edition in France.

Match Fact: This will be the 22nd time Ireland and Scotland have met in a senior women’s game, making Scotland Ireland’s most frequent opponents.

Looking at the Scotland line-up from their first round victory, they play with a 1-4-3-3. Matching that up with Ireland’s usual 1-5-2-3 raises the question on what Ireland will do in the midfield. Having just a midfield 2 against a 3, particularly with Ruesha Littlejohn out, could lead to a bit of an overload. Against a front 3, it’s likely if Ireland go with 3 center-backs and wing-backs, it will be more of a flat back 5. That leaves a bit of a gap in the middle of the park.

The solution may be to change to more of a 1-5-3-2, or a 1-5-4-1. Both have their drawbacks. I would favour a 1-5-3-2 as leaving just one up front could see them isolated. A front 2 of Heather Payne and Amber Barrett could reek havoc on the Scottish defense in front of a midfield trio of Lilly Agg, Denise O’Sullivan, and Katie McCabe. There’s a real work-rate quality to that midfield, and although McCabe has done very well in a more advanced role, this is going to be a game for getting stuck in in the middle of the park. Saoirse Noonan is another option to start upfront as she’s been on good form for Durham. We saw when the men’s teams played not long ago the game was essentially a derby, it’ll be a similar situation here.

In the penultimate game of the group stage, against Finland, Ireland started slow. Finland needed a win and were the better team for the opening 30 minutes. The worry is that situation repeats itself. This time there will be a smaller contingent of Ireland fans to get behind the team, Ireland will need to start strong to squash any momentum the home side get from their crowd.

Of course, a win for Ireland (or Scotland) would not necessarily see Ireland progress to the World Cup. Of the 3 play-off winners only the two highest ranked will qualify directly for next Summer’s competition in Australia and New Zealand. The other will have to go to the inter-continental play-offs. This will involve playing 1 or 2 further games. We’ll look at the format of that if it comes to it. The other two play-offs are:

Switzerland vs Wales
Portugal vs Iceland

Ireland would need a win coupled with a defeat for at least one of Switzerland or Iceland, who are ranked above Ireland. In the two games above, Portugal are more likely to do Ireland a favor, having performed well in the Euros. The main thing is winning our game, which as we’ve made clear, is no guarantee.

Team News
The big team news in recent days has been Keeva Keenan of Shelbourne coming in to replace former teammate Jess Ziu. Ziu has been a big player for Ireland in the two recent games, and her spark will be missed. As well as Ziu and Littlejohn, Ireland will also be without Megan Connolly, Savannah McCarthy, Aoife Covill, Ellen Molloy, and Leanne Kiernan, who are all injured. Liverpool captain Niamh Fahey and for Shels star Jamie Finn return to the squad after missing the Slovakia game, and Niamh Farrelly, Roma McLaughlin, Isibeal Atkinson, and Kyra Carusa are all recalled.

Extended 29 Woman Ireland Squad:

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan, Grace Moloney, Megan Walsh, Eve Badana.
Defenders: Harriet Scott, Keeva Keenan, Claire O’Riordan, Diane Caldwell, Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahey. Hayley Nolan, Chloe Mustaki, Megan Campbell, Áine O’Gorman.
Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Captain), Denise O’Sullivan, Jamie Finn, Ciara Grant, Lilly Agg, Niamh Farrelly, Roma McLaughlin, Lucy Quinn, Isibeal Atkinson.
Forwars: Heather Payne, Amber Barrett, Abbie Larkin, Saoirse Noonan, Kyra Carusa

A total of four players currently playing in the WNL, with much of the squad having come through the domestic league. There’s a real depth there in that 28. Ireland will certainly have a strong bench to choose from.

The Team We’d Like To See Start:
Formation: 1-5-3-2
Courtney Brosnan,
Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell, Jamie Finn, Chloe Mustaki,
Lilly Agg, Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe,
Heather Payne, Amber Barrett.

It’s the biggest game in the history of Irish football, and this is probably the best position Ireland have been in in terms of overall squad quality and facilities. All but 4 of the players in the squad are playing professional football, with many playing for a top tier club. There’s a real opportunity here. In the past Ireland have had legends like Emma Byrne and Olivia O’Toole who made a name for themselves playing for Ireland but ultimately never got to do it at a major tournament in the green jersey. Back in 2017 the Ireland squad was forced to threaten strike action just to get decent working conditions. Only recently has the agreement been struck for the women’s international side to be paid the same as the men. It’s been a long road for this Ireland team to get a decent shot with some actual backing. They’ve taken that chance. This Ireland side, under Vera Pauw, were so close to making the Euros, ultimately that tournament went on without the Girls in Green. Now there’s a place at the World Cup beckoning for an squad that boasts modern day Irish legends in Katie McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan.

Whatever the result on Tuesday this has been a momentous campaign. But this Ireland side is so far above moral victories that all involved in the camp will feel they deserve to be there.

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Since we’ve last published this feature, we’ve had two cup semi-finals and another round of league games.

Women’s National League Results – Round 24

Galway 2-3 DLR Waves
Goals: Ellerose O’Flaherty 5′ (1-0), Shauna Carroll 8′ (1-1), Katie Malone 11′ (1-2),
Jamie Erickson 52′ (2-2), Avril Brierley 85′ (2-3)

Shelbourne 2-1 Cork City
Goals: Becky Cassin P 24′ (0-1), OG 45′ (1-1), Megan Smyth-Lynch 87′ (2-1)

Athlone Town 2-1 Wexford Youths
Goals: Aoibheann Clancy P 8′ (0-1), Kellie Brennan 21′ (1-1), Gillian Keenan 82′ (2-1)

Peamount United 1-0 Bohemians
Goals: Stephanie Roche 29′ (1-0)

Sligo Rovers 1-1 Treaty United
Goals: Cara Griffin 9′ (0-1), Lauren McLellan 83′ (1-1)

Table

The only change of position after the last round of games in DLR Waves moving back above Bohemians. With Athlone beating Wexford Youths the gap between the top 4 is now just 3 points. Next week we’ll go through title-race permutations ahead of the final 3 rounds.

Athlone Town

Really we could have done a piece on the Midlands side every week, such has been the nature of their remarkable season. Tommy Hewitt is manager of the year no matter what happens, and what could happen is Athlone winning a league and cup double.

Over the past 3 weekends Athlone have beaten reigning champions Shelbourne in the league, knocked holders Wexford out of the cup, and gone to Wexford the following week and beat the league leaders. They are a serious team, and we are seeing the dawning of some new big names in the WNL.

Gillian Keenan scored what is a crucial header at this stage of the title race. She headed in a corner after substitute Emily Corbet did so well to win the set piece. Muireann Devaney has been a sensation. The way she moves the ball around and the ground she covers will surely see her in the Ireland set up soon. Kellie Brennan was player of the match. She scored the equalizer, having scored against Shels two weeks prior. When asked if they are eyeing up the league in her post match interview she said “Why wouldn’t ya?” That’s just it, why wouldn’t they? If they keep that team together we’ll be seeing Athlone around the top of the table for a while.

Close to a Big One

Two things nearly happened during the last game round. Cork almost went to Tolka Park and beat Shelbourne, and Treaty United nearly got a first win of the season against Sligo Rovers.

If either of the Munster sides had won it would have been deserved, Cork have come into their own unfortunately late in the season. Treaty have made a good go of games but it’s been clear they’ll likely find themselves in the second tier when it comes in.

Still, a good week with the two bottom sides showing they can be competitive. We don’t need to go back to the days of 10+ margins of victory.

Up Next

Women’s National League Round 25 – Saturday 15th October

Wexford Youths vs Sligo Rovers
Ferrycarrig Park / 16:30

Cork City vs Peamount United
Turners Cross / 17:00

DLR Waves vs Shelbourne
Whitehall Stadium / 17:00

Treaty United vs Athlone Town
Markets Field / 17:00

Bohemians vs Galway
Dalymount United / 18:00

Irish Abroad

Ireland international Chloe Mustaki scored her first professional goal last weekend.

One thing we didn’t get to talk about with no WFB last week was Clare Shine announcing her retirement.

Clare has been an excellent player in her time, but more significantly she has been an important advocate for mental health awareness in Irish sport. She’s contributed to the conversation in hugely important ways. We wish Clare all the best going forward.

Before You Go

Make sure you follow @PostToPostSport on Twitter and PostToPostSport on Instagram.

And if you’ve enjoyed any of our stuff please take a look at our fundraiser for Ireland’s National Autism Charity. You can read up on the different challenges we’ve done and why we chose to raise money for As I Am. The link to donate is on our charity fundraiser page, all donations are greatly appreciated and every little bit goes a long way.

The Women’s Football Blast will be back next Wednesday (or a day closely following Wednesday) with all the Irish women’s football content you can handle.