BONAGEE UNITED’S WFAI Intermediate Shield bid was ended in cruel circumstances this afternoon in Mayo.
Bonagee United 0 Manulla 1
Six minutes from the end of a tense, tight and yet enthralling semi-final, Jessica Nolan sneaked in for a winner that was like a dagger right through Bonagee’s arteries.
It stung hard when Nolan, an international player who is just back from a spell in America, nipping in behind the Bonagee defence to slip the slightest of touches past a stunned Denise McElhinney.
Manulla were the favourites for this one and in Nolan they had the game’s outstanding performer.
And yet Bonagee had managed to nulify her threat as best they could on a day when Seamy McGinty’s team rolled their sleeves up and went to the trenches. Bonagee went to war here and, to a woman, left every fibre of themselves on the field.
Without Natalie McFadden – who netted twice in the quarter-final win over Finglas – Bonagee were down a player who could and would’ve been key here in a the 4-5-1 deployed.[adrotate group=”38″]
Natalie Sweeney ploughed the lonely and often frustrating furrow in attack and Bonagee deserved more for their endeavours.
Their grit was personified by Leona Russell, magnificent at right-back and who – having missed the chance to play in a European AFL final yesterday – despite having Nolan for close attention, managed to turn in a five-star performance.
Claire Orr, not for the first time, put her body on the line when, at 0-0 early in the second half, stepped in with a brave and vital interception to deny Aoife Brennan, who seemed certain to score.[adrotate group=”46″]
The return of Anna Doherty to the engine room certainly galvanised Bonagee with Doherty, Bridgeen Devenney and Alice Diver battling to the bitter end and ensuring that Manulla didn’t take complete charge of the contest.
Bonagee had chances, too. Early in the game, Sweeney headed wide when Shannon McBride’s corner caused Manulla bother.
Nolan was a constant threat, flashing an early free over the top before McElhinney’s expert reflexes kept her at bay when Aishling Flannery’s diagonal ball caught Bonagee out.[adrotate group=”70″]
Mary Coyle popped a first-time effort wide late in the half as Bonagee absorbed what Manulla could find, but without McFadden they were up against it in the final third.
Brennan came close to opening the scoring on the hour, but a lobbed effort cannoned off the outside of the post.
McElhinney saved from Brennan and, as Manulla went for broke, the home side sent Nolan up top and it was she who won the race for a loose ball in the 84th minute, beating the offside trap to roll home what proved to be the winner.
Bonagee, also minus the injured Grainne Gallagher, had their opportunities, too. From Emma Ryan’s free kick, Amy Thompson was narrowly wide and Doherty also came close to breaking the deadlock.[adrotate group=”37″]
Diver and Deborah Kerrigan combined on another promising attack, with the latter’s inviting cross palmed by Orla Dempsey to Sweeney, who had her heels clipped only to stay on her feet.
It was a case of a chance missed for Bonagee – in more ways than one. They bowed out with their heads down, but held high at the same time. It was that sort of day.
Bonagee United: Denise McElhinney; Leona Russell, Amy Thompson, Emma Ryan, Claire Orr; Shannon McBride, Bridgeen Devenney, Anna Doherty, Alice Diver, Deborah Kerrigan; Natalie Sweeney (Olivia McGinley 85).
Manulla: Orla Dempsey; Aishling Flannery, Stacey Freyne, Sinead Flannery, Laura Regan; Mary Gill (Tracey Hall 61), Aoife Frayne, Mary Coyle, Jessica Nolan; Aoife Brennan, Hannah Flatley (Claire McDonagh 86).Tags: