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ISLE OF MAN FLOODLIT CUP FINAL
CORINTHIANS 2 DOUGLAS ROYAL 1
Report by Paul Hatton
If anyone will have the privilege of writing Sarah O'Reilly's footballing auto-biography, then it would share the same name of the infamous Christy Brown novel "My left foot." And like all heart rending stories, it was the left footed strike from the Whites' captain which found the Royal net in the 69th minute that proved to be the winner in this local derby and send the TT Grandstand side of Noble's Park into delirium.
From the offset, Royals' supremo Brian Cowin had done his homework well, the experience of his side clearly showing, attacking and defending in numbers and always having a player spare at the back, they looked impregnable in the first half.
Corinthians, however, looked uneasy. A bundle of nerves, unnecessary bunching and reckless kicking the ball out of touch when there were players capable of playing themselves out of these positions. Royals seized on this unease, working the forward line intelligently, Shimmin scurrying along the line before skewing a shot wide for the first chance and they came closer still, Siobhan Lockwood steering an effort over the bar. Moments later, the towering presence of Kym Hicklin in midfield won a header which Lockwood gathered, teeing to Shimmin, the resulting shot was spilled under the adroit Rachel Quirk for a corner.
From this set piece after 12 minutes, Royals opened their account. Bekki Cole's cross was flicked on at the near post and across goal. The Corinthians' defence inertia proved costly, Shimmin having all the time in the world to get the ball under control and send a fizzing shot crashing inside the near post for the opening goal.
But this was the only bright spot in what was a very forgettable first half with both sides at times cancelling each other out and numerous hurried and missed passes, with silverware as well as local bragging rights both coveted prizes. Royal still controlled most of the proceedings - Shimmin played a dangerous ball across goal, Cole was found in space on the right but she sliced her shot wide.
It was Leonie Roberts that led the fightback. The Corinthians midfielder found the net only to be ruled out for offside and, after being put in the clear after some work by Anna Quayle on the right, lifted her resulting effort over the bar. Corinthians too had a good claim for a penalty, Andrea Lace's hand clearly made contact from Voirrey Holmes' throw in, but the decision wasn't given.
But Royal were met with a blow come half time, although they would have been the happier of two teams at this stage. Donna Shimmin injured her hamstring before the interval and although she played in a deeper role after the restart, she was not the attacking force as she was in the first, playing through the pain barrier in the second. This did not stop her creating the first opportunity after resumption, slipping a through ball to her New Zealand strike partner, who drove the resulting shot off target.
Yet again, Corinthians had another opportunity to draw level. Roberts gave chase down the left and cut in, pulled the ball back across goal where Quayle was unmarked at the far post, but somehow she steered her effort just off target from close range. Douglas Royal still continued to force the issue though, Cole and Hicklin driving shots at Quirk's body.
Corinthians had to gamble to remain in the hunt and it was the tactical switch of O'Reilly from defence to midfield that would prove their winning move and eventually checkmate Royal in this footballing game of chess. Unleashing the creative forces of Quayle and Thomas, it nearly paid dividends, the latter struck a spectacular 25-yard curling strike that hit the post. With 59 minutes played, Corinthians drew level. O'Reilly won a sliding tackle midway in the opposing half, the ball deflected off Leanne Ashe's legs and Jade Burden stole a yard from her marker before steadying herself, drove a shot aimed at the bottom left, goalkeeper Kerri Williams met it with an outstretched palm, but spun off, hitting the net. Negativity from Tracey Cowley's side turned to belief as Royal were now on the back foot.
In response, Shimmin lifted a free kick over the opposing goal but the woodwork came to Royal's rescue yet again as Holmes' lobbed effort from the right hit the top side of the bar. With one minute of normal time left and with extra-time looming, O'Reilly produced a moment of sheer brilliance that will be talked about on one half of Noble's Park in years to come. Thomas linked with Quayle, who fed the ball out wide left to her captain. Looking up, O'Reilly unleashed an angled 20-yard dipping effort that flew past Williams' raised arm before hitting the net, O'Reilly was subsequently mobbed.
The thought of this trophy making its way to the St Ninian's church side of Noble's Park for a third time began to slip away. Play had hardly resumed and before Royal could muster any real opening, referee William Blair had blown for full-time.
Further footballing milestones were made in this first ever all-capital cup final. Corinthians manager Tracey Cowley became the first female to win a major trophy in Manx women's football but also the first person to win as a player and a manager, tasting success with Union Mills A back in 2002-03. It was also the youngest ever team to win a major cup final, the average age of the side was just 17½ years.
Corinthians: Rachel Quirk, Lucy Kinrade, Rachel Hutchinson, Sarah O'Reilly, Alison Breen (Zoe McCann), Anna Quayle, Stephanie Hall, Leonie Roberts, Jade Burden, Helen Thomas, Voirrey Holmes. Subs not used: Jane Bottomley, Louise Quirk, Lynette Corran, Tracey Cowley.
Douglas Royal: Kerri Williams, Andrea Lace, Sam MacDonald, Leanne Ashe, Orna Lynch, Karen Faragher, Bekki Cole, Kym Hicklin, Donna Shimmin, Sam Jordan, Siobhan Lockwood. Subs not used: Danielle Moffitt, Mary Wilson, Ceri Purvis, Vicki Worthington.
Photo - Helen Thomas and captain Sarah O'Reilly with the Floodlit Cup.
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