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SUMMER MAGIC

Release Date: 08/10/2012

Author: By Sammy Martin

The Euro Electrix NIWFA League has ended the season in its own unique way – a host of Olympian cup shoot-outs that captivated and enthralled, with the usual mix of moans, groans, cheers and delight. Seven division finals have closed a summer of football that more than lived up to expectations.

There were cases of what might-have-been, could-have been; anointment of double champions and the odd surprise. Whatever the outcome for finalists, from Solitude to Seaview, Stangmore Park to the Oval, the competing clubs shut down the summer in style. It was exhilarating stuff.

Reflected delighted League chair, Elaine Junk: “We strive continually to improve the standard and the enjoyment of the League which indeed is flourishing. Competition throughout most of the divisions has become keener, leading to some great football matches. The finals are very popular and though a couple were expectedly one-sided, it didn’t stop the losers on these occasions from competing sportingly. Well done to them.

“Our thanks go to all teams for their efforts and endeavours. Congratulations to all winners. Other teams deserve applause for the way in which they competed during the season. It’s been a good year.”

PREMIER FINAL
There was compensation for the surrender of their League title as Glentoran BU retained the Premier Cup.

Two first half goals allayed any fears that dogged them since the evening Ballymena Allstars inflicted damage beyond repair as far as the retention of their crown was concerned. It was payback time as Glentoran Belfast United sandpapered the jagged edge of a defeat that was so costly. ‘Dino’ Caldwell and the ever-present Kelly Bailie smoothed the way to a 2-0 victory with two first half goals that saw the Glens retain the trophy at rain-soaked Solitude.

To ask the Allstars to beat the ‘Big Two’ on the way to a cup success was a huge request. If there is satisfaction for the Sky Blues they can always point to wins over the Glens (League) and Crues (Cup) during a fine summer’s showing. The Glens couldn’t manage a strike in the second half as Ballymena dug in, but bolstered by their early hits they saw out the match with a certainty that saw them record their ninth Premier Cup success in twelve years.

Player of the match was Ciara McCloy (Ballymena United Allstars) and cup was received by Catherine O’Hagan (Glentoran Belfast United).

CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
They were odds-on favourites to retain the Championship Cup and Cliftonville didn’t disappoint. A 5-2 win over Dromore Amateurs at Donegal Celtic Park clinched the double to complete a wonderful season.

The winning of the division cup last year to some extent lessened the trauma of promotion failure for Cliftonville But there were no trips or slips this time and in a summer of rain and chill they were the hottest ticket in town, enjoying total supremacy, which went unchallenged. It was obvious that their quest was the title and they served up some brilliant football on the way to their goal. So, congratulations to the players, backroom staff, manager and coaches; they are back in the Premiership, carrying two pieces of well-deserved silverware on the way.

The retention of the Cup was the climax of a campaign that saw Cliftonville live comfortably in their division. Kiera Moss popped in two goals and went on the win the Player of the Match award, whilst captain, Joanne Laverty, was presented with Cup by Alan Donaldson. Although it took them deep into the second half before they could shrug off tenacious Dromore. This added to the intrigue. Cliftonville though had the staying power and that was the crucial difference.

Dromore must be applauded for their endeavour, goals from Lauren Gibson and Amanda Morton keeping them in contention, which prompted manager, Roger McCartan to reflect. “We fought hard and at only 2-1 down with less than half an hour to go, I thought we might pinch it. But Cliftonville had that bit more quality, which saw them through.”

DIVISION 1 FINAL
They counted their blessings when St. Matthew’s allowed them to grab the Division One title when the trophy was already being prepared for the Saints. Valley Rangers recovered from the unusual position of lying behind an opponent as the season’s end drew close to become champions. But since they hit the ground running in their debut season four years ago Rangers have never stopped. They will play Championship football next year and will enter the stage as, yet again, double winners, for the fourth year in a row.

Once the sighs of relief turned to cheers of joy following their title success, they went on to do as they do best, forging their own destiny. So it was always going to be a stiff ask for Larne in the Cup showdown at Seaview. Ace scorer Amy Nicholson fired in two goals with another from Natasha Ferris clinching a 3-0 victory over the Antrim ladies.

Mr. Alan Donaldson presented Rangers captain Natalie Graham with the Cup, with the Player of the Match Award going to two-goal ace Amy Nicholson.

DIVISION 2 FINAL
Over the past three seasons Sion Swifts continually frustrated and thwarted Lisburn as both teams climbed the charts, the Swifts forging their way as champions with the Blues enduring the awkwardness and the uncertainty of the play-offs.

Lisburn finally managed to escape their league-long competitors to seize the title this time around. Indeed the double was on. Revenge was swift though. A 3-1 victory at Dungannon’s Stangmore Park saw Sion pick up their annual piece of silverware. Despite their best efforts Lisburn couldn’t hold a dedicated Swifts team that might have won by more had it not been for the heroics of Jessica Poots.
The Lisburn ‘keeper turned in a tremendous performance and when there were personal duels with Lauren Brennan in one-on-ones, she denied the division’s joint top scorer an almost certain hat-trick. Her display won her the Player of the Match award.

Sion’s 2-0 lead first half lead was shortened when Stacy Murdough closed the gap to 2-1, but they kept the Red and Whites in check to go on to win a fine final.

DIVISION 3 FINAL
It’s been a season of outstanding achievement by youthful Newry City. As expected, following their annexing of the Division Three title to gain promotion to Division Two, they completed another double-winning summer with an unchallenging stroll in the division final at The Oval.

Having reached the Coca Cola Irish Cup semi-finals, scaring the hell out of Glentoran Belfast United in the semis before bowing out 1-0, it was not surprising that the young Blue and White Stripes played with conviction. It was a flawless exhibition that produced twelve goals. The irrepressible Eireann McLaughlin, who hit two hat-tricks in the two previous rounds, tagged on another five here.

It was feared that this particular final would dissolve into an uncomfortable one-sided affair and unfortunately pre-match predictions were realised as the young Blue and White Stripes demonstrated their mercurial creativity. You could argue there is a raw freshness about them, unrestrained by the overindulgence of repetitive coaching. But is it? The programme shaped by their manager and coaches has knitted the keenness and brashness of youth with a knowledgable pattern of play that is engaging at best and direct at worst.

Newry’s budding talent is being noticed. Moya Feehan helped Northern Ireland to a 0-0 draw with England and then scored the winner in their 1-0 victory over Italy in their section of the EUFA Women’s U-17 qualifiers. Aimee Mackin was also on the team. She went on to score in a 4-1 triumph over Israel as Northern Ireland progressed to the Elite stage of the tournament. Aoife Lennon and Alex Hurst are now in the senior N.I. squad.

It needed a Herculean effort by the police side to contain their hyper-active opponents but the task was beyond them. From the moment Aimee Mackin volleyed in Newry’s opener midway through the first half, there was only going to be one outcome. At 3-0 at half-time the match as a contest was reaching its end. Mackin grabbed a second goal, with Alex Hurst (2), Aoife Lennon, Moya Feehan and Amy Kelly lengthening the score-line by the minute. And off course, there was McLaughlin’s five.

And the Newry camp informs us that there is more to come next year with Denim McLaughlin, Eireann’s sister, and other blossoming newcomers, Aoibheann Jones and Blaithin Mackin, sister of top scoring Aimee, challenging for places.
It was PSNI’s second successive defeat in the final, having lost out to Lisburn last year, but there was consolation this time around in the shape of promotion following their play-off success over Moyola Park.

At the end of the match, Mr. Alan Donaldson, MD of Euro Electrix, League sponsors, presented the Cup and the Player of the Match award to Newry captain Aoife Lennon.

DIVISION 4 FINAL
Their return to the League has proved a successful one for Drumaness Mills. With Division Four having to be compressed to five teams they seized the opportunity to emerge from the depths to climb into Division Three, which will give them a more enjoyable range of varied football next summer. And though the title passed them by, going to Killen Rangers, a superb cup victory over the Rangers earned them a place in the final against Carnmoney.

A goal apiece from fleeting winger Sara Walsh and Alison McMaster saw them take the Cup, 2-0, with a superb performance under the floodlights at Seaview. There was double celebration for Sara who was awarded the Player of the Match.

RESERVE FINAL
The Reserve Cup was won by Glentoran IIs who pipped Ballymena Allstars 1-0 with the small consolation of Player of the Match award going to Ballymena’s Courtney Brown. Glens captain Eva McCloskey received the Cup from Alan Donaldson.

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