Friends were knocked out of the Schoolgirls’ Senior Cup last week as favourites Sullivan Upper claimed a narrow 3-2 semi-final success.
Friends’ went into the match as clear underdogs, but clearly hadn’t read the script.
Zara Malseed, an Irish U18 player, was the danger and so she proved within seconds. This was Sullivan’s true form – to score early. But Sara McGucken made a great save.
Sullivan continued to knock on the door but Friends’ were so speedy on the counter they caused all sorts of problems for a nervy defence.
The attack of Shannon Atkinson, Beth Ravey and Sophie Reid were ripping through the back four and soon their pressure resulted in a penalty corner. Sullivan were undone by a well-worked move, finished off by Rosie Henderson. However, the euphoria didn’t last.
As if to waken her team, Malseed weaved her way through the Friends’ defence and scored a great goal. The lead had lasted 45 seconds.
But nothing seemed to phase the young Friends’ side, who simply picked up where they had left off.
At the other end, Anna McDermott’s defending at the post prevented Malseed from scoring from a penalty corner and only seconds later it was the Sullivan Goalkeeper diving to save from Shannon Atkinson.
Friends’ restored their lead in the 20th minute with a superb team goal, worked from the back. Beth Ravey dashed into the circle, drew the keeper out and then selflessly passed to Shannon Atkinson who slotted the ball home with ease. The crowd erupted. There was real belief that Friends’ could cause an upset.
The second half began with Sullivan pressing but very reliant on their captain, not surprising having scored a hat-trick in every round. Friends’ found it harder to gain anything fluent in attack and gradually having conceded three corners, Zara blasted home her second in the 42nd minute. Sullivan were buoyant and two minutes later, Malseed scored her treble with yet another solo effort.
Friends’ weren’t beaten yet and in the last ten minutes were rarely out of the Sullivan circle. A third goal beckoned for Friends’ and only for that illusive piece of luck Rosie Henderson would have had her second. With the keeper beaten the ball was taken off the line before Sophie Reid could finish.
Time ran out and a mightily relieved Sullivan had reached the final.