Contributed by: Tobietta Rhyman
A sunny Wednesday late winter afternoon in Melbourne, signs of spring and finals footy, and unofficially this match was a final.
The US Freedom had to win to advance to the Women's final after their defeat at the hands of the Northern Lights the previous week. For Ireland the incentive was to keep their opponents down and finish the minor round undefeated.
Naturally the US came out hard, determined to show the Irish who was the better team and having mostly played lower sides until then, the Banshees appeared to be taken by surprise. The Freedom duly got the opening goal they needed. After that the game was very tough as the Banshees tried to wrestle back control but the two teams were tied for intensity and matched for skill. The USA girls then got another chance from a free kick that was quickly relayed into the Banshees' defensive 50m, but it went through for a behind.
In the second quarter the Banshees knew they were in for a contest and came out screaming and slammed the ball between the sticks, but it was deemed touched for a behind. But adding insult to injury just made the Banshees all the more dangerous, although somehow they just couldn’t finish it, the ball going for a behind again three times before a free kick into the 50 and an easy uncontested mark gave them the goal they hungered for. The scores now level, Ireland started to dominate play and quickly got another behind, but the Freedom came back to show them one point would never be enough, leveling the scores again.
After the break Ireland looked like the stronger team but they just couldn’t put it on the scoreboard. The USA girls on the other hand were not prepared to let an opportunity drop and tried to pull back the momentum with their second goal. With just one goal between them, both teams were fighting it out with everything they had and some of the best football of the competition was being played out in the third quarter but to no avail as the Freedom’s goal remained unanswered by three quarter time. Remarkably after excellent footy up and down the field there was just the one score of the quarter.
It was anybody's game and the United States looked like they just might get through to the final having earlier watched their men's side fall at the semi final hurdle.
In the final term however, things started to get interesting. Ireland switched their play to a long kicking style, showing their true strength and skill with some excellent marks, quickly moving the ball upfield for a goal. Though the Freedom tried to claw their way back into the game, their efforts were cleared by the Irish, who came back again with two more goals. From having dominated the game for three quarters, the Freedom’s spot in the finals now looked on a knife edge. Then when the Banshees came in again and the ball was kicked deep into the USA defensive 50, Amanda Shiels came screaming in for a flying soccer through the posts and it was game over for the USA Freedom.
The US now have to re-group to win the battle for third against PNG, a very winnable slice of revenge after their men's loss to that country. Ireland now try to recover from the gruelling match for another bout against Canada to see who wins the inaugural Women's International Cup. Can the Banshees win first up repeating the success of the Irish men back in 2002 when they won the first Cup?
Final score: Ireland 5.5 (35) defeated USA 2.4 (16)
Goal Kickers: Hazley, Cannaire, Shiels 3
Best Players: Loughlin, Cannaire, Shiels, Tracey, Corrigan, Behan
Goal Kickers: Hazen, Cravens
Best Players: Geoghegan, Stablein, Stein, Church, Kraft, McHale
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