Shelbourne 1 Cork City 0
SAOIRSE Noonan came back to haunt her former club at Tolka Park on Saturday afternoon as her 78th-minute finish was enough to give Shelbourne victory against Cork City in the FAI Women’s Cup quarter-final.
Thanks largely to the heroics of shotstopper Abby McCarthy, Paul Farrell’s Leesiders were on the brink of bringing their much-fancied counterparts into extra-time. That was until Noonan intervened in the closing stages to break the hearts of the 2020 finalists.
Both sides showed a solitary change from their league meeting at Turner’s Cross last Saturday, which ended in a 3-1 win for Noel King’s Dubliners. From a City perspective, Becky Cassin returned to the starting line-up in place of Niamh O’Donoghue.
Having missed out on a reunion with her City seven days earlier, Noonan was restored as the focal point of the Shels attack.
The former Douglas Hall star was one of two ex-Cork players within the Shels ranks, with Republic of Ireland netminder Amanda Budden being the other. Budden's direct opponent McCarthy was expected to be the busier of the two ‘keepers and she breathed a sigh of relief when Jessica Ziu’s off-balance strike rebounded off the post in the seventh-minute.
A Cup winner with City in 2017, Noonan was leading the Shels line to good effect. She forced a fine stop out of McCarthy on 13 minutes and the Leeside number one was up like a flash to turn away Alex Kavanagh’s follow-up effort.
McCarthy was proving to be a thorn in the hosts’ side during the opening period as she subsequently denied both Murray and Noonan from close-range.
While the visitors occasionally threatened in the final third, skipper Becky Cassin fired over from long-range, the Women’s National League table-toppers remained the more likely of the two teams to open the scoring.
Pearl Slattery had the ball in the City net on 38 minutes, but her header was ruled out for offside. Moments earlier, the Shels captain was dispossessed by Shaunagh McCarthy and the Cork attacker did produce a low save out of Budden.
A scoreless first half left the tie delicately poised on the resumption, but the home team boosted their attacking options by introducing Sarah Rowe for Kavanagh. Perhaps best known for her exploits with the Mayo ladies footballers, Rowe is back at Shels for a second spell having previously featured for the Metropolitans in 2015 and 2016.
Operating in a wide-left role, she immediately added a new dimension to her side’s play. Although Budden was kept on her toes by a Laura Shine shot from distance, City found themselves increasingly on the back-foot.
Murray played through Noonan at a left-hand angle 10 minutes after the restart, but her resulting effort was straight at her former club-mate McCarthy. Yet the longer they went without shaking the net, the more frustrated Shels became.
In a bid to shake things up, Rowe switched flanks with Jessica Ziu approaching the final quarter. It almost paid rich dividends for the 2016 champions as Rowe tested the resolve of McCarthy with a brace of shots in quick succession.
McCarthy was powerless to save from Ziu with 15 minutes of normal time remaining, but the right-hand post came to the rescue of City on that occasion. It was going to take a monumental effort to keep Shels at bay for the full 90 minutes and their resistance was eventually broken.
Rowe got to a ball ahead of the advancing McCarthy, but City defender Nathalie O’Brien blocked her goal-bound attempt. However, the danger wasn’t averted and Noonan hammered home into the empty net to finally provide some daylight in the contest.
There was enough time for McCarthy to make another spectacular save from Rowe and City will now look to build on this commendable performance when they face Bohemians in the league next Saturday.