Player of the match Caroline Thorpe was insistent that Raheny and Castlebar Celtic provided plenty of entertainment to justify their game being broadcast live on RTÉ2 yesterday afternoon.
“I think it turned out to be a great game for people watching in the stadium and on TV. It is probably thanks to Stephanie Roche’s amazing goal that catapulted us into the limelight and it was decided to put it on TV. I think we gave a good show,” said Thorpe.
If Raheny thought that this was going to be an easy victory after hammering Castlebar 9-2 in a recent Bus Eireann Women’s National League clash, they were given a real shock here.
Ciara Grant opened the scoring for the holders with a crisp left-footed volley on 37 minutes, but substitute Emma Mullin levelled matters on 67 minutes with a neat finish from close range.
Again Raheny went ahead when Thorpe was brought down inside the penalty area by goalkeeper Caoimhe O’Reilly and the veteran midfielder got up to fire in the resulting spot-kick into the net on 84 minutes.
Castlebar, though, refused to give up and another substitute, Deirdre Doherty, got them back into it two minutes from time when she lobbed the ball into the back of the net from 25 yards.
Into extra-time, both sides created good chances, but the contest was settled by an own goal by Kim Flood, who was unfortunate to head a shot from Siobhan Killeen past O’Reilly.
“I’m delighted with the performance. It’s a heartbreaking way to lose. An own goal as well just doubles the heartbreak,” said a proud Castlebar manager Adrian Carberry.
Despite losing their first final in this competition, Castlebar can take a huge amount of confidence from this display with midfielder Emma Hansberry, in particular, standing out.
However, the quality in the Raheny team came to the fore when it mattered. Unbeaten this season under Terry Eviston, the north Dublin outfit will now set their sights on retaining their league crown.
Before that, Raheny will know they played a big part in promoting women’s football in the best possible way on the biggest stage.
RAHENY UNITED: Reid-Burke; Slattery, Graham, Ryan, O’Farrelly (Newman 92); Killeen, Grant, Thorpe, McCabe (Shine 68); Creagh, Murray.
CASTLEBAR CELTIC: O’Reilly; Walsh, Flood (Kearns 109), Egan, Fowley; Rowe, King, Hedigan (Doherty 75), Hansberry, Gilroy; McGeough (Mullin 46).
Referee: M Ward (Dublin).