A Mary Waldron hat-trick helped Raheny United to their third win of season over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Sunday.
The striker opened the scoring by slotting past Sarah Devlin in the Rovers goal on 16 minutes, then fired home two more in quick succession late on to ensure the north Dubliners keep up the pace behind WNL leaders Peamount United.
Derek Cooke’s side stay a point off top spot with four games remaining after Peamount handed Cork a 6-2 drubbing but the league’s two title contenders do meet in one more highly-anticipated fixture on April 8.
There was little to report during a relatively uneventful first quarter of an hour but the visitors took the lead through a combination of good fortune and clinical finishing.
Waldron’s attempted through-pass was cut out but the 27-year-old capitalised on the loose ball and found the back of the net expertly from seven yards.
Rovers, who have one solitary victory this season, quickly regrouped and should really have taken one of a number of guilt-edged chances to equalise in the first half.
Rachael Jenkins found herself through on goal with only the keeper to beat after getting the better of Raheny’s backline but her effort was a weak one.
The visitors came close when Sandra Mulhall latched onto an inviting cross from the left but hit the side-netting with her header before Jenkins again gained possession in a promising position but seemed in two minds as to whether she should shoot or cross and ended up doing neither.
Then right on the stroke of half-time, Hoops forward Grainne Walsh was desperately unlucky to see her shot come back off the post
Raheny began strongly after the restart and Rachael Graham struck a volley well from the edge of the box but saw it sail over.
The ball somehow managed to stay out during a scramble on the Rovers goal line midway through the second half but with ten minutes left on the clock, the home team still had a realistic chance of snatching a point.
Those hopes were dashed in the 82nd minute however, as Mulhall raced to the end line and sent in a terrific cross, which Waldron turned home from close range after getting in front of her marker.
And the Ireland international, who also represents her country in cricket, then bagged herself a hat-trick three minutes later. Katie McCabe drove at the opposing defence and when Devlin kept out her shot, Waldron was on-hand to head home the rebound.
Shamrock Rovers: Sarah Devlin, Nicola Sinnott, Niamh Nolan, Bethany Houldsworth, Carol Conlon, Grainne Walsh, Paula Dolan, Orlagh Dolan, Hannah Tyrell (Zara Dillon ‘58) Niamh Kinsella, Rachael Jenkins.
Raheny United: Lynn Bradley, Elaine Murray, Christina Byrne (Meagan Campbell ‘77), Seana Cooke, Rachael Graham, Rebecca Creagh, Ciara Grant, Becky Walsh, Kate Flood, Sandra Mulhall, Mary Waldron.
Ben Blake is a Dublin-based freelance sports writer. Follow Ben on Twitter @benblakesport.