It’s been a successful first year for the Bus Éireann Women’s National League, and this Sunday it’s the turn of the Women’s National League Cup to be decided when Shamrock Rovers entertain league champions Peamount United in Tallaght Stadium. Extratime.ie caught up with Shamrock Rovers assistant manager Lisa Fallon as she prepared for Sunday’s Women’s National League Cup Final and asked her how felt to be involved in the cup final after this inaugural season.
“We’re delighted to get there. I think it’s been a really hard season for us. Serious learning and lessons along the way. At that level of football experience counts for an awful lot and we’ve learned serious lessons along the way. “
“I think it’s just reward for the girls because they’ve been training Monday, Wednesday and Friday since last August and haven’t got a cent for it. They played a match on Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, they had no Paddy’s day because they had a game the next day.”
“It’s been a really big commitment from all the players. They worked all over Christmas - we had a meeting before Christmas and they agreed that they were going to come in and work really hard over Christmas and New Year’s so they gave that up too. So it really is just reward for them and for the amount of effort they have put in over the course of the season.”
The sides most recently met a fortnight ago in Greenogue, where a 1-0 win for the Peas was enough to secure the title for them ahead of Raheny United. Despite an encouraging display from the Hoops that day, Fallon is under no illusion as to the task ahead of her team – but neither is she daunted.
“To be fair, Peamount are clear favourites and they deserve to be favourites based on the fact that they’re the league champions and they played in the champions league last year. So we know what we’re up against.”
“But at the same time we’re not afraid of them. We don’t fear anybody.”
“The last time we played Peamount in Tallaght Stadium it was 3-2, and we went ahead in that game, and Noelle Murray actually scored an absolutely incredible goal. It took a very late winner, I think they scored three minutes from the end to win the game.”
“Two weeks ago we played them up in Peamount and they needed to win to win the league, and they only beat us 1-0. For anyone who saw the goal, it was a scrappy goal.”
The title winning goal on that day was supplied by Stephanie Roche from close range, but the way in which it was conceded was not something that sat well with the Tallaght side.
“We were really unhappy about that goal, because it was a straightforward corner. The goalkeeper dealt with it but nobody reacted to the second ball. At that level if you don’t react to the second ball you are going to get punished and we got punished and we deserved to get punished for not reacting to it. We’ve no complaints.”
Peamount have been prolific in front of goal in the league this season, scoring 66 goals, with Steph Roche and WNL Player of the Year Sara Lawlor getting 39 of those between them. With Rovers sitting bottom of the table going in to the game, you would be forgiven for expecting a rout, but this was far from the case. One of the star performers that day for Rovers was Sarah Devlin, and Fallon was unequivocal in her praise for the Hoops’ netminder.
“To be fair to Sarah, Sarah has probably been our outstanding player of the season so far, and anybody who has seen her play – she’s just been incredible.”
Returning for this Sunday’s final are Noelle Murray (suspension), Aoife Maloney and Niamh Nolan (both injured), leaving Shamrock Rovers with virtually a full squad to choose from. Niamh Kinsella however is the only doubt, and it looks unlikely that she will recover in time from her injury.
“We’ll be close to full strength on Sunday, which is great because you want all your players available for a cup final. Like I said it’s an occasion for them all to enjoy.”
“I’m sure there’s lots of female players across the country who would love to play in the national league cup final. There are only two teams who are and we are one of them and we are delighted to be one of them.”
Despite having lost all three matches against Peamount in the league this season, Shamrock Rovers find themselves 90 minutes away from winning a national title on Sunday and Fallon doesn’t need to be reminded of the magic of cup competitions.
“Either way they’ll get a medal on Sunday, and as I said in training to them last night it’s up to them to decide what colour the medal is going to be. It’s gold or silver, you’ve a 50% chance and on a cup final day anything can happen.”
“In 90 minutes of football anything can happen. Sometimes you need a bit of luck, but I would be a believer of making your own luck.”
“It’s an occasion that the players need to just go out, and enjoy it, and just play football the way we know they can.”
“You just have to be there and ready to react to the bounce of the ball whichever way it falls. Some days it goes for you and some days it doesn’t but on any given Sunday you never know. We’ll go into the game on Sunday approaching it like we have any other game this season and we’ll just be telling the players to go and enjoy the occasion and just see the score come the final whistle.”
The Women’s National League Cup Final will take place this Sunday at 2pm in Tallaght Stadium. Admission to the game is FREE. Extratime.ie will be there with live updates and post-match reaction.
Brian Fitzgerald is a Dublin-based reporter who has followed Cork City since the mid 1990's. Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on twitter @B_Twitzgerald