All-Britain Intermediate Championship Final
By Cathal Harkin
The pride of Lancashire and Scotland go head-to-head in Leeds on Sunday (Beeston, 2pm) to claim the biggest club prize in women’s football, the Ladies All-Britain Intermediate Championship.
These two teams know each other very well. Over the years, they meet regularly as they both competed in the Northern Section of British Championship.
Their two meetings were extremely close, with a draw in Liverpool, while John Mitchels claimed a rare win up in Edinburgh. The prediction is that this final will just be as tight.
John Mitchels played London runners-up, Round Towers in the semi-final. They made easy work of them to emerge 10 points victors.
Eilish Gannon was in sensational form as she hit 1-10, while Noleen Conway had a terrific game in defence.
The other semi-final involving Parnells of London and Dunedin, was something of a classic. The Londoners were firm favourites, but played second fiddle to their opponents throughout the game.
Parnells managed to claw back to Dunedin to force extra-time, but Christina Newton came into her own, to fire Dunedin to a deserved victory.
John Mitchels have recruited well over the last twelve months; four of the new players they brought in have been their most influential. Eilish Gannon has been a revelation in attack.
The spritely Galway player, has added finishing power to the John Mitchels forward line, something which they have lacked in recent seasons. She is joined up front by Roisin Colleary, who adds power and directness from the half-forward line.
Meanwhile, Noleen Conway adds a bit of steel in defence, while the final piece of the newly-joined quartet, is Roisin McClafferty.
McCafferty has been simply immense. She adds a physical dimension to a rather light John Mitchels outfit, and she is arguably, the most important addition of the new players.
John Mitchels, however, have always been there or thereabouts without these players and will look to Sinead Purcell, Sinead Fegan and team captain Amanda Treanor to lead them to victory.
Dunedin Connollys are not without their key players also – they have match winners all over the field.
A huge facet of their game is their physical dominance which they can impose upon other teams. Twin towers, Caolfhionn Deeney and Christina Newton, are huge threats up front.
Not only can they take a score from 40 metres out, they are physically strong and are able to throw off defenders while they bear down on goal. In midfield, Rosanna Heaney and Anne Scullion, form a formidable partnership.
While Scullion has deft hands and can turn on a six pence, Heaney adds fielding ability and strength. In defence, Shauna Fitzmaurice adds a physical facet to the half-back line, while the roving Karen Feaney is a just a class all-round footballer at wingback.
The Donegal native, plays close to the age, which gives her that spark and may in fact be used further up the field. Something which the two teams possess, are exceptional goalkeepers.
John Mitchels have Louise O’Neill in goal. Her kickouts are intelligent and is a fantastic shotstopper. Sinead Loftus guards the goals for Dunedin and her primary asset is her kickouts.
Unusually for a goalkeeper in ladies football she takes her restarts from a tee. This gives her accuracy and distance – she was often hitting beyond midfield during the distance – she was often hitting beyond midfield during the semi-final and often or not finds Heaney.
Overall, the two teams are evenly matched. They know each other inside out and this could lead to a fascinating duel. Dunedin flooded their players back to plug holes against Parnells in their semi-final.
They had a huge fear of Parnells and did this to make the game competitive from an early stage. They soon got more confident in the game and actually went on to outplay the southerners.
Dunedin don’t have the same trepidation about playing John Mitchels, but they will still have a healthy respect for the Liverpudlians.
Feaney may be released into a more forward role in this game, while Christina Newton may have to be brought out the field if Colleary and Mc- Cafferty start to exert their huge physical frames.
Meanwhile, John Mitchels will continue their running game which has served them well this year. There are no better link-players in British football than Fegan and Treanor.
The two are quite diminutive, but feisty, and can often control games from the half-back line. Once their running game gets rolling, often, their opponents find John Mitchels hard to stop.
This will be a very tight game, with a draw not out of the question.