budden talent

A tale of two clubs as top-class international 'keeper Budden eyes FAI Cup with Shels

The shot-stopper faces her former club, Galway, in tomorrow’s semi-final.

HOW GALWAY COULD have done with Amanda Budden this season, and how Shelbourne have benefited from the presence of a top-class international goalkeeper in 2021.

The contrasting fortune of two of the Women’s National League’s sleeping giants over the past 12 months speak for itself.

amanda-budden Amanda Budden at the FAI Women's Cup semi-final media event. Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO / INPHO

For the better part of this season, all the clever money looked to be on Shelbourne to seal their first league title in five years.

Galway, by contrast, looked a club in crisis. Perennially the almost club, Galway went from the cusp of breaking the Shels-Peamount-Wexford triopoly to a club that had lost its way.

The figures speak for themselves: in their 12 games last year, with Cork’s Budden between the sticks and the majority against the league’s top clubs, Galway conceded just 20 goals.

In the same number of games this year, the Tribeswomen conceded 30 goals, with Slovakian international Maja Zajc and teenager Hannah Walsh rotating the jersey.

By contrast, Shels conceded just seven goals in their first 12 games as they raced into the lead in the title race, having conceded 15 in the same period last year.

At the heart of that remarkable uptick was Budden, who relocated from Cork to Dublin for work and was easily persuaded by the new Shels boss Noel King to pitch up at Tolka Park.

The Cork native kept a clean sheet against her hometown club, with whom she put in an outstanding performance to lift the FAI Cup in 2017, in the quarter final.

Budden, who was a regular in Colin Bell’s Ireland squads before stepping away from the game to travel in Canada, now faces the club with which she revived her career on Saturday.

“It was mad coming from Galway,” the Douglas native tells The42.

“We weren’t doing so well last year, but it’s good to have a good team around you and good professionalism.

“Noel King has come in and brought a lot to the team, and the girls have a lot of experience with Shels,

“Pearlo [captain Pearl Slattery] is a great character in the team and brings us all together. It’s been a step up and I’m enjoying it.”

amanda-budden Budden in goal for Ireland in 2018. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Budden was considered second-choice to Marie Hourihan under Bell in a World Cup qualifying group containing European champions the Netherlands and Norway.

Just as the ‘keeper who, standing at six feet tall, fits the profile for an elite international goalkeeper, was on the cusp of a breakthrough, she followed her heart.

Budden had already made plans to take a year out from football and travel North America – by the time she returned, City had moved on, and she went north to Galway in 2020.

The time out of football did her good and, despite having put in a commanding performance in the 2017 Cup final against Waves, she’s arguably playing the football of her career.

At 27, she’s still young for a ‘keeper, and with Shels teammates Jamie Finn and Emily Whelan having moved to professional ball in England, and Jess Ziu likely to follow, she’s in the right place to audition.

More important for Budden is the fact she’s back in the game and enjoying her football and, perhaps as importantly, playing for a team whose ambition matches her own.

She says: “I’m loving it now. I was out for a while and I came back and went to Galway, and then I popped up to Dublin.

“Winning obviously helps, so I’m enjoying it a lot, and the girls on the team are A1. It was an easy team to walk into, and they’re all so sound, and that also helps.

“[Shels is] a great club and there’s a lot of opportunities there, so I just have to keep the head down and keep going.

“If the right opportunity comes up [abroad], I’d definitely have a look at it. If it was the right one at the right time.

“For now, I’m focussing on the cup and getting back in the league, and if I could make my way back into the Irish squad that would be great.”

evoke-ie-fai-womens-cup-semi-finals-media-event Amanda Budden of Shelbourne, left, and Chloe Singleton of Galway WFC in attendance at the FAI Women's Cup Semi-Finals media event at the FAI National Training Centre in Dublin. David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Like Shels, Galway’s attention has turned to the FAI Cup after they fell out of contention for the title early in the season.

Despite having arguably the best ball-playing backline in the league, with Ireland international Savannah McCarthy partnering Keara Cormican and Therese Kinneavy, they’ve leaked goals.

Three clean sheets in-a-row, including a shock away win that ended Wexford Youths’ title challenge last week, have given them confidence they can win a first-ever FAI Cup trophy.

Chloe Singleton was sprung from the bench by manager Stephen Lally, who took over mid-season after Billy Clery resigned, to score a spectacular late winner, and belief is brewing at Deacy Park.

“Our main aim now is the Cup as the league has been out of reach since early days. We knew that game are huge, and DLR have come on leaps and bounds this year.

“It was a battle and it came down to the very last few minutes, but it really has been a big confidence boost and added to the atmosphere in Galway.

“We’ll see how things go this weekend – we’ll just wait it out and see how the game goes.

“If we’re down by a goal or two it doesn’t matter, we’re still going to grind out a result – we’re a patient team and when our chances come we’re going to take them.”

Shelbourne v Galway; FAI Cup semi-final; Saturday, 2pm; Tolka Park.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey chat all things Connacht, Munster, Leinster and Ulster — and welcome back the AIL — on The42 Rugby Weekly

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