Captain fantastic: Laurie Ryan lifting the Women's FAI Cup for Athlone Town. Bryan Keane/INPHO

Athlone Town crowned Women's FAI Cup champions for first time after shootout win over Shels

Ciarán Kilduff’s penalty shootout specialists reigned supreme at Tallaght Stadium.

Athlone Town 2

Shelbourne 2

Athlone win 4-3 on penalties

ATHLONE TOWN ARE Women’s FAI Cup champions for the very first time.

Penalty shootout specialists in 2023, Ciarán Kilduff’s side eventually came out on top of a see-saw encounter against Shelbourne — a repeat of the 2022 final — in front of 3,526 fans at Tallaght Stadium.

Dana Scheriff and Gillian Keenan were their goalscoring heroes from play in a dramatic, emotional victory; the latter the super sub who sent the game to penalties with a 116th-minute volley.

Alex Kavanagh rattled the crossbar from 13 yards to confirm the Midlanders as champions with Scheriff, Player of the Match Chloe Singleton, Kayleigh Shine and Jesi Rossman all on target in the shootout.

Athlone defeated Galway United and league champions Peamount on penalties through their cup run, while also beating Shels to President’s Cup glory in the same manner at the outset of the season.

In the first Women’s FAI Cup final to go to extra-time since Wexford Youths downed the Reds on spot kicks in 2015, it looked like Jemma Quinn would prove the matchwinner after completing her brilliant brace in the 104th minute, but the Midlanders reigned supreme with Laurie Ryan lifting the silverware.

It also denied Noel King of a winning swansong as Shelbourne manager.

madison-gibson-and-chloe-singleton-celebrate Madi Gibson and Chloe Singleton celebrate. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Kilduff’s Athlone started the brighter of the sides, and had the first real chance amidst a goalmouth scramble. Rossman ultimately flashed across goal, after Singleton and Kellie Brennan both helped the ball on from a third-minute corner.

Shelbourne enjoyed the lions’ share of possession, with Kavanagh and Rachel Graham gaining a foothold in midfield and their intricate passing eye-catching. Tackles flew in, with Kavanagh, the ever-impressive Noelle Murray and Shauna Brennan getting stuck in.

Athlone were hungry and had the pick of the chances, though, the Midlanders making their impact felt on the break. Singleton lifted well over, while Madie Gibson shot straight at Amanda McQuillan on two occasions and Lauren Karabin played a dangerous ball across goal to no avail. 

Shels’ only real chance of the first half arrived in the 29th minute, when 15-year-old Hannah Healy robbed Rossman and pulled back to Murray, but she was blocked by Kellie Brennan.

Four minutes later, the ball was in the back of the net at the other end, courtesy of Scheriff. The Golden Boot winner pounced after Maggie Pierce’s clearance ricocheted off the post. A good move down the right began with a big Kellie Brennan header, with Singleton’s cross troubling the unfortunate Pierce – who had brilliantly blocked her earlier.

In terms of football, the opening period petered out from there with a Scheriff wide the only real opportunity of note. But it was not without incident: things got fiery, with Megan Smyth-Lynch booked for a push on Roisin Molloy and later limping off with an injury, while Healy saw yellow for sliding in on teenage goalkeeper Katie Keane, who left Shels for Athlone in the mid-season. Shauna Brennan went in the book early in the second period, too.

rebecca-devereux-and-kate-slevin Shelbourne's Rebecca Devereux and Kate Slevin of Athlone Town. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

It was as you were for much of the early exchanges on the restart. Shelbourne had the majority of the ball but struggled to break down Athlone, and the Town had more clear-cut chances.

Gibson was lively, finding joy down the left. She sent a pinpoint corner in from that side around the hour-mark and McQuillan stepped up to stop Singleton’s header. Murray had a big opportunity to level matters at the other end, when a Kavanagh delivery exposed poor Athlone defending and Keane spilled, but the experienced Dubliner lifted over.

The Midlanders remained an attacking threat, but the pendulum swung Shels’ way as they piled the pressure on for an equaliser. Leah Doyle went close at the back post, but it was substitute Quinn who eventually prodded home in the 75th minute. She reacted first when Keane fumbled Pierce’s delivery, and her sliding celebration delighted the vocal Reds support.

There were chances for a coveted winner at either end down the home straight — Gibson rattling the bar, and Quinn seeing her injury-time effort tipped away by Keane — but extra-time appeared imminent.

The additional period threw up two real chances: Quinn and Keenan’s goals, one in either half. They were both excellent finishes, in contrast with the scrappier normal time offerings.

jemma-quinn-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-second-goal Jemma Quinn celebrates her extra-time goal. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Shelbourne’s experience was best seen in Quinn’s 104th-minute effort: Murray’s lobbed ball in was held up by long-time captain Pearl Slattery and 34-year-old Coolock native Quinn fired home, whipping off her jersey in raucous celebration.

But that proved premature as Athlone subs Muireann Devaney and Keenan combined to send the game for the shootout.

There, Gibson hit the upright, while Shels had mixed fortunes with Slattery, Healy and Rebecca Devereaux scoring, but Kavanagh’s miss – and McQuillan blazing over – proved costly.

The Athlone outpouring of emotion at the final whistle said it all.


Athlone Town: Katie Keane; Kellie Brennan, Kayleigh Shine, Jesi Rossman, Shauna Brennan (Kate Slevin 71); Roisin Molloy (Gillian Keenan 98), Chloe Singleton, Laurie Ryan (Isabel Ryan 105), Lauren Karabin (Muireann Devaney 58), Madi Gibson; Dana Scheriff. 

Shelbourne: Amanda McQuillan; Keeva Keenan, Maggie Pierce, Pearl Slattery, Leah Doyle (Rebecca Devereux 99); Christie Gray (Jemma Quinn 64), Alex Kavanagh, Rachel Graham (Nadine Clare 76), Megan Smyth-Lynch (Kerri Letmon 45); Noelle Murray, Hannah Healy.

Referee: Marc Lynch.

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