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Dublin: 16 °C Saturday 11 July, 2020

Teenage dreams so hard to beat as Kiernan lights up FAI Cup final

There was one name on everybody’s lips after today’s clash at the Aviva Stadium.

Shelbourne Ladies' Pearl Slattery lifts the trophy.
Shelbourne Ladies' Pearl Slattery lifts the trophy.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THERE WAS ONE name in particular on everyone’s lips following the Women’s FAI Cup final, as a classy Shelbourne tore apart Wexford Youths at will in the Aviva Stadium today.

Cavan teenager Leanne Kiernan had been hotly tipped ahead of this game.

Speaking to The42 before the match, Shels midfielder Rachel Graham admitted that the sides would likely be relying on a bit of a magic from Kiernan on the day, and the starlet duly produced just that, with a clinical hat-trick.

It was somewhat reminiscent of two years ago, when a similarly prodigious Katie McCabe made a big impression on the FAI Cup final with a stunning free kick as Raheny United beat UCD Waves 2-1.

Since then, McCabe has gone on to make her debut with the Irish senior team as well as securing a high-profile move to Arsenal.

Kiernan has a long way to go before she can emulate those feats but the Shels player certainly proved she has the ability to perform on the big stage this afternoon.

The striker, who also contributed four goals and three assists on her Ireland U19s debut against Macedonia recently, made each of her goals look easy.

The first demonstrated her speed and composure, latching on to Gloria Douglas’ exquisite through ball and rounding goalkeeper Sophie Lenehan to double Shels’ advantage.

The second, just before half-time, was similar. This time, it was the game’s other standout player Noelle Murray who played a defence-splitting through ball, and Kiernan showed lightning speed to escape her marker, before producing a perfect first touch and hitting an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net.

After a harsh penalty call when Siobhan Killeen went down under a challenge in which Jessica Gleeson appeared to get the ball, Kiernan stepped up after Murray had missed an earlier spot kick.

Leanne Kieran and Gloria Douglas Shelbourne's Leanne Kieran and Gloria Douglas celebrate. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

And the 17-year-old starlet made no mistake once more, as her attempt clipped the bottom of the crossbar before finding the back of the net.

“The girls were really on form today and thankfully my goals went in,” hat-trick hero Kiernan told RTÉ after the game.

Winning in Macedonia (for Ireland) and winning today is not bad, is it?

“Wexford put up a tough battle in the first half, but thankfully we got round it.”

Teammate Murray, who scored one, assisted another and missed a penalty, paid tribute to her teammate: “Leanne’s unbelievable she does so much for us.”

“It was a fantastic display and the team thoroughly deserve this moment,” said Shelbourne boss Mark Leavy added after the game.

The players have worked so hard throughout the course of the season and they really showed what they can do today. We’ve worked on a lot of things this season and looked to improve and the players have responded brilliantly to it.

“We want to keep it going now. We’ve got a number of difficult games coming up in the league and we need to use this victory as momentum to go in the league.”

Meanwhile, speaking to RTÉ, goalkeeper Amanda McQuillan paid tribute to the 2016 FAI Cup champions and expressed relief that they exorcised the ghost of last year, when they were cruelly denied victory on the same stage following a late goal and subsequent penalty shootout loss to Wexford.

“We’ve won all our games and been unbeaten (this season)… We all gel really well together.

Last year was horrible, especially the way the game went, to lose the match on penalties is the worst way you can lose the match.”

Yet this afternoon at the Aviva certainly made up for the heartbreak of 2015, and while both Kiernan and Shels have a long way to go yet, today might just be the start of something special.

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Paul Fennessy

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