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High drama in store on defining days in the title races both sides of the water

Can Katie McCabe’s Arsenal snatch the WSL title at the death, and will her former club Shelbourne take a massive step towards defending their WNL trophy?

Arsenal star and Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe.
Arsenal star and Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe.
Image: PA

THE TROPHY WAS nestled in Greenogue when the night began, but it ended up being hoisted aloft amidst a feral atmosphere across the city in Drumcondra.

The final day of the 2021 Women’s National League [WNL] season was one like no other.

A night of high drama, which will live long in the memory.

Peamount United looked nailed on for three in-a-row, their destiny still in their own hands despite the fact that their champagne had been put on ice. DLR Waves denied the champions elect the previous week when they came to PLR Park and held them to a 0-0 draw, but their final day assignment was a simple one: avoid defeat.

Beat Galway or draw, and the trophy was theirs once again, regardless of what happened elsewhere. (Namely the meeting of Shelbourne and Wexford Youths at the same time at Tolka Park, both teams still holding a glimmer of hope.)

20 minutes in, Peamount were 2-0 up. Having previously routinely put teams to the sword, it looked like this would be another of those nights as they rounded off their season on a high in front of the TV cameras.

They had one hand on the trophy, but Galway had other ideas. The Tribe tore the script to shreds, and produced the turnaround of all turnarounds and the shock of all shocks, hitting five goals without reply.

It was a gut-wrenching capitulation for Peas, and those in Tolka could hardly believe it as the goal-by-goal updates filtered through. Shels held on for a 3-2 win over Wexford, the two results combining to see them crowned champions for the first time since 2016.

Now, it’s all about defending the title. Today certainly feels like a significant one on that journey, as they welcome Peamount to their iconic, and now Saved, Drumcondra fortress [KO 2pm, live on LOI TV].

Noel King’s Reds sit two points clear at the top of the table after eight games, the only blot on their copybook a 1-0 defeat at DLR Waves. Peas are hot on their heels in second, after dropping two points against Bohemians at home last week, and being docked three more for fielding an ineligible player in their season-opening rout of newcomers Sligo Rovers.

There’ll certainly be no love lost as the two sides lock horns this afternoon, with another mouth-watering battle in store as this coloured rivalry ratchets up a few notches.

It’s early doors yet, but it certainly could be a defining day in the grand scheme of things. 

It’s that, too, for a former Red across the water tomorrow.

Katie McCabe’s Arsenal can snatch the 2021/22 Women’s Super League [WSL] title at the death, as the race comes right down to the wire on final day.

After 21 games, just a single points separates the the top two. Defending champions Chelsea hold the narrowest of advantages over the Gunners, but anything could happen from here.

The three in-a-row chasing Blues host Manchester United at Kingsmeadow while Jonas Eidevall’s Arenal – who took the race to the final day with a 3-0 victory over Tottenham on Wednesday, and have the better goal difference by four – face West Ham away.

Should McCabe and Co. better Chelsea’s result, they’ll take the title after a roller coaster season.

It’s worth noting the central role the Dubliner has played thus far, with Press Association paying a glowing tribute as they selected her in their Team of the Year: 

One of the most versatile players in the WSL, McCabe has played in nearly every outfield position on the pitch this season. Able to operate at full-back, down the wing or up front, the Republic of Ireland captain works well in Arsenal’s build-up play and has provided plenty of assists this season.”

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She’ll hope to once again make her impact felt when needed most.

Her Arsenal side certainly have the more favourable final day challenge, as Chelsea’s opponents United are still in with a shout for the third Champions League spot. That said, their Manchester rivals City look more likely to finish the job against Reading.

Ireland goalkeeper Grace Moloney could have more to say on that though, the Royals number one having enjoyed another fine season between the posts.

She’s one of 13 Ireland players to have featured in the top English league this season. Seven sadly suffered relegation with Birmingham City during the week; a far cry from their shock, David versus Goliath, 2-0 win over then league-leaders Arsenal in January.

Just like Galway’s unimaginable 5-2 victory over Peamount last November, it was a timely reminder that anything can happen in football.

And certainly, anything could happen this weekend, on two defining days in the title races both sides of the water.

Saturday’s WNL fixtures

All available to watch on LOI TV

  • Shelbourne v Peamount United, 2pm
  • Sligo Rovers v Galway, 2pm
  • Cork City v Athlone Town, 5pm
  • Treaty United v Bohemians, 5pm
  • Wexford Youths v DLR Waves, 6pm

Sunday’s WSL fixtures

All 12pm and available to watch on the FA Player

  • West Ham v Arsenal — live on BBC Two
  • Aston Villa v Birmingham City
  • Tottenham v Leicester City
  • Chelsea v Manchester United — live on Sky Sports Football
  • Reading v Manchester City 
  • Brighton & Hove Albion v Everton.

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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