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TG4 Ladies Football All Star Match goes to 2012 Selection

2014 TG4 Ladies Football All-Star Tour - 2012 Allstars v 2013 All Stars Exhibition match - Thursday 13th March

2012 Allstars 9-19, 2013 Alstars 5-14
IT was billed an exhibition and that’s exactly what last night’s floodlit game in the Hong Kong Football Club stadium proved to be with a goal-fest highlighted by superb forward play from the 2012 TG4 Allstars which saw them dominate the play from the opening stages. On all sides it was acclaimed as a marvellous promotion of Ladies Football, with the combined total of 14 goals just two short of the cumulative total recorded on the previous three tours.
On a night when inspirational Cork player Juliet Murphy and their star goalkeeper Elaine Harte formally bowed out from the national stage following their earlier retirements, Association President Pat Quill was fulsome in his praise for the quality of play displayed by both teams.
“These girls showed what the game is about, with their skill pace and power. It was a wonderful exhibition and promotion of Ladies Football,” he commented.
Respective managers Willliam O’Sullivan and Eamonn Ryan were in agreement that it was ‘a great game, with O’Sullivan, in charge of the 2012 combination saying: “it was fantastic to see both sets of players display all the skills of the game. From my perspective, with the three best forwards in the country up front, if I could not have won the game I might as well retire!”
Acknowledging the strength of the 2012 side (which included seven girls who had also been chosen as Allstars last year), Ryan accepted that ‘the best team won,’ adding: “nobody got hurt. That was the biggest worry (on the astro-turf surface) we had…..”
Notably, while it was almost predictable that Mayo sharpshooter Cora Staunton would emerge as top scorer (with 2-7), her Carnacon team-mate Fiona McHale was chosen as ‘the player of the game,’ recognising her hugely influential role in sustaining the challenge from the 2013 side all through.
“At the beginning we thought it would be tight, because the pitch was very small, but it was a very open game,” she commented. “At the same time it was a lot more open than a normal championship game.”
With the Irish Ambassador to China, Paul Kavanagh, along with Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin in attendance, the winners gave early notice of their intention to fully justify their favouritism. Staunton opened the scoring with a point in the first minute almost immediately afterwards and Armagh star Caroline O’Hanlon went through for a goal.
Four minutes later the 2013 side had the ball in the net, following a Caoimhe Mohan penalty, but jt proved no more than a token response as their opponents started to exert control, with Brid Stack and Christina Reilly to the forefront at the heart of their defence, Bernie Breen quick to settle at midfield and Staunton, Valerie Mulcahy and Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh excelling at different stages in attack.
At the end of the first quarter, they were eight points clear, despite the stubborn resistance of players like Sharon Courtney, Juliet Murphy, McHale and Mohan,  Nollaig Cleary, another key performer, scored their second goal in the 25th goal before Cora Courtney found the net to leave them trailing 5-8 to 3-8 at half-time.
Again, the 2013 Allstars quickly established themselves on the resumption, with a goal from Ciara O’Sullivan after a mere 15 seconds and further goals came from O Muircheartaigh and Mulcahy in the 35th and 43rd minutes. In spite of the high concession of scores, both goalkeepers, Yvonne Byrne and Elaine Harte still managed to bring off some good saves.
Harte was beaten for a Bronagh Sheridan penalty for the 2013 side, then saw McHale kick narrowly wide before she stopped a shot from Cleary. And, while the Cork player (yet to indicate her future intentions) was was unlucky to be called back for a free after goaling, the losers were again out of luck when Rena Buckley made a goal-line save.
As the game neared its conclusion, Staunton had the honour of closing off the scoring it brought the curtain down on a game to remember for all the right reasons.
by Jim O’Sullivan

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