Printer Friendly



AN opening chastening by Crusaders Strikers gave Loughgall Lakers an insight of what to expect in the fast lane of ladies football.

They may have had it their own way in last year's Championship, alongside titlewinning Fermanagh Mallards, but they are on a different planet now. Will the step-up in class be one too far? Their first dip into the elite section of the Davison's Frudles League was a smarting experience as the champions swiftly warmed to the fresh challenges of the new season.

Granted, they were rather unlucky to be pitted against Crusaders before they could find their feet against lesser opposition. The champs hit the ground running, a 7-0 wipeout breaking Loughgall hearts and reminding all-comers that they are the same formidable force, totally focused, determined to retain their crown and add more trophies.

Northern Ireland international Helen McKenna shone in the sun, claiming a hattrick that dampened the early enthusiasm of the travellers. Danielle McDowell was another to find the net and there were opening-day strikes for Nicola McWilliams, Nadine Murphy and Lynsey Patterson. It was a stylish performance by the champions and with their first meeting with Glentoran Belfast United, the one team with the potential and clout to rob them of their title, looming at Billy Neill Park; this was the perfect warm-up for Billy Wylie's outfit.

The Glens though were far from the finished article as they struggled to contain a resilient and adventurous Fermanagh Mallards pack at Ballinamallard. A squeaky 1-0 win over last season's Championship winners suggests they may be an Arsenal to a Manchester United! Whilst Crusaders were confirming their status as top billing, the Glens snatched a victory thanks to a solitary Kelly Baillie goal, thus tagging Strikers as match favourites for this week's showdown.

New Mallards boss Shane O'Brien has stated that survival is the name of the game for his young charges as they sample Premier football for the first time. Although beaten this must have been an encouraging sign for the manager and with the Championship's Player of the Year Lynne McFrederick a threat to any side, they could spring more than the odd surprise.

Linfield made a positive start to their campaign with a 4-0 stroll over Mid Ulster at Mallusk. There was always a hint of vulnerability about Mid Ulster but the Blues had to wait until after the half hour mark before taking a tender grip on the match, thanks to Kirsty McGuinness' accurate drive from the penalty spot.

Linfield were shaken though when they lost winger Nesbitt who was taken to hospital with a neck injury following a collision and both teams wish her a speedy recovery. Ironically she was replaced by Michelle Crawford who was to make a huge impact. Mid Ulster, too, lost a player of quality when Stewart trudged off injured.

Mid Ulster had their moments. Adele Gillespie went close after good work from the NIWFA Player of the Year, Simone Magill, and Lisa Richardson. Ruth Brown was narrowly off target following superb work by Hayley O'Donnell.

Shortly into the second half however Mid Ulster's bid to gain something from the contest was flattened as Linfield sub Crawford took over. First she fired a rocket to the net and within two minutes cracked in another bemusing shot that 'keeper Deborah Rankin did well to block but couldn't hold and McGuinness nipped in to grab her second and lift the score to 3-1. Crawford then stole the show with a Beckham free that boomeranged around the wall and into the top left hand corner of the net for a brilliant fourth Linfield goal.

Ballymena, too, have something to prove as they seek to kick-start their season. They tumbled to a 2-1 defeat by Newbridge Predators at The Showgrounds and will be anxious not to be cast adrift so early. They journey to Mid Ulster, another team chasing a quick cure from their opening hang-over. The Predators, meanwhile, will be out to snap up a second win when they host Fermanagh Mallards. Goals from Chloe Glover and Shelly Stothers clinched their victory over Ballymena, whose consolation strike came from Claire Timoney.

Division Four also kicked off and there were wins for Newry and Dromara. Moya Feenan slammed in four as Newry crushed Craigavon 6-0. Taja McIlroy notched two. Meanwhile two goals from Nicola Coburn and one apiece from Nicola Greer, Lisa Lennon and Elena Dascalu saw Dromara destroy Banbridge Rangers 5-1, Donna Donnell scoring for the losers. Ballyvange and Moneyslane shared a 3-3 draw with the Vange goals coming from Lisa Dempster (2) and Mary McGrady. Gemma Morton (2) and Naomi Ardis were on target for the Slane.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2011
Previous Article:BOYS' FINALS DAY.
Next Article:The CARLING CAptain Talks; 'Johnny McAleese used to be fast but the years have caught up'.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters