Blue Nuns bless Balbriggan with six of the best
Clontarf 6 Balbriggan 1
The nuns took to the road again on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this time up the M1 to Balbriggan for a tricky encounter and without a number of regulars. Over the last few years the Nuns (in their Novice days) have been used to being on the wrong side of many heavy defeats against Balbriggan. Today, on a fine pitch sandwiched between the railway line and the beach, the Blue Nuns graduated to turn the tables and served up a football treat against the backdrop of the Angelus bells and the Belfast express. We lined out with 10 players for the first 5 minutes as Sister Farrelly dashed across the field for an inopportune comfort break. The early exchanges were cagey and physical. We knew this was going to be a tricky assignment as Balbriggan tore into the game with zest and rattled our cage for the first 15 minutes putting our defence under a bit of pressure. The Nuns weathered this early storm and started to play their flowing style of football as Lucy Barrett and Ailbhe Byrne started to win the midfield battles as our centre halves Captain Sarah Fagan and Tara Beary absorbed the early assault fairly well. The Nuns took the lead on 20 minutes as Ailbhe combined well with Aoibhe Bell and Aisleen o Neill who released the jet fuelled Hannah Walshe who scored a well taken first goal.
Back came Balbriggan though straight away and after a minor defensive lapse on the left side of the pitch the Balbriggan No.9 striker equalised with a great shot from outside the box past the Nuns keeper Laura Brennan who had no chance. The next 10 minutes were very even as the tackles came piling in from both sides and no quarter was asked or given. Laura was forced to dart off her line like Usain Bolt to make a great save and with 10 minutes left to half time the Nuns were clinging on as the home supporters turned up the noise - what a battle now. At the other end Aoibhe and Hannah Walshe both went close for the Nuns. Ailbhe was very unlucky to have a goal judged offside after a brilliant corner taken by Aoibhe and swerved in Zico style. On the wings Aisleen and Khloe Bennett covered acres of ground and put their bodies on the line taking one tackle after another without flinching. Just before half time the Nuns made a master switch with Sarah Fagan and Lucy Barrett swapping positions which had Balbriggan immediately on the back foot. Within a few minutes the Nuns regained the lead when Sarah burst from midfield to play a one/two with Aoibhe, beat a couple of defenders and then skilfully stroking the ball into the back of the net like a surgeon. Half time came and the Nuns led 2 1. Out came the blessed oranges and holy water as the Nuns took a welcome break for a swift decade of the rosary .
Playing down the hill now the Nuns were looking very comfortable at the back as the 2 fullbacks Heather Bolger and Sarah Farrelly put the shackles on the 2 wide and dangerous Balbriggan wingers. The Nuns stretched their lead within a few minutes after Aoibhe robbed a hopeless ball to beat 2 defenders and then the brave Balbriggan keeper (outrageously named Bojangles !!) , a real poachers goal. This goal put the Nuns in safer territory and they started to relax . For the next 20 minutes we were treated to some exhibition football as Ailbhe (who was tackling like Graeme Souness) and our charging bull Sarah Fagan won practically every ball in midfield and wisely used the wings to attack Balbriggan and cause mayhem in their defence which was now seriously creaking. First Aoibhe swept in another gem of a corner which was met with Sarah Fagan's bullet header into the roof of the net. Sarah followed this with a "Maradona like goal"(Mexico '86 V England) where she must have beaten 5 or 6 players and then Miss Bo & shipping a few combine harvester style tackles on her way up the pitch. Balbriggan to their credit tried hard and managed to break through a few times and were a little unlucky on one occasion, but were shown the church gate by Barrett and Beary (a fine Sister act in defence who were always in full control). This pair had great help from Sarah Farrelly and Heather in the wider positions, as all the while Sister Brennan, who very ably deputised for The Mother Superior (Hannah Lyons), bellowed out the gospel from the pulpit between the posts.
The fitness and conditioning coaching of the Nuns was telling in the last 15 minutes (they're off the alter wine for lent) as they created a few more chances. Nun of the Match Sarah Fagan capped a fine individual display with her 4th goal after some great passing movements between herself, Ailbhe, Aisleen and Khloe, straight off the training ground. The score finished 6 1 to the Nuns who remain top of the league and unbeaten in all competitions and have now taken 22 points from a possible 24 adding another 5 goals to their goal difference. Next week it should be a welcome return to the Cup Semi Finals for what will be a tough away game to Terenure in Bushy Park.
Team: Laura Brennan, Heather Bolger, Tara Beary, Sarah Fagan (Captain), Sarah Farrelly, Lucy Barrett, Ailbhe Byrne, Aisleen O Neill, Khloe Bennett, Aoibhe Bell and Hannah Walshe