The MSL squad which contested the Gaynor Cup final in Limerick last Saturday.

Killeigh to the fore as MSL reach Gaynor Cup final

The MSL team reached the Gaynor Cup final and although they lost out to a strong MGL South team from Dublin in last Saturday’s decider, they can reflect on their campaign with a huge degree of pride.

The Midlands squad included seven players from the Killeigh club - Kayla Lawlor, Emma Mooney, Ella Cuskelly, Isabelle McCumiskey, Fran O’Reilly, Michelle Dunne and Lauren Byrne.

Coached by Killeigh trio Aidan Doyle, Kane Lynch and Joan Byrne, the MSL’s first group game was a 3-2 win over their Galway counterparts.

But that doesn’t tell the full story by any means as they were 2-0 down in the early stages. However, goals from Aimee Coffey, Ciara Breslin and Katie Glynn turned the game around.

In their second outing at the University of Limerick (which hosted the tournament), MSL got the better of North Tipperary 2-1, with Fran O’Reilly scoring both goals.

The third game again saw O’Reilly show her poaching skills as the Killeigh player notched another brace in a 3-1 victory over Roscommon.

In their fourth group game, a 0-0 draw against Longford was enough for the MSL to clinch top spot in the group and with it a place in the semi-finals.

The semi-final pitted MSL against Sligo/Leitrim on Friday last. The girls from the west took a 1-0 lead with barely a minute on the clock, but MSL responded in style. O’Reilly’s equaliser was followed by a hat-trick from Willow Park’s Glynn, who was the star of the show in this game. Sligo/Leitrim’s second goal proved a mere consolation.

This year’s Gaynor Cup was an under-14 competition whereas it was competed for at U-13 level in 2021, and it was pretty much the same group of Sligo/Leitrim players who knocked the MSL out last year.

In the final the following day, Metropolitan Girls League South proved too strong for the MSL and retained their crown on a 2-0 scoreline.

“We were delighted with how things went,” said Aidan Doyle.

“We went into the competition a bit under the radar. Galway were expected to be the strongest team in our group. The first game is very important in the Gaynor Cup and even though we went 2-0 down, the girls didn’t drop their heads. The way that we came back to win that game gave us the belief that we could go far in the tournament.

“The semi-final against Sligo/Leitrim was probably our most impressive game as they were very pacy on the wings and we had to deal with that, and again the girls fought back after going a goal down.”

The Portlaoise contingent in the MSL panel had won the U-14 SFAI National Cup a few weeks previously, and their experience of knockout games proved valuable to the MSL.

“We might have been a little tired in the final, but it was a fantastic experience overall,” added Aidan.

MSL squad: Doireann Brennan (Portlaoise), Holly Murphy (Portlaoise), Kayla Lawlor (Killeigh), Emily Flynn (Portlaoise), Niamh Dundon (Portlaoise), Emma Mooney (Killeigh), Ella Cuskelly (Killeigh), Katie Glynn (Willow Park), Ciara Breslin (Portlaoise), Ava Shine (Bealnamulla), Sally Morgan (Portlaoise), Isabelle McCumiskey (Killeigh), Ella Naughton (Hodson Bay), Emma Francis (Portlaoise), Fran O’Reilly (Killeigh), Michelle Dunne (Killeigh), Lauren Byrne (Killeigh), Roisin Bradley (Abbeyleix), Aimee Coffey (Abbeyleix), Leah Brennan (Portlaoise).