Five-in-a-row for super Bealnamulla ladies
BEALNAMULLA'S fantastic five-in-a-row in the CCFL Women's League is an achievement unlikely to be ever matched in the men's game.
Indeed, if anyone is to break that record, it will probably be the Athlone outfit themselves, so complete is their dominance at women's level in the Combined Counties.
They won all of their matches in the Evening Herald Women's Division, with perennial runners-up Tullamore Town again being the only team who could even muster a challenge.
Even when the season kicked off, it was clear that a two-horse race was again on the cards and ultimately the title boiled down to a match at Leah Victoria Park last Sunday week.
A close affair was anticipated but a little surprisingly, Bealnamulla prevailed comfortably, winning 3-1.
Geraldine Griffith, Anna McCormack and Catriona Dolan were the scorers for Bealnamulla while an Emma Martin strike did give Tullamore some hope when they were 2-0 down.
"Tullamore have improved, definitely and the game against Tullamore is a good game every season but we were prepared for them," said winning manager Gerry Doyle.
"It's great to think that we went through the whole season unbeaten. Five leagues in a row, non-stop, it's never been done before in the Midlands or in the Combined Counties," he added.
Bealnamulla's success is based on a very strong underage structure which has produced international after international.
The teams fielded by Doyle this season normally had up to seven current or former internationals.
Once very bright prospect is Jennifer Byrne, an Under 17 Ireland international who missed the clincher against Tullamore because she was away with her country.
Aisling Egan is on the Irish Colleges team, Catriona Dolan has earned national recognition, as have Michelle Ryan, Maz Sweeney and Gina Dowling.
Bealnamulla scored over 60 goals on their way to the league title and conceded only six, with goalkeeper Yvonne Dolan captaining the side in the title decider.
Jennifer Byrne scored five times in one match and Rebecca Joyce netted three hat-tricks in successive games.
So where to Bealnamulla (now officially known as Bealnamulla Athlone Town) go from here?
"We'll keep playing," was Doyle succinct reply. "We are in the National Cup and we have the Combined Counties Women's Cup as well so we'll see how we get on in those."
After winning the Combined Counties League and Cup double in the 2007/2008 season, Tullamore managed to beat them in the Cup final in 2009, so there is an extra incentive for Bealnamulla to make it another clean sweep on this occasion.
Willow strike late to stun Park Celtic in O'Neills LJC
TWO injury time goals saw Willow Park through to the sixth round of the Leinster Junior Cup against Dublin side Park Celtic.
Aidan Hyland had given Willow Park the lead but by half-time they were 2-1 down and with normal time up, they were on their way out of the tournament.
Then Mark McConnell scored in added time and when Aidan Hyland was upended in the penalty area, referee Joe Cassidy pointed to the spot and Robbie Shine converted the spot-kick to send a shocked Park Celtic packing.