Familiar look to the final line-up
IF familiarity truly breeds contempt, then Muckross and Hermes should be sick of the sight of each other by the end of this season. Already finalists in the Leinster Senior Cup, the two clubs set up a repeat meeting in the Sharwood's-sponsored Irish Senior Cup final after victories in Saturday's semi-finals.
Muckross coach Ian Steepe spent all of last week in bed suffering from a respiratory infection and his recovery rate was not accelerated by Randalstown's superb first half display at Rathdown School when they took a deserved lead through a Shauna Parkhill goal.
Jackie McWilliams, Randalstown's former Great Britain international, rolled back the years with an outstanding first-half display that justified her decision to come out of retirement for this season.
However, her team had opportunities to double their lead before the break and they were made to rue their misses as early as the first minute of the second period, when Mary Logue broke down the right and crossed for Teresa Hurley to score.
Thirteen minutes later a brilliant interchange of passes between Logue and Deirdre Courtney, again down the right, set up another score for Hurley and Logue sealed the match with a late penalty stroke.
Steepe conceded that Randalstown, whom he coached two years ago, were the superior team in the first half but was thrilled by his team's comeback. "If Randalstown had scored a second goal I think we were gone - two goals would be too much to give to a team like that. The key to it was getting the goal at the start of the second half - scoring so early turned it around."
Later in the afternoon Hermes were set the task of beating Old Alexandra for the first time this season if they were to set up their second cup final appointment with Muckross. A repeat of Hermes' 2-0 league defeat at the same venue a week before looked probable when Old Alexandra put Hermes under intense pressure from the start, but Hermes, inspired by Fiona Manning and Laura Daly's tireless work in midfield, rallied.
The only goal of the match came in the 27th minute when Caitriona Carey scored from a rebound after Jenny King had blocked Jenny Burke's shot from a corner. After the match Carey pointed to the team's victory over Pembroke Wanderers in the Leinster Senior Cup semifinal six days earlier as crucial to their season.
"Last Sunday was the turning point. Losing to Alex in the league was disheartening but then beating Pembroke really got us going again. We just said the league is gone, we're going for the cups now we're in two finals for the first time ever which is fantastic.
"There are a lot of young players in the team so we're just learning, but it's terrific to play with the likes of Fiona Manning, Jenny Burke, Daphne Sixsmith and Tara Browne. They've all been there so we look up to them" added the 18-year-old.
Old Alexandra coach Simon Filgas was trying to remain positive after the match: "We did well, I certainly can't fault them for effort. We can still win the league and that's what we'll work on now."
Meanwhile, Carey is now looking forward to having two cracks at Muckross in what is already a season to remember for her club. "Muckross in both finals! If we can take them in one we'd be happy with that but we might get greedy ... we will be greedy."