Sligo Rovers saw off the challenge of their north west rivals, the Donegal League, on a 3-2 score line, after a hard fought battle in IT Sligo on Saturday with an Alva Munnelly strike three minutes from time proving to be the winner for the Bit O’Red.
In the fifth minute Ciara Henry raced onto O’Dowd’s perfectly weighted pass but her lopped effort over the advancing goalkeeper failed to find the target just landing wide of the post. Rovers didn’t have that long to wait to make amends for missing that chance when a quick corner involving Henry, O’Dowd and Ava Keane saw Kelsey Munroe‘s header fell to her centre half partner Aoife O’Neill. O’Neill took her time, picked her spot and finished to the back of the Donegal net.
Aife Haran then saw an effort loop over the cross bar but within two minutes of taking the lead, the score had been doubled as good work by Henry saw her cross powered home by O’Dowd’s header which gave the Donegal keeper absolutely no chance.
Donegal almost pulled one back moments later when Megan Masterson, a Sligo native, found herself unmarked at the end of a long ball but debutant goalkeeper Lauren McLellan did enough to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Rovers, who featured no fewer than 4 players making their first start at this level, playing an entertaining brand of football, managed to create chances throughout the first half but failed to find the net again to take their 2-0 lead into the interval.
Donegal started the second half with a stiff breeze building behind them and the home side were under some pressure in places with the long balls raining down throughout the second period. A combination of the tight pitch, Donegal’s direct style and some indecision from the match official saw Donegal get some opportunities to score and they took full advantage, levelling matters with two second half strikes.
Just as it appeared time may have run out for Rovers, a bouncing ball was missed by the Donegal defenders and a lovely touch from O’Dowd put substitute Alva Munnelly clear on goal but with a long way to go. She held her composure to find the back of the net to seal the win and all three league points.