St James’ Swifts Ladies will be hoping to lift silverware tonight (25 February) to compensate for a disappointing end to their futsal league season.
The west Belfast side were strong contenders in the Women’s Premiership and Championship Futsal League until their hopes were dashed in the final round of fixtures.
St James’ lost their final league game, while Linfield Ladies won theirs and ended up pipping Lisburn Ladies to the title in Northern Ireland women’s futsal’s top flight.
But St James’ can still pick up a trophy this season after reaching the final of the Northern Ireland Futsal Federation (NIFF) Women’s Cup.
The decider is being held tonight at Belfast’s Shankill Leisure Centre and the top flight team’s opponents will be Foyle Belles from NIFF Division One.
Both sides have had fantastic runs to the final. Foyle Belles nudged past St Oliver Plunkett Ladies in the semi-finals and St James’ battled all the way against NIFF Division Two champions Carnmoney Athletic. They won the game 5-4.
Before the main event at the Shankill there will be a NIFF Women’s Plate final - the action kicks off at 7.30 - featuring Carnmoney Ladies and 22nd Ladies.
Carnmoney Ladies defeated NIFF Division Three rivals Afrimeripean 4-3 in their semi-final.
22nd Ladies, the Division Four champions, faced Shamrock Ladies from Division Three in the last four. At the end of the game the score was 3-3, however 22nd Ladies held their nerve in the penalty shootout, winning 2-1 on spot kicks.
Tonight’s event will also see the crowning of the winners of the four divisions operating below the top flight.
Lisburn Rangers (Division One) and 22nd Ladies (Division Four) enjoyed ‘invincible’ campaigns. Both teams won all of their league matches.
Carnmoney Athletic, beaten semi-finalists in the NIFF Women’s Cup, overcame a strong challenge from fellow beaten cup semi-finalists St Oliver Plunkett to win the Division Two title.
Division Three went down to the wire between Antrim Rovers and Afrimeripean. The two sides were neck and neck throughout the season and it even finished 2-2 when the teams met. But ultimately it was Rovers’ superior goal difference which saw them crowned champions.
Laura Doey, chair of the Northern Ireland Futsal Federation, said: “I am confident it will be a really exciting evening and a fantastic showcase for women’s futsal with the four finalists involved all representing different divisions. It truly shows the high level of competition.”
Keith Gibson, the Irish FA Foundation’s Football Development Manager, said: “There should be quite an atmosphere at the Shankill with not only the four finalists but also the four league winning clubs in attendance. I have no doubt the big crowd will get to enjoy two really exciting finals and this is the perfect way to wrap up the women’s domestic futsal season.”
NIFF competitions are sponsored by Belfast-based Cathedral Eye Clinic, the official eye health and laser surgery partner of the Irish Football Association and its official futsal partner.
The NIFF women’s competitions are run by the Irish FA Foundation. Teams representing clubs in the NIFL Danske Bank Women’s Premiership and NIWFA’s various tiers are involved.
Image: St James’ Swifts Ladies, seen here in league action (green shirts), will be aiming to get their hands on a trophy tonight.