Linfield Ladies have been crowned Northern Ireland women’s futsal champions for 2021-22 - but they were pushed all the way by Lisburn Ladies as the season drew to a close.
In the final round of fixtures in the Women’s Premiership and Championship Futsal League - the main competition in women’s futsal here - Linfield edged out Lisburn on goal difference to claim the title.
The league campaign was full of twists and turns and the season finale turned out to be no different with a shock result, tight games and goals aplenty for all the spectators to enjoy.
Going in to the matches, which were staged at Shankill Leisure Centre in Belfast at the weekend, four teams were mathematically still in contention to win the league, which is 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.
Prior to the three-game finale St James’ Swifts Ladies, Lisburn and the Blues were all sitting on 12 points, however Linfield had the superior goal difference. Cliftonville Ladies were three points further back.
In game one St James’ Swifts Ladies were aiming to put pressure on the Blues and the other contenders when they came up against Ballymena United Ladies, however the game did not go according to plan for the Belfast team.
Despite the Swifts taking an early lead it was Ballymena who came out on top with a 4-1 win that showed they could be in the mix for the title next season. St James’ Swifts left the stage devastated but they have shown they are contenders and will hope to push on and secure silverware in the forthcoming Northern Ireland Futsal Federation (NIFF) Cup competition.
In game two at Shankill LC reigning champions Cliftonville were determined to spoil Linfield’s title party and give themselves an outside chance of winning the title with a goal rush.
Linfield took an early lead but the Reds drew level. However, the Blues quickly restored their lead again in what was an end to end contest.
Numerous chances were created by Linfield as the game wore on, but Cliftonville’s defence stood firm.
In the closing stages, however, the Linfield pressure paid off and they scored again to seal a 3-1 victory.
With a huge goal difference in their favour the Blues were confident of lifting the league trophy. Nevertheless they had to wait until the final game was over to be sure of topping the league involving teams from the NIFL Women’s Premiership and the NIWFA Championship.
In that third match Lisburn produced an awesome display as they went in search of the goals that could upset the apple cart.
Comber Rec Ladies were quickly in the firing line as Lisburn clocked up goal after goal. They managed to score 13 times, however it was not enough and Linfield took home the trophy.
The Blues were presented with their medals by Dustin Black of Cathedral Eye Clinic, while Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood handed over the league trophy.
Afterwards the Irish FA President applauded the “incredible level of competition” and said he was proud to see the Irish FA Foundation, which runs the NIFF leagues, “promoting, fostering and developing the local game in such a positive manner with futsal”.
Keith Gibson, the foundation’s development manager, said: “It was a fantastic night for futsal with a brilliant cup final feel to the entire evening. The girls put on a fantastic show and I’m excited to see how the next 12 months unfold.”
Above: Linfield Ladies were crowned Northern Ireland women’s futsal champions after an excellent season finale. Dustin Black of league sponsors Cathedral Eye Clinic and Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood were on hand to present the medals and league trophy respectively.