The final of this year’s Irish Football Association Women’s Challenge Cup, sponsored by Electric Ireland, is a heavyweight clash.
Newly crowned league champions Glentoran Women will be aiming to secure a double, while their opponents in the decider, Cliftonville Ladies, have a cup treble in their sights.
It’s too close to call which side will come out on top at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park tomorrow (Saturday 21 October).
During this year’s Sports Direct Women’s Premiership campaign the teams drew against each other twice and the Reds pushed the Glens all the way.
In the NIFL league competition Glentoran were unbeaten, winning 16 and drawing two, scoring 101 goals and conceding just seven. Runners-up Cliftonville won 14, drew two and lost two. However, they scored even more goals, 104, and conceded just 10.
That points to a goal-laden feast of football in the Electric Ireland Women’s Challenge Cup decider – or a tight affair where defences will be on top.
Glentoran Women are the current holders of the cup. In fact they have won the trophy in the past four years, and they will undoubtedly be going all out to secure a league and cup double tomorrow.
Cliftonville Ladies have already won the NIFL Women’s Premiership League Cup and the Co Antrim Women’s Cup this year. The Reds last lifted the Challenge Cup in 2015 and will be keen to make it a cup treble in 2023.
Both squads feature several players who are experienced senior Northern Ireland internationals as well as up and coming players who have tasted international football at U17 and U19 levels.
Glentoran Women head coach Kim Turner is looking forward to the game (6pm kick-off).
In the match programme she points out: “This is a competition that excites us as a group and one we take seriously throughout the season. We have shown this over the years and throughout the club’s history.
“This year it's an exciting fixture. Having the top two club teams in Northern Ireland facing each other in a cup final will make for an exciting occasion for the players, for the fans and for women’s football in the country.
“As a squad we are prepared physically and mentally for the match. These are the games we have been preparing for all season and these are the games we all want to be playing in.”
Cliftonville Women head coach John McGrady says his team will be going all out to lift another piece of silverware.
In the programme he says: “We have not come through each round of the competition and worked hard in every training session to be satisfied with a day out at the National Stadium. When the game is over, we want to be bringing the trophy back to Solitude.
“We have shown many different qualities in reaching the final – ruthlessness versus Linfield, controlling and dominant against Ballymena, patience in the semi-final against a resilient Lisburn Rangers. We know we will need to show these qualities and more if we want to achieve our aim of defeating Glentoran.
“This is a game between two of the top clubs in the country with two very talented squads. The closeness between us in the league standings and our games this season suggests that fine margins will make the difference.”
Image: Cliftonville Ladies defender Fi Morgan and Glentoran Women captain Jess Foy promote tomorrow's cup final.