A first half hat-trick from left midfielder Brooke Baine ensured Crusaders went home as champions of the inaugural U17's League cup final.
Crusaders, who went into the game as favourites, started well, and played some of the football that showed why they are top of the divison with 3 games left to play. Midfielder Bain and forward Amy Burton looked especially dangerous going forward.
After 10 minutes Crusader no 2 Georgia Crawford went down after an innocuous looking collision, and was unable to continue. As such she was replaced by 16 year old Senior Northern Ireland international and first team regular Amy McGivern.
This proved a turning point in the half, as McGivern was able to control the game in midfield, feed passes into the feet of the forwards and wide players, and stop Lisburn from gaining any real momentum.
On 24 minutes this passing momentum paid off when McGivern played the ball into the feet of U19 international Burton, who has recently been promoted to the senior international squad. As she turned, she was blatantly brought down in the area, but the referee played a very smart advantage as the ball broke to Baine, who was able to tap into the empty net to open the scoring.
Three minutes later McGIvern was again the provider as she played an incisive through ball to Baine, who found herself clean through and produced a classy finish to chip the ball over diving goalkeeper Jamie Lee Wilson to grab her second and double her team's lead.
Lisburn, who have shown good league form over the season, never let their heads drop, and continued to try to play their game, but they found it very difficult to create any good chances, thanks to some resolute defending from the Crusaders back four.
Even when Lisburn were high up the pitch and stringing a few passes together Crusaders always looked like they could break and cause problems, and this is exactly what happened in the 37th minute when McGivern again picked the ball up in midfield and played yet another pin point pass into the path of Baine, who once again made no mistake to complete her hat-trick.
Lisburn managed to steady the flow until the half way mark, but they were definitely looking second best against a determined Crusaders team, who were showing exactly how much damage they could cause when given the chance.
At the beginning of the second half Lisburn again managed to apply a little pressure, but one of their passes were intercepted and three passes later McGIven picked the ball up and left two defenders for dead but could only shoot against the legs of keeper Wilson when she really should have added the fourth.
Lisburn did have a good chance on 50 minutes, when forward Caitlin Sheridan shot into the arms of Crusaders keeper Lauren Kelly. Lisburn kept believing, and you got a clear sense that if they managed to convert a chance they would be right back in the game.
The next clear cut chance came after 63 minutes when Baine hit a high cross into the box and Burton went for a looping half volley that went just over. This miss didn't matter though as one minute later McGivern got the ball, beat two players, ran to the by-line, cut inside and laid it on a plate for Bartlie McCormack who finished it off from 3 yards.
Crusaders had opportunities to add to their lead, with Baine, McGivern and Burton all having notable chances, but the final whistle went before they could convert and they had to settle for a 4-0 win.
Crusaders assistant Manager Heathern Mearns, who also plays for the first team, was very pleased with the result. “We showed what we can do today. We played very well from the beginning to the end and were brilliant from start to finish.”
With 4 youth players in various international age groups, from U17 to senior, The senior side are starting to see the benefits of their acclaimed youth set up, with players having played together for over two years now. It is safe to say that the future is bright at Crusaders.
Report & Photographs : Ben Hanna