5 West Cork League Things To Look Forward To

5 West Cork League Things To Look Forward To
By Ger McCarthy

 

WCL

 

1. Will Drinagh heap further misery on Clonakilty AFC?

Contrasting fortunes for Clonakilty AFC and Drinagh Rangers following the first weekend of WCL Premier Division fixtures with the former suffering a hiding at Ballydehob while the latter got their campaign off to a winning start at the expense of Spartak Mossgrove.

To be fair to Clon, they always put it up to Drinagh, home and away, each season but require a full-strength line-up to prevent the visitors from making it maximum points after two games in Inchydoney this weekend.

A fixture that regularly produces plenty of goals is unlikely to disappoint on Sunday but Rangers’ ominous early season form gives the Canon Crowley Park side an excellent chance of widening the gap to the chasing pack after only two rounds of games.

 

 

2. Can Togher and Spartak get off the mark?

Newly promoted Spartak Mossgrove gave a fine account of themselves before going down 3-0 to Drinagh last Saturday and will hope home advantage is enough to see off Togher Celtic this weekend.

On the same weekend, their upcoming opponents came out the wrong end of a 2-1 result at home to Riverside, heightening the necessity to get their season up and running as soon as possible.

Neither club will want to face into round three of the Premier Division without having put some points on the board so an entertaining and open game is expected in the Convent Grounds, Bandon. If Spartak are to realise their potential as a challenger rather than a promoted team avoiding relegation then defeating an established Premier club like Togher would represent an important step in the right direction.

 

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3. Will Dunmanway get that elusive first win?

It’s not been the start the defending 2017 Premier Division champions would have wished for, losing the Michael Cronin Cup final to Drinagh on penalties before being held to a 1-1 draw by newly promoted Lyre Rovers in their league opener earlier in the week.

Avoiding defeat away to Riverside Athletic is essential on Sunday otherwise Dunmanway could find themselves playing catchup to the early season pacesetters just two weeks into the new campaign.

Sunday week’s Keane’s Jewellers League Champions first round tie away to Doolans Cow means Dunmanway will fall another game behind their title rivals so although it is early in the season, any kind of victory away to Riverside would represent a welcome boost for the Mohona side.

A word too for Lyre, who showed what they are capable of at the top level by holding champions Dunmanway Town to a draw. Rovers’ ability to pick up points against established title-challengers such as Dunmanway will go a long way to delivering a positive first season back in the top flight. Could Lyre and not fellow promoted side Spartak Mossgrove be the surprise package of 2018?

 

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4. Are Bunratty United the real deal?

Bunratty’s relegation from the Premier Division came as little surprise following the Town Park side’s poor record of one win from sixteen league games plus the worst defence in the top flight (conceding 56 goals) during 2016-17′.

Yet, United’s superb underage structure has delivered multiple successes at Schoolboys and U18 level over the past three years and some of those graduates have since emerged onto the first team, giving hope of a brighter future at junior level.

To underline that point, Bunratty made a clear statement of intent on the opening weekend of the new Division 1 season by firing seven past Durrus. A reversal of last weekend’s fixture gives an emerging United team every chance of registering another three points on Sunday. Momentum is building down in Schull.

 

 

5. Will Division 2 top of the table clashes deliver potential title-challengers?

Granted, it’s early days but the outcome of Sunday’s Sullane versus Drinagh Rangers B meeting in Coolea could yet have a big influence on the final Division 2 League standings at the end of the season.

Both sides got off to positive starts with Sullane firing six past Courtmacsherry on the same day Rangers B edged Castletown Celtic 5-4. Scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem for either side so the outcome of Sunday’s top of the table clash may depend on whoever puts in the best defensive display. A cracking game is anticipated where home advantage might edge the result in Sullane’s favour.

Aultagh Celtic and Baltimore are two other Division 2 clubs harbouring promotion aspirations and both will be eager to maintain their winning starts. Celtic defeated Castlelack last weekend while the Crabs proved too strong for Dunmanway Town B. The opportunity to accrue six points from their opening two games should guarantee an exciting encounter.

 

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FIXTURES

Sunday, September 3rd 2017

PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier Division
Clonakilty AFC v Drinagh Rangers at 11am
Riverside Athletic v Dunmanway Town at 11am
Leeside v Ballydehob at 2pm
Spartak Mossgrove v Togher Celtic at 2pm

OBrienWaterServices.com Division 1
Durrus v Bunratty United at 11am
Bantry Bay Rovers v Mizen AFC at2.30pm
Crookstown v Skibbereen at 2.30pm

West Cork League Division 2
Ardfield v Lyre Rovers B in Carrigroe at 11am
Aultagh Celtic v Baltimore at 11am
Castlelack v Castletown Celtic at 11am
Sullane v Drinagh Rangers B at 11am
Courtmacsherry v Dunmanway Town B at 2.30pm

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West Cork League Weekend Wrap

West Cork League – Weekend Wrap
By Ger McCarthy

 

The opening weekend of the new West Cork League season threw up some interesting results and a whopping 49 goals. Here are the main talking points from across the region’s three divisions.

WCL

Same old Drinagh
With defending Premier Division champions Dunmanway Town’s home game with Lyre Rovers rescheduled for next Tuesday night, the onus fell on Drinagh Rangers to get their title-challenge up and running at home to newcomers Spartak Mossgrove on Saturday afternoon.

Despite a spirited display and missed opportunities, Mossgrove came out the wrong side of a 3-0 loss – Tomas Connolly, Keith Jagoe and Barry O’Driscoll (H) all scoring – with Rangers using all their experience to claim a first home win of the season. Making Canon Crowley Park a fortress will be crucial to Drinagh’s title challenge over the coming months and an opening-day victory represented the best possible start.

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The Hob shock the AFC
The most eye-catching Premier Division result of the weekend saw last season’s relegation survivors Ballydehob hammer Clonakilty AFC 9-2. Granted, the Inchydoney-based side were missing a plethora of first-team regulars but a such a morale-boosting score might work wonders for a Ballydehob side expected to struggle at the bottom of the table this term.

Ryan O’Neill netted five goals and an influx of youth may yet turn the Hob’s fortunes around. As for Clonakilty, getting their missing personnel back as quickly as possible will be paramount to moving up the table and recovering from such a heavy loss.

 

Athletic off the mark
It is two seasons since Riverside Athletic won the Premier Division title without losing a game. Their following (2017) campaign was a big disappointment so getting off the mark at the expense of Togher Celtic was a welcome boost this past weekend. Mike Murphy and Ciaran Everard found the net in a 2-1 triumph and an ability to take points off the top dogs could yet result in a top-four finish.

 

Division 1 hotting up
Dropping down a division following relegation from the top flight is never easy and there is always a danger that losing games becomes a bad habit. Credit to Bunratty United then for starting life in the middle tier of the West Cork League with a thumping 7-1 win at home to Durrus. A youthful line-up saw Danny McSweeney and Cathal Newman get their names on the scoresheet but Sean Evans’ four-goal salvo will make the headlines.

Clonakilty Town won last season’s Division 2 title and made the step up to a new division with ease following a straightforward 3-0 victory over 2017 Beamish Cup runners-up Bantry Bay Rovers. A Sam Kingston hat-trick bodes well for Town’s championship aspirations.

 

Division 2 will be some craic this season
One weekend down and already the 2017-18 Division 2 title-race looks like it could be the most the open for years. Aultagh Celtic, Drinagh Rangers B, Sullane and Baltimore registered opening day wins.

Yet, Aultagh had too dig deep to overcome Castlelack 3-1, Rangers B edged Castletown Celtic 5-4 following a nine-goal thriller and Baltimore didn’t have it all their own way overcoming Dunmanway Town B 2-0. More of the same next and every weekend please!

A special day for West Cork football

By Ger McCarthy

Last weekend saw Cork City FC’s home ground of Turner’s Cross host a West Cork League Beamish Cup final for the very first time. Here, Ger McCarthy reflects on an important day for football in the West Cork region as well as the West Cork Schoolboys League’s continuing rise in popularity and a cracking U14 Cup decider at the same venue.

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Irrespective of the result, last weekend’s SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League U14 Cup decider and West Cork League Beamish Cup final showcased all that is good about football in the west Cork region.

The curtain-raiser between Ardfield and Skibbereen’s U14’s lived up to its pre-match billing with a terrific final involving thirteen Kennedy Cup squad members entertaining supporters over 70 engaging minutes.

Skibbereen’s clinical finishing proved the difference in the end, the Baltimore Road club securing a 3-1 victory plus U14 league and cup double, yet Ardfield showed why their young squad has a bright future ahead of them.

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Drinagh dominated the second half of Sunday’s Beamish Cup final yet Bantry Bay Rovers proved more than match for their opponents for much of the opening half. An inability to convert the two half-chances that came their way ultimately cost an up and coming Bay team on a day Rangers underlined their status as one of the most powerful teams in the region.

A 4-0 victory was richly deserved for a Drinagh side accustomed to taking their opportunities in cup finals over the past decade. Keith Jagoe (below) and Robert O’Regan were outstanding in the centre of the pitch and ably assisted by a livewire attack in which Gearoid White, Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Gavin Beamish shone.

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For their part and despite the loss, there is no doubt that Bay Rovers will bounce back. One or two seasons plying their trade in Division 1 will help a youthful Rovers squad find their feet once again before a quick return to the top tier of West Cork League football.

Bantry Bay Rovers could have little argument with the Beamish Cup final’s outcome though and will be disappointed at having conceded three of their four goals from set pieces. Clearly, Drinagh had their homework done and exploited a weakness in their opponents rearguard to maximum effect.

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Whilst goalscorers Barry O’Driscoll (H), Barry O’Driscoll (T), JJ Hurley and Keith Jagoe will naturally attract plenty of newspaper headlines, it is Drinagh’s defensive division that anchored the second of possibly three cup successes in 2017 for the Canon Crowley Park outfit.

Stand-in goalkeeper Rob Oldham kept a clean sheet and proved a safe pair of hands throughout the cup decider in the absence of injured Liam Cahalane. Yet, it was JJ Hurley, Barry O’Driscoll (T), JJ Collins and Darren Beamish’s composed defending that prevented a young Bay Rovers attack from finding the net.

Keith Jagoe and Robert O’Regan’s ability to shield their back four ensured there would be no Bantry Bay comeback.

Rangers are often lauded for their ability to score from multiple areas of the pitch but an experienced defence was just as important in Drinagh’s 2017 Beamish Cup success.

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Beamish Cup Final Teams

Drinagh Rangers: Robert Oldham, JJ Hurley, JJ Collins, Barry O’Driscoll (T), Darren Beamish, Robert O’Regan, Tomas Connolly, Gavin Beamish, Gearoid White, Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Keith Jagoe (captain).

Substitutes: Jamie Walsh, Shane Connolly, Adrian O’Driscoll, Stephen Crowley, Daniel McCarthy and Paraic White.

Bantry Bay Rovers: Donal Casey, Daniel Murray, Paul Drummey, Martin Hurley, Jamie McSweeney, David Daly, Brian Donovan (captain), Shane Drummey, Eoghan McElhinney, Gavin Johnson and Shane McSweeney.

Substitutes: Ciarán McElhinney, Shane Murray, Ricky Peters, Shaun O’Sullivan and Ross Leahy.

Referee: Paul McDermott. Assistant Referees: John Corcoran and Shane O’Neill. Fourth Official: Martin Coakley.

 

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai claim Conroy Cup

This article appeared in a recent edition of the Evening Echo newspaper reviewing the inaugural West Cork Post Primary Schools Conroy Cup competition. Enjoy.


By Ger McCarthy

EveningEcho

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai claimed the inaugural West Cork Post Primary Schools Conroy Cup, a competition the organisers hope will grow in popularity in the coming years.

Cork City manager John Caulfield, the West Cork Branch of the ISRS, Irish Soccer Referees of Ireland, West Cork League, West Cork Schoolboys League, Gateway Radio and West Cork secondary school organisations came together to launch the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup in Dunmanway recently.

 

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The schools competition and trophy have been organised in an effort to commemorate Richard Conroy’s many years of dedicated work both on and off the pitch as a referee and West Cork League committee member.

Three schools; Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai, Skibbereen Community College and MICC Dunmanway took part in the first running of the tournament over the past number of weeks but such is the huge interest sparked in the inaugural competition that plans are already underway to expand the entry for next year’s Richard Conroy Cup as well as adding additional age groups.

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Winning Colaiste Pobail Bantry and former Cork City youths coach Pat Curran along with fellow coach Donal McGrath are delighted to finally see a Post Primary Schools soccer competition established in West Cork.

“Schools soccer is certainly getting very strong in West Cork and will be of huge benefit to the sport come 2018 when soccer moves to summer time,” noted Pat Curran.

“There will also be a schools season in the winter and we look forward to seeing it rolled out to four different age groups next year. I firmly believe that schools soccer is a great platform for the players that take part in it.

“I rang Paul Bowden, my old colleague from Cork City FC, a few years back to tell him about a young man and former student called Connor Ellis who he should consider signing for Cork City Under 19’s and look how that has turned out.

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“Also Conor McCarthy, who plays for Blarney, won the FAI schools player of the year on Sunday is also a Cork City player. Young players representing their various schools now know that it is possible to become a professional soccer player within their own county once they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

“In the last few years West Cork has been well represented at national schools level when you consider Dunmanway went to an All-Ireland final and Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai got to last year’s senior Munster decider.”

HIGHLIGHT
CPB Bantry hosted MICC Dunmanway in the Conroy Cup semi-finals where the only highlight of a disappointing first half was the hosts’ superb opening goal. Dunmanway failed to adequately clear a corner and James Hickey took full advantage, walloping in a first-time volley from 25 yards to make it 1-0.

The visitors fought back impressively and equalised courtesy of a Donnacha Collins effort early in the second period. CPB responded well and Luke Scully restored the Bantry schools’ advantage ahead of a frantic finale in which goal-clearances and the crossbar came to the home side’s rescue before the final whistle eventually shrilled. That 2-1 victory secured CPB Bantry’s place in the final against Skibbereen Community College.DSC_1865
A huge crowd was in attendance for the first ever Conroy Cup final in which Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai broke the deadlock before three minutes had elapsed. Ryan O’Sullivan connected with a Kuba Ratajczak cross to hand Bantry an early 1-0 lead. Skibbereen bossed the remainder of the opening half and it took a marvellous James Crowley save to deny Conor Hourihane a certain equaliser on the stroke of half time.

Kuba Ratajczak and Thomas Flynn’s midfield dominance helped tip the balance in CPB’s favour as the second half progressed culminating in man of the match Sergei Manez Alvarez collecting a Flynn through ball and making it 2-0.

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai made sure of their victory when Alvarez netted his second although there was still time for Alex Minihane to score a consolation for Skibbereen just before the end.

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The Bantry School ran out 3-1 winners and were presented with the Conroy perpetual cup by Richard’s son, Richard junior, after the final whistle. Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai will be back to defend the trophy next season when it is hoped an increased number of West Cork schools will take part.

 

3 things learned from Drinagh v Skibbereen

My reaction to today’s West Cork League Parkway Hotel/Maybury Coaches Cup final between Drinagh Rangers and Skibbereen.

By Ger McCarthy

 

 

A sleeping giant shows signs of awakening

Skibbereen’s fall from grace, once one of the West Cork League’s perennial Premier Division title challengers to struggling at the wrong end of the Division 1 table, represents one of the saddest storylines in local football.

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Skibbereen

Yet, the Baltimore Road club showed enough guts and no little amount of skill in pushing Premier Division opponents and long time rivals Drinagh all the way in Sunday’s Parkway Hotel/Maybury Coaches Cup decider to suggest there is life in one of the West Cork League’s most famous clubs.

There is enough experience amongst the likes of JP Reen, James Reen and John Hodnett plus the emerging talent of Cian Coughlan to build Skibbereen’s future on.

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Yes, new blood is definitely needed but Skibbereen AFC showed with the right attitude and application that they are capable of getting back to the West Cork League’s top tier.

Skibbereen AFC’s proud football dynasty demands they should be competing amongst the region’s elite. Reorganising and recruiting make this coming off-season one of the most important in the Baltimore Road club’s history.

 

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Drinagh Rangers

Same old Drinagh, always winning

The sight of Drinagh captain Keith Jagoe holding aloft the Parkway Hotel/Maybury Coaches Cup was a timely reminder of the Canon Crowley Park side’s prowess heading towards their upcoming Beamish Cup final at Turner’s Cross.

In a season their Premier Division title hopes were crushed by local rivals Dunmanway Town, Drinagh showed they could still grind out a cup final victory rather than rely on their usual finesse.

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Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Gearoid White were both guilty of squandering multiple chances they’d normally convert.

Yet, Drinagh still managed to score the all important winner and then defend it superbly despite Skibbereen’s late onslaught before deservedly holding aloft a trophy that had previously eluded them.

What Easter Sunday’s victory showed more than anything else is that there is much work to be done ahead of their Beamish Cup decider against a younger, faster, more clinical Bantry Bay Rovers.

That will suit co-managers Don Hurley and Declan Deasy perfectly however and their experienced squad know the hard work starts this week if they are to add another trophy to the cabinet.

 

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West Cork League football in a healthy state

It was refreshing to see a large crowd at Mohona on Easter Sunday for the final of a competition that rarely attracts such interest.

Drinagh and Skibbereen supporters in attendance were treated to a tough, hard-fought encounter full of goalmouth incidents and plenty of debatable decisions.

That’s what West Cork League football is all about though. Controversial decisions as important as results, points and trophies down this neck of the woods.

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Plenty of skill on display too with Rangers’ Keith Jagoe, Barry O’Driscoll (H), Robert O’Regan and Gearoid White underlining their credentials as some of the Premier Division’s top players.

Skibbereen’s James Reen was a rock at the back while JP Reen, Cian Coughlan and John Hodnett underlined the capabilities in an engaging final.

Hopefully, more football fans will continue to take advantage of the fact they have such a talented league on their doorsteps and make an effort to support their local clubs.

Remembering Richie Conroy

The following is a feature I submitted for my weekly Evening Echo weekend  column on the decision to create a new Richie Conroy Perpetual Trophy for Post Primary schools based in West Cork. The trophy is in honour of one othe league’s most dedicated inviduals who passed away all too soon. – Ger McCarthy.

EveningEcho

 

Cork City manager John Caulfield has helped launch a new West Cork post primary schools soccer competition in honour of the late Richie Conroy.

Members of the West Cork Branch of the ISRS, Irish Soccer Referees of Ireland, West Cork League, West Cork Schoolboys League, Gateway Radio and West Cork secondary schools all came together to launch the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup in the Arch Bar, Dunmanway last week.
Over the past few months, many of Richie’s friends and fellow referees had been looking at ways to commemorate Conroy’s many years of involvement in his beloved sport.

“Speaking with Richie’s family it was evident that they  along with all our referees were anxious to honour him as well as helping promote the game in West Cork,” said Tadg Sheehan, Secretary of the West Cork Branch of the ISRS.

WCL

“Having spoken to Pat Curran of Pobal Bheantrai we sounded out other schools and got a positive response. This cup will be an U17 post primary competition confined to West Cork schools only. The trophy has kindly been donated by the Conroy family and the competition is supported by the West Cork Branch of the ISRS, the West Cork League and the West Cork Schoolboys League.”

Five schools have entered the inaugural competition; Skibbereen, Pobal Bheantrai (Bantry), Schull, Dunmanway and Beara. It is hoped to entice other schools from within the region and possibly further afield such as Bandon, Clonakilty and Macroom in the coming years.

The draw for the first Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup has pitted Pobal Bheantrai against Dunmanway in the quarter finals with the winners advancing to a last four meeting against Schull. Skibbereen and Beara contest the second semi final ahead of the 2017 decider provisionally fixed for April 7th.

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SUPPORT
Cork City manager John Caulfield was happy to lend his support to the new competition, citing the importance of continually needing to promote the sport in an increasingly crowded sporting calendar. Richie Conroy was a person Caulfield knew well and respected throughout his early playing days and right through to becoming a League of Ireland manager.

“I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch of the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup and helping promote soccer in West Cork,” Caulfield stated.

“It is difficult to keep the sport going in our region so I’m thankful of the huge amount of work being put in behind the scenes by a lot of dedicated people.

“Obviously, Richie Conroy was someone I knew a long, long time. During his lifetime he was a real, proud, passionate West Cork soccer man. I, like everyone else, was shocked and saddened to hear of Richie’s passing but there is no doubt he would be delighted and probably laughing to see so many people coming together to create a tournament in his honour.

“Everyone in West Cork has fond memories of Richie Conroy, a great man, a great soccer man and that is what I will always remember him as.”

Caulfield believes creating a post primary competition is a positive and necessary step in keeping soccer at the forefront of available sports, especially to U17’s.

“The fact the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup is going to be a post primary schools competition is very important as there is a lot of work going on in trying to promote the game at that level,” admitted the Cork City manager.

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“People are well aware that summer soccer could be on the way via the West Cork Schoolboys League. Six or seven years ago it was something I wouldn’t necessarily have been in favour of. Now, I actually believe it is the right way forward because it means better pitches, longer evenings in which to get games completed and youngsters will be playing ball every week as opposed to waiting weeks after games are put off.

“I can see around the various schools in West Cork that their playing facilities are very good. Introducing this new cup, in honour of Richie Conroy, will help encourage U17’s to play and promote the game in schools which as I said earlier, is hugely important.

“The importance of playing in a post primary schools competition like this Richie Conroy Cup is vital to keep students playing at a competitive level (in school) and hopefully finding another player like Connor Ellis who came through Pobal Bheantrai and has since broken into our first team.”

Crookstown Win The WCL Division1 Cup

The following is a match report covering the 2017 West Cork League Division 1 Cup final between Crookstown and Baltimore. Published in the Southern Star in March 2017. Enjoy – Ger McCarthy

SouthernStar

CROOKSTOWN WIN THE CUP
BALTIMORE    1
CROOKSTOWN    2
Ger McCarthy reports

They left it late but Crookstown deservedly took home the West Cork League McCarthy Sports Division 1 Cup trophy at the expense of Baltimore at a blustery Lyre.

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Crookstown – 2017 WCL Division1 Cup winners.

Down 1-0 to a Kieran Lynch opener, Crookstown used all their experience to drag themselves back into contention before netting an equaliser early in the second period. The prospect of extra-time loomed large until Michael Kelleher forced the ball home following a frantic goalmouth scramble 5 minutes from the end to win the trophy for a delighted Crookstown manager Tim Irwin.
‘It is hugely important that Crookstown won this trophy as we are trying and bring in younger players all the time but more importantly just to keep the club going,’ Irwin commented.

‘We finished our league programme very early this year and apart from the semi-final we hadn’t played a competitive game in over a month. I thought we started very slowly because of that and also the fact we were missing key players.’

‘I just hope this cup success helps attract more players to the club and that’s what it is all about really.’

Strangely, Baltimore decided to kick off with only ten outfield players as they awaited the arrival of Stephen Leonard. Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Crabs got off to the best possible start by breaking the deadlock after 5 minutes.

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Baltimore AFC – 2017 WCL Divisi0n 1 Cup finalists

Dan McEoin lined up a free-kick 15 yards outside the Crookstown penalty box and his stinging effort brought the best out of Dean Knight. The Crookstown goalkeeper’s parry was seized upon by Kieran Lynch however and the Baltimore striker fired home from close range.

James Kelleher and Darren Shine pressed forward in search of an equaliser but Crookstown’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss of midfielder Colm Crowley to injury shortly after falling behind.

Buoyed by their early breakthrough, Baltimore defended in numbers and counter-attacked whenever an opportunity arose. Utilising Kieran Lynch and Paddy Minihane’s combined abilities, the Crabs enjoyed a productive spell which included another Dan MacEoin free-kick that struck the side-netting.

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2017 WCSL Division1 Cup Final

Their opponents threatened sporadically but an inability to find a way past a solid Baltimore back four (with Brian Leonard in imperious form) meant the score remained unchanged at the half hour mark.

Stephen Leonard’s introduction had an immediate impact with James Kelleher and Charles Kenneally having to deflect away consecutive goal-bound attempts by the Baltimore striker. Despite diligent approach work, Crookstown’s struggles continued and they were fortunate not to fall further behind when Brian Leonard’s cross-come-shot flicked off the crossbar 9 minutes before the interval.

IMPROVED
Crookstown were much improved in the second period, Andrew Kenneally forcing Christy Hodnett into a save and James Kelleher fizzing a cross into the six-yard box that required a hasty clearance 3 minutes after the restart.

The Crabs swift-footed attack remained a constant threat throughout the second half and Noel Collins appeared to have made it 2-0 following a breakaway only to have his effort ruled out for a handball infringement.

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Undeterred, Crookstown’s attacks increased and they drew level with a superbly crafted equaliser after 54 minutes. James Kelleher drifted infield and released John O’Mullane. The Crookstown striker still had plenty to do but struck a well-placed shot beyond Christy Hodnett to bring parity to the score.

O’Mullane fired another effort inches over as a frustrated Baltimore struggled to match the intensity of their first half display. The Crabs made little headway against an increasingly confident Crookstown defence and were restricted to long-range attempts in an effort to retake the lead.

Crookstown looked the more likely to score and twice came within inches of making it 2-1when Michael Kelleher’s shot was deflected away for a corner and Donal Corkery headed the resulting set-piece inches over.

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Baltimore had chances too, Kieran Lynch forcing Dean Knight into a full-length stop but the score remained 1-1 with 10 minutes to go. Christy Hodnett produced a superb one-handed save to prevent a James Kelleher free-kick from hitting the net but Baltimore’s defence failed to heed that warning and were punished shortly after.

An in-swinging Donal Corkery corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble but Michael Kelleher somehow forced the ball over the line to edge Crookstown ahead for the first time with 5 minutes remaining.

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Baltimore had one final chance to take the decider to extra-time but Kieran Lynch’s free-kick struck the butt of an upright and was hacked to safety. Crookstown comfortably maintained their lead following that late scare and ran out deserving 2-1 winners.

STAR PLAYER

Donal Corkery of Crookstown

A first half substitute for the injured Colm Crowley, Donal Corkery made his presence felt with an all-action display in the centre of the pitch. Corkery’s performance helped Crookstown turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.

 

TEAMS

Baltimore: Christy Hodnett, Brian Leonard, Aidan Murphy, Dave Ryan, Sean B O’Donovan (captain), Paddy Minihane, Conor Harrington, Noel Collins, Stephen Leonard, Dan MacEoin and Kieran Lynch.

Substitutes: Diarmuid Collins, Brian Minihane, Shane O’Donovan, Gary O’Donovan and Kieran O’Driscoll.

Crookstown: Dean Knight, Michael Kelleher, Liam Wall, Charles Kenneally (captain), Michael Deasy, James Kelleher, Colm Crowley, Andrew Kenneally, Michael Quinlavin, John O’Mullane and Darren Shine.

Substitutes: Tim Irwin, Donal Corkery and Diarmuid Scannell.

Referee: Tim McDermott

Assistant Referees: Anthony McDermott and Patrick Hurley