ST. MICHAEL’S FC 1 CARRICK UNITED 0
A goal from Pa Quinn after 25 minutes proved decisive as St. Michael’s FC of Tipperary town etched their name on the Munster Junior Challenge Cup for a sixth time after getting the better of holders Carrick United from Carrick-on-Suir in an epic all Co. Tipperary decider in sunny Ozier Park, Waterford last Saturday evening.
In this the 83rd time that this prestigious trophy was up for grabs it saw a St. Michael’s side who were without the services of suspended captain James Walsh having to reshuffle their defence bringing in young Michael Fitzgerald at right full-back and switching Paul Tobin into the middle alongside skipper for the day Paul Breen with Chris Higgins at left-back.
Carrick United playing in their third successive decider, had seven of the side that defeated Clonmel Town in last season’s final in Cahir in their starting line-up got a lucky break in the 3rd minute when Saints’ Richard Ryan’s low shot went under ‘keeper Adrian Walsh’s body but a defender was quickest to react and got back to clear under pressure from the inrushing Pa Quinn. On 7 minutes a corner-kick from Saints’ Jimmy Carr saw Irish Amateur international keeper Adrian Walsh come through a crowd of players to collect the ball. On 11 minutes there was a heart stopping moment for Saints supporters when Amateur International Paul Breen back-pass to his brother Derek saw the latter mishit the ball as it bobbled on the hard ground but the Saints net-minder managed to clear at the second attempt under pressure from Alan Coady. On 13 minutes Derek Breen produced a top class save diving to his right to push the ball to safety and two minutes later Paul Tobin had to head over his own crossbar to clear a centre from Keith Walsh.
Following a series of corner-kicks for a St. Michael’s side that were beginning to regain the upper hand that endless pressure paid dividends after 25 minutes when the only goal of this hard fought contest came. A loose ball broke in midfield for Thomas Fahey and he looked like heading up a cul-de-sac, but two Carrick players slipped, allowing him to shoot from 20 yards and the ball beat the dive of keeper Adrian Walsh but struck the post and on the way out hit the stranded ‘keeper into the path of the inrushing Pa Quinn to head the ball home.
Carrick United responded to that goal with the imperious Paul Breen producing a well timed tackle on Alan Coady as he was about to pull the trigger and from the resultant corner-kick FAI Junior International Player of the Year Wayne Fitzgerald header skimmed the wrong side of the upright. Saints newly capped Irish Amateur international Chris Higgins had to make a well timed interception on Keith Walsh after Derek Breen raced off his line to stop Alan Coady in his tracks as the half hour mark was reached.
Over the final fifteen minutes of the half it saw St. Michael’s regain the upper hand with the Carrick United rearguard producing timely tackles on Thomas Fahey, Jimmy Carr and Padraic Fogarty as the TSDL side tried to double their lead. Carrick, who were hitting on the break, almost caught Saints out just before the half-time whistle sounded with Paul Breen coming to the Tipp town side’s rescue stopping Alan Coady from taking a shot. At the other end of the park Thomas Fahey breached the Carrick defense only to be denied by Adrian Walsh who raced off his line to clear the ball.
Half-time: St. Michael’s 1 Carrick United 0
Carrick United, who play their football in the Waterford League sprung Glen Keane from the bench at the break, switching Adam McSharry back into midfield and the former Clonmel Celtic striker began to take control of proceedings in the middle of the park as the second half got underway. It was a similar scenario to seven days earlier for St. Michael’s in their FAI Junior Cup semi-final success in Wexford allowing the opposition to dictate the early proceeding of the second half and only for their defence being on top of their game the outcome could have been different.
Adam McSharry who left the field twice in the opening half to get a head wound attended to, had a bandage on his head for the second half, but that did not stop him dictating the show as he was involved in setting up substitute Glen Keane who was stopped on the edge of the area illegally, but from McSharry’s free-kick the ‘wall’ stood its ground and cleared the danger. From another Adam McSharry set-piece into the danger zone on 50 minutes Paul Breen rose majestically to head clear as the Saints battled to hold onto their slender lead. Another heart-stopping moment for the Saints followers came on the hour mark, when substitutes Glen Keane’s well executed pass to Bobby Landers caught the TSDL giants flat-footed, but the latter’s goal-bound strike saw Derek Breen produce an excellent reflex save to stop the ball at the butt of the post and push it away for a fruitless corner-kick. With Carrick United winning the midfield exchanges there was another heart-stopping moment on 75 minutes for Saints when Adam McSharry well struck shot from 30 yards beat Derek Breen but went inches the wrong side of the post and ended up in the side netting.
That near miss brought a St. Michael’s side that was feeling the effect of those epic battles in Wexford and Limerick over the past fortnight, back to life and substitute Shane Guerin broke through the Carrick defence on 80 minutes, but a great tackle by Anthony O’Donnell denied him the chance of scoring. With both sides feeling the effects of the energy sapping conditions it resulted in wide open spaces beginning to appear over the final ten minutes.
With St. Michael’s hitting on the break it was the turn of the Carrick supporters to have a number of heart-stopping moments. On 84 minutes Michael Fitzgerald set up Jimmy Carr on the right flank and his first time centre caught Adrian Walsh flapping at thin air and the ball fell invitingly to Richie Ryan whose goal bound shot was blocked on the line by Wayne Fitzgerald who cleared the danger. Two minutes later Carrick hearts were in their mouths when Richie Ryan held off two challenges as he broke into the area and sent a low centre from the end-line across the goal and with ‘keeper and defender getting their signals crossed there was no Saints player to tap home into an unguarded goal.
Another Jimmy Carr centre saw Adrian Walsh loose the ball but his defenders came to his rescue first denying Richie Ryan and as the ball rolled free a block tackle on Shane Guerin prevented him from adding to Saints tally. Guerin was on target again minutes later when going low to head a Richie Ryan centre, but it was straight at Adrian Walsh in the Carrick goal. With the game three minutes into stoppage time the last all out attack by Carrick United saw defender Alan Redmond go on a mazy run riding a number of tackles as he charged into the Saints penalty box, but the combination of Paul Tobin and Paul Breen saw his first shot blocked and from the rebound he hit the side netting. Minutes later the final whistle sounded and there were scenes of delight on the St. Michael’s faces as they ended a barren spell that stretched back to season 2004/05 when they last lifted this coveted trophy.
The presentation that followed was conducted by Munster FA Hon. Chairman Paddy Pollard who presented the Munster Junior Cup to Paul Breen and James Walsh to the cheers of the large contingent of St. Michael’s supporters.
Because there was no PA system, it was impossible to hear the after match speeches by St. Michael’s, but I’m sure it was a great relieve for a side that had promised so much over the past six years but failed to deliver. Now the TSDL standard bearers have delivered, they remain on course for a unique record as they face Moyglass United in the Tipperary Cup in their 42nd unbeaten game of the season this coming Thursday. They also have three league games left in a bid to lift the TSDL crown, but most of all there is a date with density when a return visit to Turners Cross, Cork for the final of the FAI Junior Cup on 22nd of May.
As for Carrick United their aim this campaign is to retain the Waterford championship and of course a Munster Senior Cup semi-final date with Cork City.
ST. MICHAEL’S FC: Derek Breen, Michael Fitzgerald, Paul Tobin, Paul Breen (Capt), Chris Higgins, Trevor Cosgrave (Ray McMahon 88’), Jimmy Carr, Thomas Fahey, Pat Quinn, Richard Ryan, Padraic Fogarty (Shane Guerin 75’)
CARRICK UNITED: Adrian Walsh, Alan Redmond, James Walsh (Lee Grace 88’), Anthony O’Donnell (Capt), Wayne Fitzgerald, Alan Ryan, Keith Walsh, Eoin Burke (Glen Keane 45’), Alan Coady, Adam McSharry, Anthony Power (Bobby Landers 50’)
Officials: Referee; A. O’Regan, Assistants; P. Buckley, F. Murphy (Cork)