Clonmel Town 2 St. Michael’s FC 1
Clonmel Town ended their famine in the Munster Junior Challenge Cup as they overcame archrivals and holders St. Michael’s in the third all Tipperary Southern & District League final played before a large attendance in Cahir last Friday night.
Newly crowned TSDL champions Clonmel Town who failed in their previous five attempts in the past eleven years to bring home this trophy were out for revenge. They were up against a St. Michael’s side that not only beat them last year but also in 2001 and from the kick-off there was plenty of tension in the air as both sides who had only a few changes in personnel from last season’s showpiece tried to get the upper hand.
This game was just five minutes old when Clonmel Town got the breakthrough goal. A long ball left Alan Coady in the clear but the latest addition from the TSDL to be named in the Irish team, Paul Breen fouled him on the edge of the area. From the resultant direct free-kick Tony Scully’s low strike went under the ‘four man wall’ and into the corner of the net leaving keeper Kevin O’Sullivan stranded. That was the early breakthrough the neutrals in the crowd wanted following last season’s drab affair and from that moment onwards a hungrier Town side continued to ask questions of this highly rated Saints defence. Tony Scully playing up front alongside Alan Coady was winning the majority of aerial duels against Irish skipper James Walsh as Town continued to turn the screw but custodian Kevin O’Sullivan came to his skipper’s rescue with a point blank save from Scully.
St. Michael’s although outplayed in the opening half had a number of half chances notably from corner-kicks but a combination of infringements and timely interceptions made sure they came to nothing. After half an hour Kevin O’Sullivan produced the save of the game when he dived full length to finger tip an Alan Coady goal bound strike from a Dwayne Burns flick-on away to safety but Clonmel Town got a deserved second goal after 38 minutes when the normally solid St. Michael’s defence were caught ball watching allowing the unmarked Paul Shanahan volley home from close range at the back post. The last action of the half saw another error by the Saints defence almost punished only for O’Sullivan coming quickly off his line to clear from Alan Coady.
With the rain cascading down as the second half got underway with St. Michael’s now testing the Clonmel Town rearguard as they tried to redeem the situation. A Ray McMahon free-kick into the area saw Ramie Condon heading clear from under his crossbar and from another Mc Mahon set-piece custodian Richard Ryan punched clear through a crowd of players. Clonmel Town were unlucky not to have increased their lead when an Ian Barnes shot ricocheted into the path of Alan Coady who saw his first time effort clip the butt of the post with O’Sullivan beaten.
St. Michael’s made two changes after twelve minutes of the half bringing on both player-manager Barry Ryan and youth player Richie Ryan and with Davy Ryan pushed into the middle from the unproductive wide berth of the opening half it saw the Tipperary town holders up the tempo. Those substitutes and positional changes proved a positive move as St. Michael’s pulled a goal back after 62 minutes when Barry Ryan scored from close range in a goalmouth scramble. It was nail-biting time for both sets of supporters as Barry Ryan forced his namesake Richard in the Town goal into a crucial double save as he prevented him from scoring by bravely smothering the ball in crowded goalmouth and minutes later Tony Davis was on hand to clear off the goal-line an effort from Aaron Moroney.
Clonmel Town were now relying on speedy counter-attacks as they tried to restore their two goal cushion. They brought on Michael McHugh and he set-up Dwayne Burns whose strike was just inches wide and that was followed by an Ian Barnes effort that was pushed to safety by Kevin O’Sullivan. With the clock ticking towards full-time and the tension unbearable for both sets of supporters St. Michael’s Davy Ryan through ball beat the Town’s offside trap but Richard Ryan seeing the danger raced off his goal-line but although his tackle on Aaron Moroney looked dubious Referee John Teehan was well positioned to wave play-on. However, St. Michael’s missed a gilt-edge chance to draw level when a Ray McMahon quickly taken free-kick left the Town defence flat-footed and it allowed Barry Ryan to cut in from the end-line but with only the keeper to beat the normally reliable hit-man fired his shot into the side netting. That proved to be the last real goal scoring opportunity and with the final whistle sounding an ecstatic crowd of Clonmel Town supporters raced onto the pitch to hail their heroes and newly crowned champions of Munster.
Munster Football Association Chairman Peter Harrington had nothing but praise for all involved. He complimented both teams on their endeavour and skill in another provincial showpiece that wouldn’t look out of place on the international stage. To Cahir Park AFC on providing their excellent facilities once again and to the officials from the Tipperary Branch of the Irish Soccer Referees Society on their handling of the game in such a professional manner.
He pointed out that it was momentous occasion for a Clonmel Town side that had at last overcome the heartbreak of five defeats in the final in the past eleven years as he presented the Lucozade Sport sponsored Munster Junior Challenge Cup for 2006 to skipper Paul Scully. That was a proud moment for all in volved with Clonmel Town but especially for Kevin Blanche who after picking up five losers medals at last got the winners medal he richly deserved.
Clonmel Town: Richard Ryan, Tony Davis, John Shanahan, Ronan Stanley, Ray Condon, Paul Shanahan, Ian Barnes, Paul Scully, Alan Coady, Tony Scully, Dwayne Burns. Subs: Michael McHugh, Darren Burns, Robbie Boland, Kevin Blanche, Aidan Landers.
St. Michael’s AFC: Kevin O’Sullivan, Denis Cremins, Chris Higgins, Paul Breen, James Walsh, Derry Peters, Davy Ryan, Ray McMahon, Aaron Moroney, Sean O’Halloran, Paraic Fogarty. Subs: Barry Ryan, Richie Ryan, Stephen Grace, Lee Dudley, Alan Kiely.
Officials: John Teehan, Jim McKell, John Lyons and Tom Keating (all Tipperary)