Castlerea’s double delight as Farrell breaks Ballymoe hearts

Roscommon & District League Challenge Cup Final: Castlerea Celtic 1 Ballymoe FC 0

A 17th minute goal, headed in from 10 yards by Peter Farrell, was enough to give Castlerea Celtic a victory which not only gave them the bragging rights after this local derby, but also landed them the league and cup double and the status of undisputed kingpins of Roscommon club football this season.

  This final, played in beautiful warm weather at the splendidly appointed league grounds in Lecarrow, drew a big crowd.

  The game was ill-tempered at times. Indeed it spilled over into a mini-brawl in the 62nd minute when players from both sides became involved in a fracas – but there were no injuries and a lot of what went on was of the proverbial ‘handbags’ variety.

  Referee Eugene Deering did a good job in the circumstances, and although he handed out a total of eight yellow cards, the exchanges never really quite got out of hand.

  Castlerea deserved to win it on the balance of play. They dominated the first half and should have been more than one goal ahead at the break. However Ballymoe turned in a really spirited second-half display and the loss of the suspended Keith and Dean Muldoon and the injured James Connaughton were severe blows to their hopes of a historic victory.

  Castlerea were on top in the first half, and with Nathan Bligh pulling the strings in midfield, the Premier League champions pressed forward looking for an early goal.

  In the 8th minute an Eoghan O’Connell header whizzed over the Ballymoe crossbar, and two minutes later a corner from Bligh caused consternation in the Ballymoe defence before Michael Kenny cleared the danger.

  The breakthrough came in the 17th minute. Nathan Bligh’s shot came back off the crossbar. The Ballymoe defence did not clear properly and the ball spun up in the air. Fastest to react was Peter Farrell, who headed home from close-range in what was a crowded penalty box. It would prove to be the winner.

  Castlerea were dominating now and further shots from Nathan Bligh, Ronan Curran and Cathal Dineen all had to be dealt with by the Ballymoe defence. Ballymoe chances were few and far between in that first half but at the break Celtic just led by that single goal.

  Ballymoe had made one substitution (in the 40th minute). They made two more at half-time and were a much-improved outfit in the second half. Ross Timothy’s 20-yard shot in the 54th minute was just too high and a minute later a 25-yard free-kick from sub Robbie Keenan was tipped over by Celtic goalkeeper Paddy Gunning.

  The contest was much more even now, but Ballymoe could not engineer any clear-cut chances against a resolute Celtic defence in which young Jack Higgins was outstanding.

  With tensions rising, a flurry of yellow cards were shown as the tackles flew in hot and heavy. Castlerea held out to win and the final whistle was the cue for some wild celebrations as players, mentors and fans celebrated a unique league and cup double success.

Castlerea Celtic: Paddy Gunning, Derek Kennedy, Jack Higgins, Eoghan O’Connell, Cathal Dineen, David Fitzpatrick (capt.), Niall Higgins, Nathan Bligh, Peter Farrell, Ronan Curran, Dominic Bligh. Subs: Thomas Byron for D Bligh (65), Padraig Colleary for Dineen (66), Enda Foster for N Bligh (78), Patrick Egan for Higgins (85).

Ballymoe FC: Michael Kenny, Gregory Grogan, Keith Keenan, John Connaughton (capt.), Aidan Brogan, Paul Hynes, Marl Kilcommins, Ross Timothy, Daniel Malone, Adrian Collins, Niall Collins. Subs: Kieran Dowd for N Collins (40), Cathal Connelly for Kilcommins (h-t), Robbie Keenan for Hynes (h-t), Damien Conboy for Malone (87).

Referee: Eugene Deering.

Note: Well done to the Roscommon & District League for their arrangements at last Saturday’s cup final, which were top class. Well done also to referee Eugene Deering who sanctioned a water break in the middle of both halves for the players on what was such a warm evening.