Shane’s strike wins cup G&H Challenge Cup Final Ballinalsoe Town ……………………………………….. 2 Castlerea Celtic ………………………………….. 1 (aet) Shane Duffy’s spectacular goal secured victory and a remarkable treble for Ballinasloe Town in the 101st minute of the absorbing G and H Challenge Cup Final at Oonagh Park last Sunday afternoon. Duffy’s goal, which came in the first phase of the second half of extra-time in Taughmaconnell, was a half volley from the edge of the Castlerea area. The full back latched on to an incisive diagonal pass from Darragh Concannon and his first-time shot flew past Dara Bruen into the bottom corner to the right of the Castlerea goalkeeper. It was a fitting conclusion to an enjoyable game of soccer. Although this wasn’t a clinical victory, Ballinasloe Town emphatically deserved victory last Sunday. Peter Carroll’s men dominated for long periods and the elegant Concannon was particularly influential in the centre of the park. They merited the victory by being stylish, particularly in the smooth creativity of their play in the midfield arena. Concannon was at liberty to ease innumerable passes over the top to forwards Henry Loughnane and Liam Lynch and he also supplied several impressive diagonal transfers to his wingers Gary Furey and Mark Duffy. The midfielder was by some distance the outstanding player of this match. His disarming self-assuredness confounded the Castlerea midfield players and he tormented the Celtic fullbacks by appearing on both wings throughout the game. The diminutive number 10 is clearly a student of Arsenal player Cesc Fabregas: his passing style is remarkably similar to that of the Spanish midfielder. Garry Egan was very impressive throughout at the heart of the Ballinasloe defence and he could do very little about James Mannion’s goal twenty minutes from the end of the second half. The imperious sweeper almost constantly took satisfaction in the occasion, and comprehensively dominated his area of the pitch for most of the match. It would be an exaggeration to write that the Castlerea box was under siege throughout the match but nevertheless the amount of action that went on around it surely worried the Celtic supporters. Indeed Castlerea’s defence was indebted to the competence of ‘keeper Bruen throughout the game. Loughnane led Ballinasloe’s investment of the Celtic area for the last fifteen minutes of full-time but the number 1 repelled all efforts during this frenetic phase. Earlier he had pushed Garry Egan’s 25-yard dipping free kick over the bar after 17 minutes and had expertly saved a penalty from Concannon after 29 minutes. His save from Concannon on the stroke of 90 minutes ensured that the spectators were treated to an extra 20 minutes of entertainment. There was nothing quite so deft from the other Castlerea players. The victors dominated midfield and the west-Roscommon club was forced to resort to Jack Charlton tactics for much of the game. James Mannion’s unlikely equaliser 18 minutes from the end of the second half reflects the nature of the Castlerea performance. Mannion jumped on to a badly executed Ballinasloe throw-in and hammered a remarkable half volley into the top corner from 25 metres. The ball travelled at a 20’ angle from close to the touchline into the net. Mannion richly deserved his spectacular score, for he chased after every ball and expended more energy than the other players. Beside him Ronan Curran wasn’t as prominent as he might have wished. Frustration ensnared the valued forward: he was not supplied with the type of possession that he needed in this enjoyable final. The lack of creativity that undermined Castlerea throughout the first hour will perturb the Castlerea management this week. Ballinasloe dominated from the beginning and led after a half-hour. Twenty minutes of wind and rain gave way to sunshine and Castlerea defended with an impressive diligence in the opening quarter. They lost concentration following the penalty, however, and Liam Lynch’s instinctive header at the back post from the resultant corner-kick set Ballinasloe on the way to success. Castlerea finally asserted parity 20 minutes into the second half and their urgency yielded a scarcely just reward when Mannion prosecuted his extraordinary finish. He will remember his goal for years. Ballinasloe deserved victory, however, and Duffy’s winner after 600 seconds sealed the treble for Peter Carroll’s players. Curran and O’Regan had wonderful opportunities close to the end for Castlerea but there would be no resurrection and Ballinasloe eased to victory in the final 10 minutes. Ballinasloe Town: Darren Smyth; Thomas Carthy, Peter Keighery, Garry Egan, Shane Duffy; Gary Furey, Darragh Concannon, Robert Brooks, Mark Duffy; Henry Loughnane, Liam Lynch. Subs used: Patrick Loughnane for Carthy (88 mins); Glen Campbell for Concannon (inj., 101 mins). Caslterea Celtic: Dara Bruen; Peter Hestor, Fergal O’Regan, Ronan Mugan, Dermot Henry; David Fitzpatrick, Greg Kelly, Damien Webb, Giles McDonagh; James Mannion, Ronan Curran. Sub used: Mark Mulvihill for Hestor (68 mins).