West United gained another three points on their seemingly unstoppable march to the Western Hygiene Supplies Premier League title on Saturday afternoon with a convincing win over NUI Galway at Dangan. No medals are handed out in November, as William Grant will be stressing to his squad, but this win has placed his side in a strong position to lift the trophy next spring.
Having not played a Premier League fixture in over a month, since their first dropped points against Mervue United, this tie was a potential banana skin for the Claddagh outfit as College had strung together two recent wins to lift their hopes of survival. Hosting their first home game of the campaign, this was a chance for the students to cut the gap further.
But, in truth, while Mikey Creane did offer glimpses of class that threatened West on a couple of occasions, West bossed this game from start to finish, utilising the wide expanses of the Dangan ground to good effect.
A host of chances went abegging for the visitors before Mike O’Malley broke the deadlock in the 34th minute. Keith McHugh had earlier rattled the crossbar, while Simon Murray and Dara Ryan were both guilty of wayward finishing when through on goal. But the chances were being created, as Ian Burke and Gary Fitzgerald bossed the midfield sector, while Dara O’Neill revelled in his role on the right flank.
O’Malley’s goal, his second of the season, came following good work by John Egan and Burke on the right, before Fitzgerald played a ball into the winger’s path which he duly dispatched to the bottom corner. A measure of complacency then crept into West’s play up till half time, and their ‘keeper John Cotter did well to keep out efforts from Creane and Chris Monaghan.
A minute into the second half, Cotter held onto Creane’s awkward free-kick, and within three minutes his side were further in front when Seamie Rabbitte headed in Dara Ryan’s corner. Creane was again denied by a strong hand from Cotter moments later before West began to control proceedings again.
Burke fired over following some fine approach play by O’Neill, Egan, and Fitzgerald on 61 which typified their dominance. But NUIG, to their credit, never gave up and pulled an unlikely goal back on 69 minutes when substitute John Lavin toe-poked past Cotter from close range.
A nervy last 20 could have been on the cards, had College not hit the self-destruct button five minutes later when conceding a needless penalty for a foul on Fitzgerald as he was moving away from goal close to the edge of the area. O’Neill stepped up, ‘keeper John Burke saved, but O’Neill’s blushes were spared by some encroachment which enabled a re-take which he fired into the top corner, much to College’s chagrin.
Two to the good again, Grant emptied his subs bench, giving Jason Curran, Alan Grant, and Paul Murphy a run. Curran proved his worth six minutes from the end when Ryan got to the end line and cut the ball back to the sub who made no mistake from six yards out.
West are now unbeaten in eight games and sit four points clear of Athenry, who are keeping in touch but have played a game more, on the summit. A trip to Oranmore on Sunday is next on their agenda. For College, this should not be a result to dwell on for too long. West were on-song and Tom French was without the services of suspended striker Derek O’Flaherty and Dave Cooke. They host Mervue United next weekend in a game that will hold much more relevance as to whether they can stay in this division.
NUI Galway: John Burke; Eoin Murphy, Ronan McCann, John Hynes, Eoin O’Loughlin; Vinny Carrigan, Tristan Ryder, Robert Moloney, Mikey Creane; Paul McDaid, Chris Monaghan. Subs: John Lavin for Murphy (45 mins ), Will Geoghegan for McDaid (59 mins ), Richie Byrne for Carrigan (63 mins ).
West United: John Cotter; Dara O’Neill, Keith McHugh, Tom Burke, Seamie Rabbitte; John Egan, Gary Fitzgerald, Ian Burke, Mike O’Malley; Simon Murray, Dara Ryan. Subs: Jason Curran for Murray (75 mins ), Alan Grant for McHugh (77 mins ), Paul Murphy for Gary Fitzgerald (83 mins ).
Referee: Vincent Carew.