Crucial wins boost Willow Park and Gentex title hopes

The battle for honours among the local teams playing in the Combined Counties League is heating up as December approaches.

The Senior Division was dominated for over a decade by Athlone based teams with Willow Park and St. Peters the big two in the league as they battled for supremacy. Monksland took advantage of both then moving to new pastures to lift the crown for the first time last season.

However, Willow's second team are in contention to bring the title back across the River Shannon in 2019. Padraig Dully's men faced a major test last Sunday when they entertained table toppers Clara Town. A win for the Offaly outfit won have been a major setback but Willow turned in a tremendous performance to further boost their title aspirations.

Declan Fallon opened the scoring from the penalty spot and it was looking good when Damien Rushe doubled the home team's advantage. Clara, though, got back into contention when taking advantage of a defensive error and were pushing hard for an equaliser only to concede a second spot kick. Fallon was again successful with substitute Bryan McCormack then putting the gloss on the score with a fourth Willow goal. The win pushes Willow to within a point of Clara and, with three games in hand, the winning of the title is now within their own hands.

Away from domestic affairs, reigning champions Monksland were involved in Leinster FA Junior Cup action and the second round draw handed United a tough tie away to Evergreen. The home team are renowned cup battlers and, although Philip Coffey’s men never gave up the fight, the Kilkenny outfit progressed. The visitors fought back to reduce the deficit following a corner kick after going two nil down. However a third goal ensured the hosts would progress.

There was better luck for the other local Senior Division team involved in the competition with Ballinahown edging out Garda away from home. The village team had to do it the hard way as they trailed by two goals to one but finished stronger to edge out Garda by the odd goals in five. Monksland meet Ballinahown at Cushla Park on Sunday when the league battle resumes for both with a tasty local derby.

The Gentex success story in Division Two continued with another big win which all but seals the title. CJ Isayas lead the way with four goals as Warren Conroy contributed two in an eight one trouncing of Geashill away from home. The lead at the top of the table is now a whopping twelve points with Moate Celtic a distant second.

The champagne is now on ice and, although idle at the weekend, Gentex could be crowned champions without even kicking a ball. Stradbally, in theory, are the only team that could catch the leaders but anything other than a win against bottom club Killoe will hand the title to the Athlone team. Clonown Rovers inconsistent season continued with a single score home loss to Stradbally.

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