The two Athlone teams still remaining in the FAI Junior Cup safely made it to the fourth round last weekend, as Willow Park and St Peters beat Aylesbury and Ballisodare United respectively.
Willow needed extra time before advancing against the Dublin outfit, but The Saints progress was smoother as they easily saw off the challenge from the Sligo team.
Willow Park were first into action last Saturday night (October 21 ) at the all-weather pitch in Athlone IT, as they survived having their goalkeeper sent off to strike a winner in extra time. Mick Fogarty had an eventful evening and was called into action early on to prevent Aylesbury from taking the lead. A shot from the visiting centre forward was pushed over the bar by the Willow keeper. There were few further chances in the remainder of the opening half with Benny Magennis having a penalty appeal turned down just before the break.
First action on the resumption of play saw Fogarty receive a red card after racing to the edge of the penalty area to prevent a certain score. The foul on Nicolas Leech Byrne was costly, with Robbie Shine then taking over between the posts for 10-man Willow. The stand-in keeper rescued the home side in the penultimate minute when denying Aylesbury a certain winner.
The tie was eventually settled in the first period of extra time with an extraordinary goal. Damien Rushe fired in a free kick from the right which bounced over the goalkeeper into the net. It proved sufficient, and Aylesbury’s cause was not helped with two sending offs during this period.
Philip Coffey’s St Peters played in Lecarrow last Sunday afternoon (October 22 ) and eased past Ballisodare far more comfortably than the three-nil final score line suggests.The hosts were two goals up with less than 20 minutes played, but only added to their tally late on as a number of good chances were passed up on. David Donohoe was involved in both first half goals, as his right wing crosses were finished to the net by Mark Sherlock and Alan Coffey after six and 17 minutes respectively. Gary Stephens somehow failed to add to the lead when firing over from close range, while the visiting goalkeeper denied Scott Delaney just before the break.
Ballisodare came more into the tie on the resumption of play, but without looking likely to stage a serious comeback. Gavin Phelan once more came to the rescue on the hour mark when pushing away a Donohoe strike. Delaney was again out of luck later when his header from a corner kick was cleared off the goal line.
A third home goal finally arrived with five minutes remaining. Stephens took aim from the edge of the penalty area and his low shot flew into the net to seal an easy home victory. Both teams can now look forward to the fourth round draw of the biggest cup competition in Europe, with the ties set to be played in mid-November.