It was another very successful weekend for local soccer clubs on the national stage, as both Willow Park and St Peter’s advanced to the next round of the FAI Junior Cup.
Adding to the success of the two Athlone based clubs, Ballinasloe Town and Moore United from the Roscommon League are also in the hat for the open draw in the fifth round.
Willow Park were first in action last Friday night (November 10 ) when they made the journey to Wicklow to take on Leinster League rivals Ardmore Rovers. It looked like Willows luck was out when a controversial decision on the half hour mark denied Kevin Murray what appeared to be a certain score. The referee decided the ball had gone wide when it clearly went past the goalkeeper and through the net. Murray was not to be denied, though. Just before half-time, his neat finish over the advancing home keeper proved to be the winner. The Wicklow team tried hard to grab an equaliser on the resumption of play, but were unable to break down a resolute Willow defence well marshalled by Robbie Shine and Jack Quinn.
It was not as straight forward, however, for St Peter’s, as Philip Coffey’s men needed extra time before progressing against Sligo outfit Carbury FC at league headquarters in Lecarrow last Sunday afternoon. Having beaten Dysart in the previous round, the visitors were hopeful of adding another Roscommon League scalp to their collection. In an evenly balanced tie, Alan Coffey handed the Saints a half-time lead with a close range finish, but a second half equaliser set up a tense finale which failed to yield any more scores. The tie then went to extra-time, but with the lottery of a penalty shootout looming Mike Lee proved to be the hero, finding the net to see St Peter’s advance.
The two other Roscommon League sides still involved also progressed, as Ballinasloe Town, thanks to a late second half Gary Egan penalty kick, saw off another Sligo outfit, Merville United, away from home. Rounding off a great weekend, Moore United were the biggest winners as they edged out fellow Roscommon League rivals Boyle Celtic on a magnificent 4-2 scoreline. Having reached the semi-final last season, Boyle were looking to have another extended run in the competition and started as clear favourites to advance. Moore manager Padraig Moran, involved in many big time games as a player, had his homework well done, and the win was richly deserved.
With the holders Sheriff United sensationally knocked out by Dublin rivals Usher Celtic, the tournament as a result now looks to be wide open. Just 64 teams are still left from the huge original entry, and the four local teams remaining will all hope to have the crucial home advantage next time around. The draw for the fifth round is on an open nationwide basis with the eagerly awaited ties set to take place early in December.