Oranmore's clamber up the Premier League table continued apace as they ground out a hard-fought arm wrestle against an unrelenting, yet ultimately unsuccessful, Corrib Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
The 1-0 win sees them move into third place on the table after a string of results which has seen them win five of their last six league fixtures. The sides around them have several games in hand, though, meaning the picture painted is not an entirely accurate one.
A biting gale swept the ground throughout and it was Oranmore who managed to make use of the wind at their backs in the second half when Dermot Noone landed the eventual match-winner in the 64th minute.
It was never going to be a goal-fest in this highly defensive encounter, with Oranmore playing an extra man in defence for much of it and Rangers struggling to adapt.
The visitors played with the wind in the first half and unsurprisingly had the majority of the opportunities, mostly through set plays.
They never really posed a serious threat, though, and consequently did not take advantage of their wealth of chances.
Rangers were handed two free kicks in good field position within the opening 10 minutes, centre half Kevin Fitzpatrick taking both, and the first going safely into the hands of ‘keeper Conor Leydon.
Leydon made a small mess of the second, though, dropping it at the feet of the incoming Mark Joyce at the right post, but his attempted deflection went just wide.
Oranmore’s first real chance came on 20 minutes when Tony Kelly was left with just the ‘keeper to beat after Shane O’Neill had skied a shot high into the air which fell to Kelly at the top of the box.
But ‘keeper Ryan Griffin flung an arm out and managed to get a strong enough deflection to send it off course.
Brian Crowe and O’Neill also had first-half chances for the home team, while Ronan Quinlivan and Neil Rabbitte could have given Rangers the ultimate boost right on the cusp of the break, but could not get the finishing touch.
A Noone header from the back post off a corner could have spelt early success for Oranmore when the game resumed, but Griffin was on the spot to make the save.
However, he could do little to deny Noone 15 minutes later when the rangy defender was left completely unmarked at the back post after Ollie Neary crossed a free kick in, and Noone headed it home for his fourth league goal of the campaign..
Oranmore had their lead and were determined to keep it as they went straight into lockdown mode at their defensive end, Neary dropping back to help shore up the back end.
Rangers tried to counter-attack in the final few minutes, with Fitzpatrick going forward to leave just three in the backline, but it was a fruitless attempt in the end.
Deep in injury time substitute Mike Fahy could have pushed Oranmore two clear when he was left with just Griffin to beat after getting a great ball through, but he managed to miss the shot completely and referee Ger Cahill signaled time shortly afterwards.
So Oranmore will look to the New Year with confidence, their stated aim of staying in the Division well within their grasp. A defence which has only conceded three league goals, ironically against Colga, in their last six league games has been the reason behind their surge up the table. For Rangers, 2009 has the potential to be a lot more tense. While looking relatively safe in sixth, they are only three points above NUIG with three more games played and Johnny O'Brien's men need top scorer Conor Cleary back in action if they are to turn their fortunes around.
Oranmore: Conor Leydon, Dave Devlin, Brian Crowe, Dermot Noone, Sean O’Brien, Ollie Neary, Dave Eignor, Tony Kelly (Mike Fahy, 67 mins ), Dave Sheehan (Liam Rockall, 54 mins ), Shane O’Neill, Lonan O’Farrell.
Corrib Rangers: Ryan Griffin, Shane O'Flaherty, Gary Murray, Martin O’Connor, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Neil Rabbitte, Ronan Quinlivan (Martin O’Connell, 83 mins ), Brian O’Halloran, Mark Joyce, Lawrence Forde (Ollie Rafferty, 70 mins ), Daniel Small.
Referee: Ger Cahill.