Joyce plays the captain’s role to bring the cup home

Soccer: Connacht Junior Cup final

Champions again: Westport United celebrate winning the Connacht Junior Cup. Photo: Mayo League

Champions again: Westport United celebrate winning the Connacht Junior Cup. Photo: Mayo League

Westport United 0

Athenry 0

(Westport United win 4-2 on penalties AET )

When a captain was needed to deliver for his side when it really counted, Kevin ‘Kipper’ Joyce was not found wanting in Terryland on Sunday. After 110 minutes of stalemate between Westport United and an Athenry side who were going for three Connacht Junior cups in a row the game was decided by the dreaded penalty shoot out.

First blood from the spot kicks went to the Galway side when Pat Fitzgerald saw his effort in the driving rain saved by John Grealish. Stephen Rabbette put his effort away, putting the pressure on Dave Hoban to ensure that he kept his side in it which he did with ease. The contest fell back into the melting pot when Gary Cunningham saved Gary Delaney’s effort brilliantly. Danny Scahill showed all his experience to put Westport into the lead with his kick, which was followed by Cunningham pulling off another top drawer save, this time from Alan O’Donovan. Both the next spot kicks, from Darren Browne for Westport and Ray Moran for Athenry, were converted leaving the score 3-2 to Westport with one kick each left. Westport had their fifth kick first and it was simple, score and win. Up stepped captain Kevin Joyce who drove his effort beyond the reach of Grealish and sent the Westport fans into delirium, tumbling from the stands out on to the pitch.

Joyce’s goal ended a 25 year gap and brought a seventh Connacht Junior Cup to Westport in their history. Westport went in to the game as slight underdogs, as Athenry were going for three in a row. But Westport stuck to their task and limited Athenry to chances from long range or set pieces in the first half. As the opening 45 minutes wore on Westport found their feet and caused plenty of problems for Athenry, especially down the flanks with Pat Fitzgerald and David Hoban. Fitzgerald set up Vinny O’Malley for an effort on goal midway through the opening half which was well saved by John Grealish in the Athenry goal.

The second half saw a confident Westport side take control of the game and Vinny O’Malley had a couple of chances to put his side in front but could not find the target. Neither side created many clear cut chances in the two 10 minute periods of extra time and the outcome of the contest was left to the dreaded penalty shoot out. Despite getting off to a poor start when Fitzgerald missed his first effort, Westport held their nerve when it counted and came home as champions.

Westport Utd: G Cunningham; A O'Malley, K Joyce, S Tagg, M Geraghty; D Cameron, A Carroll, D Scahill, D Hoban; P Fitzgerald, V O'Malley. Subs: D Browne, G McLoughlin, D Hoban, M McNally, M McGreal, S Higgins, J Lawless.

Athenry: J Grealish; S Rabbette, D McDonagh, R Kinneen, P Byrne; G Delaney, A O'Donovan, S Crowe, C Fahy; C Cannon, G Forde. Subs R Moran, D Cullen, D Carroll, A Fahy, E Byrne, N Hynes, M Colby.

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