Westport United on the verge of historic cup defence

Going for more glory: Westport United are looking to put together a historic back to back Connacht Junior Cup wins. Photo: Michael McLaughlin.

Going for more glory: Westport United are looking to put together a historic back to back Connacht Junior Cup wins. Photo: Michael McLaughlin.

Sunday morning will see a mass exodus of football supporters from Westport, but rather than heading south to Galway they’ll be pointing their wagons east, in the direction of the small Roscommon village of Lecarrow about 17km west of Athlone to the home of the Roscommon and District Football League. It’s there that Westport United will be looking to put together a historic back-to-back pair of Connacht Junior Cup victories. Last years rain-sodden penalty shootout victory over Athenry in Terryland Park will go down in history as one of the great days in the famous junior club’s history, but if they manage on Sunday to bring the trophy home for the second time in as many years, they’ll be telling tales of this side for many, many years to come around the town.

Standing in the way of the side jointly managed by Kieran Mulchrone and James Fahy are the Roscommon League’s top dogs, Ballinasloe Town, who unlike Westport United are just wrapping up their season as their league plays winter football. Both sides met at the semi-final stages of the competition last year, with Westport United going home from The Curragh Grounds in Ballinasloe with a hard fought 1-0 win thanks to a Pat Fitzgerald goal midway through the second half of a tight encounter. Getting back here hasn’t been easy for Westport United, especially over the last couple of rounds, where they were pushed to the pin of their collar by both City United and Mervue United in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively in April. Since then, Westport United have discarded the challenge of Claremorris in their opening league game with ease, before being held 2-2 by Ballyheane in their second game in the league a fortnight ago.

In their quarter-final match with City United, Westport were forced to come from behind early on to a controversial Gerry Rooney penalty, which saw Westport United captain Joe Lawless sent off and miss the semi-final. Lawless will be back in action on Sunday and looking to make up for his own personal disappointment of missing last year’s final through injury. David Hoban brought Westport United level before, and David Horkan scored a memorable winner three minutes from time in the game which was played in Milebush. In their semi-final, extra time was needed and nerves of steel from stand-in captain Kevin Joyce who slotted a 109th minute penalty to finally overcome the challenge of Mervue United in front of a packed Sportspark crowd. That same crowd will en masse be heading for Lecarrow for what promises to be a great game of football in front of two sets of very passionate and loyal supporters.

While Westport United will welcome Lawless back from suspension they will be hoping that Gary Cunningham won’t need to have another man of the match display in goal, as he did last year. Lawless and Martin Geraghty should make up an experienced and quality centre-half pairing, with Joyce slotting back into one of the full-back slots, with Shaun Tagg able to move back to up to the midfield, giving Westport lots of options in attack. David Cameron, Philip Keegan, Pat Fitzgerald, David Horkan and Gerry McLoughlin are all more than capable of running the midfield, while David Hoban has led the line in the last two big games and is adept at playing the lone front man or as part of the front two.

Quality through the opposition ranks

Ballinasloe Town come into Sunday’s final on the back of picking up another Roscommon and District Premier Division title this spring. They retained their title with a 6-2 win over bottom side in the league Glen Celtic at the beginning of April with two games left to go in the division. They finished nine points clear of their nearest rivals, Skyvally Rovers, over the 18 game league campaign.

Ballinasloe also had very good run in the FAI Junior Cup this winter, getting as far as the quarter-finals of the competition before losing out to Dublin outfit Kilbarrck United 2-1 at home at the end of March. Kilbarrck United went on to reach the final of the junior cup again this year, having lost out in the final last year, by beating Pike Rovers in the semi-final.

In their semi-final in the Connacht Junior Cup, Ballinasloe Town overcame the challenge of Galway Premier League side Corrib Rangers 3-1 at home in The Curragh Grounds at the end of April. Ballinasloe Town went through thanks to goals from defender Michael Lynch, who headed home, and a Darragh Concannon free kick which was followed up by a neat finish from midfielder Alan Duffy after a good passing move involving strikers Aidan Dooney and Liam Lynch along with winger Mark Duffy. Their final goal came from the boot of full back Declan Duffy who slalomed up the field through a number of tackles before finishing to the net from close range. Enda Concannon’s side are more than capable of putting up a very stiff test to Westport United on Sunday, they have already knocked Castlebar Celtic out of the FAI Junior Cup on their run to the last eight of that competition at the turn of the year.

Ballinasloe will have Adrian Fallon, a very competent goalkeeper, between the sticks and a strong defensive unit with the likes of Gary Egan, David Cullen, Mike Lynch and Peter Keighery making up a rearguard that only conceded 13 goals over their league campaign. In midfield Darragh Concannon will be expected to pull the strings along with the likes of Alan Duffy and Mark Duffy, while Liam Lynch and Aidan Dooney will be expected to pose a real goal-scoring threat in attack to Westport United.

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