With both sides progressing to the fifth round of the FAI Junior Cup two weeks ago, confidence is high in both Westport United and Manulla camps heading into the Connacht Gold Super Cup on Sunday afternoon next. After wrapping up the league title it has been a successful debut season for John Brennan and his Westport Utd troops. However, they were pushed all the way by Dysart FC where the Covies carved out a 3-2 win thanks to a late Mark McNally winner and this will give hope to Manulla who bagged the Westaro Cup back in August.
There is no doubt that Manulla manager Tom Healy will be analysing the 5-1 defeat to Westport this week to conjure up a plan to restrain their illustrious hosts. He is under no illusions at what they will face on Sunday. “It’s a huge game like any final and especially against Westport Utd. We are really looking forward to it. We know what is ahead of us. Westport are the team in Connacht at the minute, so we know what we are up against. We need everything to go right for us.”
Considering that Manulla required an extra-time win over Straide and Foxford Utd in the round of last 16 makes their journey all the remarkable. Goals from Gary Conncannon and Matthew Nolan sealed the win in what can only be described as a dogfight. It is a day that lingers in the memory of Healy. “That’s the beauty of the cup. You can never take any team for granted. It was just a game that we needed to get across the line. They asked us a few questions and luckily enough as the game went on, we knew we would finish strong and we did."
It was much more comfortable in the next round where they easily dispatched of Conn Rangers with a 3-1 win. Two Enda McGahon goals saw Manulla surge clear before Jamie Feeney cut the gap in the 65th minute. Shane Durkan edged them home in the closing stages to set up a mouth-watering clash with arch-rivals Castlebar Celtic. In a game of inches Manulla clawed their way past the Hoops thanks to an 83rd minute goal from Shane Durkan.
After winning the inaugural Mayo Sevens double back in spring it has been a long haul for Healy and his troops. “I have to give credit to the players, they have stuck at it. It’s a long season and it’s great that we are still involved in a cup final and we are also in the FAI Junior Cup. All we can hope for is that everything goes right for us on the day and we need everything to go right for us” he concluded.
Westport meanwhile had to come from behind in both their quarter-final and semi-final to book their final ticket. After seeing off Partry Athletic in the first round with a 4-1 win thanks to goals from Pat Fitzgerald, Mark McNally, Martin Geraghty, and David Cameron, thoughts turned to Iorrais Aontaithe.
After falling behind early on Westport turned up the heat and a flawless display by David Hoban who grabbed a brace along with a Darren Browne strike sealed a last four clash with Claremorris. Once James Stretton fired past Gary Cunningham in the 71st minute, Westport were on the rack and they needed a late Mark McNally goal to force extra-time. The south Mayo sides were minutes away from a penalty shootout before David Hoban crushed their hopes, after he capitalised on a defensive error.
Westport Utd skipper Gary Cunningham will be concentrating on their own game plan and will not be worrying about what Manulla will throw into the mix on Sunday. “We will be setting out to just play our own game really and if we go out with the right attitude and intensity, I don’t think that many teams can stop us. So as long as we turn up on the day and play our own game and then it will be up to them to try and stop us more than anything.”