THE SPOILS OF VICTORY Jack King, Regional Manager of AIB, presents the AIB Mayo League Challenge Cup to Westport Utd captain Brian Kennedy last Sunday. Also in picture is Alan McLoughlin, Cian Kennedy and Pat Quigley (Chairman, Mayo AFL).
Westport take the Cup but
injury overshadows final
Westport United 2
Castlebar Celtic 0
THE importance of this result was put into sharp perspective just over twelve minutes into the second half.
When Castlebar Celtic’s Gerry Burke went down after an accidental clash of heads with Westport’s Colin Navin, the end result was the furthest thing from most people’s minds.
Thankfully the news on his health is good. He was released from Mayo General Hospital on Monday and tests still have to determine the exact nature of the injury but at the time of the incident and his subsequent seizure, Milebush was a worrying place to be for Burke’s colleagues, his opponents and for all present.
It underlined that for all the preparation that goes into both sides, soccer is only a game. Credit must go to both team physios, Damian Burke from Celtic and David McGrath from Westport, for their treatement of the injured player but questions must be asked as to why there was not an ambulance or a doctor on site for the cup final.
The AIB Cup final is a very smoothly run event by the Mayo League but the absence of emergency services was a glaring omission. Naturally it is logistically impossible to have such cover at every game but at a game where a large crowd is congregated in the one place, such a practice should be commonplace in this writer’s opinion.
Westport captain Brian Kennedy was extremely thoughtful in his acceptance speech. He concentrated on wishing Gerry Burke well and showed perspective in not over-celebrating as did the rest of his team.
It is merely unfortunate for Westport that their fine achievement in bouncing back from losing poorly to Celtic the week before to deservedly take the AIB Cup is not the main talking point of this game. There are some who might argue that it is not even the second most noteworthy happening from Sunday’s final.
There was a gap of 29 minutes from when Gerry Burke first went down to when the game resumed. Referee Martin Roughneen then played a further 28 minutes meaning that in total 69 minutes elapsed from the start of the second half until the end of the game. However, with the game being held up for 29 minutes, that means there was only forty minutes really played in the second half. The referee blew up early.
But that, too, will probably be relegated to an aside.
Celtic were upset after what had happened to their team-mate and actually offered to concede the game to Westport. However, Utd, with a level of justification, wanted to win the match out and so the game recommenced. Many Celtic players clearly didn’t want to be there. It was a sensitive situation and in fairness to the man in the middle, Martin Roughneen, it was a difficult match to have to referee from then on.
However, his decision to send off Celtic player-manager Gavin Dykes and Westport’s Eoghan McHale eight minutes after the resumption was ill-advised. The two appeared to be merely jostling and while a strict referee could apply the letter of the law, it was the wrong time and the wrong place for two straight red cards.
In the last action of a drawn out, yet abbreviated game, Celtic’s Kieran Hopkins was shown a straight red for a late tackle. It was a bookable offence at worst (given that Hopkins was already booked he was walking a tight line already) but a straight red seemed harsh.
With that red card followed the final whistle five minutes shy – not allowing for injury time apart from the Gerry Burke incident, of which there was plenty – and a bizarre game ended.
But back to the football. When all is said and done there could be absolutely no disputing who deserved to win this game and that is Westport United. Their performance came on the back of a display the previous week against Celtic which left many questioning exactly where this Westport side were heading. In Celtic Park, in what was essentially the game which affirmed Celtic as league champions, Westport looked rudderless, bereft of ideas and very stagnant.
On Sunday they bounced back in style. Defeat would have meant a first trophy-less season for them since 2001. It was a fate they didn’t want to contemplate.
With as close to a full strength side as they’ve had all year, Westport tore into Celtic from the off. David Horkan was a class apart at centre-back. He was everywhere and did more than anyone to seal off any threat Celtic presented. But Westport ensured they had much, much more of the ball themselves.
Danny Scahill was back to his dynamic best in midfield while a major difference between this week and last was the return of Dessie O’Malley.
Together with his namesake Vinny, Dave Cameron and Gerry McLoughlin, Dessie stretched Celtic at the back time and time again. Both O’Malleys along with McLoughlin all had early chances while the aforementioned Dessie looked certain to score with a header from five yards when placed by Scahill only for Kieran Hopkins to come from nowhere to block his effort.
At the other end Shane Hynes’ superb left-footed deliveries had Westport in bother but the closest they came to scoring was when Ronan O’Boyle fizzed an effort from outside the box towards the right corner of the net. However, David Hoban was equal to it with a strong hand.
The Covies took a deserved lead one minute into first half injury time. Colin Navin played Dave Cameron in past a Celtic defence appealing for offside. But Cameron appeared to have judged his run perfectly and he rounded Ciarán Kelly before finishing to the net.
The second half was dominated by events outside of football but Westport ensured there would be no drama in the race for the cup when Dessie O’Malley dispossessed Kieran Hopkins fourteen minutes after the resumption after the Gerry Burke incident and superbly finished past Kelly.
Westport left content, not jubilant. That it to their immense credit. The bigger picture for everyone was the welfare of Gerry Burke and his release from hospital on Monday is the most important news of all.
D Hoban; C Navin, D Horkan, E McHale, J Lawless; D Cameron, D Scahill, B Kennedy, G McLoughlin; D O’Malley, V O’Malley. Subs: S Higgins for Navin; B O’Connor for V O’Malley; B Fahy for Kennedy; A McLoughlin for Cameron
Ciarán Kelly; K Hopkins, G Dykes, S Reilly, G O’Boyle; Chris Kelly, S McHale, A Neary, S Hynes; R O’Boyle, G Burke. Subs: P Fitzgerald for Burke; N Douglas for Hynes.
Referee: Martin Roughneen (Manulla).