Castlebar Celtic 3
Fitzgerald 13, R O’Boyle 48, 86
S&F United 1
CASTLEBAR Celtic finally secured the 2006 Super League crown with a comfortable success at Green Road on Sunday morning. Gavin Dykes charges have been champions elect for most of the season and goals from young guns Pat Fitzgerald and Ronan O’Boyle meant they finally crossed the finishing line against Straide & Foxford – with two games to spare.At the moment the Hoops seem to have a side with the perfect balance of youth and experience, and although they were not at their best for long stretches on Sunday, they still had too many gears for the homeside.
It took a supreme effort from Celtic to maintain their form right throughout the summer after their protracted runs in both the Connacht and FAI Junior Cups but Dykes has maintained that league success was always his main aim. Sunday’s win means the Tom Kelly Perpetual Cup is back in Celtic Park for the first time since 2001.
The result was never really in doubt once Celtic hit the front after just thirteen minutes. Ronan O’Boyle was superb throughout the 90 minutes and he provided the pinpoint cross from wide on the right. Pat Fitzgerald timed his run through the middle of the S & F defence to perfection and he arrived right on cue at the edge of the six yard box to slot the ball past a hapless Kieran O’Malley. However, S & F were offered a direct avenue back into the game on 21 minutes when a ball bounced up in the Celtic box and struck Dykes on the arm. Referee Damien McGrath pointed to the spot but Ciarán Kelly stood firm as Michéal Smyth slotted his penalty down the middle and S & F spurned a golden opportunity.
Celtic always looked the more likely to score the second goal of the game and O’Boyle again centred a great cross from the right on 26 minutes only to see Sean McHale’s deft header from around the penalty spot hit the post before going wide.
Andy Neary, playing his first game back at Green Road since his transfer from S & F, was responsible for keeping the scores even at the break after an Alan McDonnell long throw on 41 minutes was toe-poked across the six yard box by Michael Costello only for Smyth’s rather tame effort to be cleared to safety by the alert Neary.
Celtic stretched their advantage just three minutes into the second half with a rather fortuitous strike. Kieran O’Malley attempted clearance was deflected into the path of Dara Ainsworth wide on the right and the winger’s attempted cross looped over the retreating keeper, only to rebound back of the crossbar.
The ever-alert O’Boyle was in the perfect position to take advantage and his diving header from four yards out gave Celtic a valuable cushion.
But credit to S & F, they refused to wilt and hand Celtic the title without a fight and they reduced the margin back to the minimum on 51 minutes.
Alan McDonnell’s corner was helped on at the near post by Brendan McHugh and the persistent Smyth managed to control the ball and swivel before side-footing the ball between Kelly’s legs from close range.
However, having conceded Celtic effectively shut up shop and S & F failed to have a clear-cut chance for the remainder of the half, with the Hoops playing on the break and utilising the pace and direct running of impressive substitute Niall Douglas during the last twenty minutes.
The insurance goal didn’t arrive until four minutes from the finish. Douglas ran fully thirty yards before being upended at the end of the box and O’Boyle took advantage of a static defensive wall and nonchalantly curled the ball into the bottom right corner past a flat-footed O’Malley.
Surprisingly, this is only Celtic’s second time to win the Super League since its introduction in 1999 and only three of Sunday’s squad - captain Sean Reilly, Fintan McHale and Dara Ainsworth - were in the squad when Celtic sealed the title back in 2001. They undoubtedly have a squad who should be eyeing more Super League titles in the future and the likes of Westport Utd and Ballina Town know only too well that it will take a supreme effort to take the title back from Celtic Park.
C Kelly; K Hopkins, S Reilly, G Dykes, A Neary; D Ainsworth, P Fitzgerald, F McHale, S Hynes; R O’Boyle, S McHale. Sub: N Douglas for S. McHale.
Straide & Foxford
K O’Malley; I Mayock, M Costello, I Howley, J O’Brien; A McDonnell, B Roache, B McHugh, G Costello; M Smyth, P Sheridan.Subs: A Atkinson for Roache, B Mooney for G Costello, T Guiry for Sheridan.
Referee: Damien McGrath (Inver).