ON TARGET Westport Utd’s Joe Lawless (4) celebrates with his team-mates after the champions scored one of their four goals against Claremorris last Sunday. Pic: Michael Donnelly
Westport United 4
P Keegan 40, D Hoban 67,
D Cameron 68, A Mulchrone 90
A SINGLE point was all that Westport United needed in order to retain the Super League title away from home on Sunday afternoon, but Claremorris looked keen to spoil the party right from the off.
The youthful home side tested every bit of mettle that John Brennan’s experienced outfit had with a heroic display of fearless and attractive football.
In fact, had United goalkeeper Gary Cunningham not been in flying form, Westport may have needed to dig deep to pull something out of the bag.
Phil Keegan’s crucial goal five minutes before half-time came against the run of play, as David Hoban’s powerful free-kick was parried away by Jurgan Pilbrow right onto the feet of the lively winger.
The same man was denied by Pilbrow in a one-on-one situation after only four minutes, but between those two incidents, Claremorris looked the more threatening.
The home side were bolstered by the return of Danny Broderick, recently signed from Ballyglass and making his first appearance for his home club in almost four years.
He saw an audacious volley sail wide after eight minutes.
David McCracken then capitalised on a mistake in the Westport defence, but couldn’t beat Cunningham, before Ronan Commons played a perfect low cross into the box to Andrew Peters, but from six yards out, Cunningham again was Westport’s saviour.
United always looked threatening on the counter, with Hoban hitting a delightful flick-up volley from the edge of the box just over the crossbar, and Keegan threatening with a low shot from the wing.
Daniel Murphy and McCracken had shots saved, before the latter teed up Commons on the back post for a glorious opportunity but Cunningham got across to deny him.
Claremorris’ failure to convert their chances would cost them dearly, and when Keegan hit the net after 40 minutes, it was hard see a team as well-organised and experienced as Westport let that lead slip.
When the play resumed after half-time, Claremorris threatened early as Broderick used his pace to get in behind, and he looked to have found the net only to be denied by the upright.
That early warning kick-started the champions into life, however, and as the game opened up, Westport’s class started to shine through.
Keegan had the ball in the net for the second time after 53 minutes, but it was ruled out after Claremorris goalkeeper Jurgan Pilbrow was adjuged to have been fouled in the build-up.
But on 67 minutes Westport’s persistence paid dividends as Joe Lawless sent in a cross from wide right that landed perfectly on the head of David Hoban who headed home to almost guarantee himself his eighth Super League medal.
And as word of Castlebar Celtic’s one nil lead against Manulla started to spread around the ground, Westport’s confidence grew.
A minute later, Keegan played a perfect flick on to Dave Cameron’s right foot, and the veteran’s first time finish was a joy to watch.
As John Brennan emptied his bench, United pushed for more goals, and substitute Adam Mulchrone’s half-volley from the edge of the box was the real icing on the cake from a superb season from the now four-in-a-row Super League winners.
J Pilbrow, L Walsh, M Peters, C Joyce, A Peters, H Kowalski, D Murphy, O Brady, D McCracken, D Broderick, R Commons.
Subs used: P Burke for Kowalski (77 mins).
G Cunningham, A O’Malley, M McDonagh, J Lawless, C Keane, D Scahill, P Keegan, D Cameron, D Hoban, D Browne, J O’Donnell.
Subs used: S Tagg for O’Malley (65 mins); P Corcoran for McDonagh (68 mins); PJ Calvey for Keegan (75 mins); A Mulchrone for Hoban (75 mins); E Conway for Lawless (78 mins).
Referee: J Cawley