Westport Utd 6
V O’Malley 4, 27, Fitzgerald 49,
Joyce 54, McLoughlin 58, Horkan 87
Costello 6, 28
WESTPORT United put in a strong second-half display against a dogged Manulla side on Saturday last to qualify for the last four of the Connacht Gold Cup. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Covies, as Manulla were firmly in this contest at half time. But three goals in the space of 14 second-half minutes sealed Westport’s place in the semi-final draw.
United started this game well, and within two minutes, they created their first real opportunity. Vinny O’Malley crossed for his strike partner Phil Keegan, who missed the chance to give his side the lead. Two minutes later, however, Keegan turned provider and crossed for O’Malley and this time there was no mistake. A great start for Kieran Mulchrone and his Westport charges.
To their credit, Manulla didn’t fold. After 11 minutes, Westport left Alan Costello unmarked inside the six-yard box, and the midfielder punished the poor United defending to restore parity. But Westport responded well, and on 17 minutes a Gerry McLoughlin cross found the head of centre back David Horkan but Manulla ‘keeper Ian Durkan produced a fantastic save to keep the score level. Horkan claimed the ball was over the line, but referee Martin Halligan was having none of the protests.
Ten minutes later, United regained the lead. Pat Fitzgerald’s shot stung the palms of Durkan, but he couldn’t hold onto it, and O’Malley was on hand to pounce on the rebound. They say you’re most vulnerable when you have just scored, and moments after Manulla kicked off, the scores were level again. The ball found its way through to Roger Clarke, who was onside. He squared it to Costello, and the Sligo Gaelic footballer tapped the ball home. It was 2-2 and we hadn’t even played half an hour.
Manulla, who beat Westport at the Sports Park last May, gained confidence, and an effort from full back Johnny Hennelly narrowly evaded the post of Danny Fadian, who was returning in goal for the cup-tied Gary Cunningham. But it was level at the break.
Within five minutes of the restart, the home side regained the initiative once again. Firstly, Westport full back Austin O’Malley tackled Manulla player-manager Paul Large, and the loose ball found Fitzgerald 25 yards from goal. The former Castlebar Celtic man turned on his left before producing a fantastic strike which gave Durkan little chance.
Five minutes later, the game was effectively ended as a contest. Darren Browne did well down the right and his cross found Keegan in space. Keegan flicked the ball towards the goal but Kevin ‘Kipper’ Joyce was on hand to make absolutely sure and it make it four for Westport. Manulla were stunned, and it got worse four minutes later as McLoughlin robbed Gary Durkan on the edge of the box and made no mistake, rifling the ball home.
Manulla kept pushing, but never quite manufactured any clear-cut opportunities in the second half as Westport dominated proceedings. Keegan should have made it six on 67 minutes but he put the ball wide, and Martin Geraghty headed wide from a McLoughlin corner.
However, they completed the scoring on 87 minutes when a fantastic cross from O’Malley found the head of Horkan, who made no mistake as Westport marched into the last four.
D Fadian, A O’Malley, K Joyce, J Lawless, D Horkan, P Fitzgerald, D Cameron, D Browne, P Keegan, V O’Malley, G McLoughlin.
Subs used: M Geraghty for Fitzgerald; C Keane for Joyce; L Staunton for Cameron.
I Durkan, D Coleman, J Hennelly, G Durkan, P Canavan, B Cuffe, R Clarke, A Costello, P Large, M Nolan, M Mongan.
Subs used: D Tonra for Large; C McGlade for Mongan.
Referee: M Halligan