Westport United 6
D Hoban 15, O’Gorman 30, 38, 79
O’Malley 70, 85
Fahy Rovers 0
The Sports Park
ANOTHER six goals, another clean sheet, another three points, and it’s now fair to say that the Super League is in the bag for Westport United. When you consider that their closest rivals until last weekend, Iorras Aonthaithe, relinquished second place by failing to field a team against Castlebar Celtic, it seems obvious that other teams are giving up the good fight.
Losing the title race at this juncture is not a mathematical impossibility but, judging on current form and ability in front of goal, it seems that only a natural disaster of epic proportions, or the greatest choke since the beginning of time, will deny Kieran Mulchrone, James Fahy and their team a second major trophy of the summer.
A juicy top of the table clash awaits in Belleek at 6.30pm this Thursday, and should Westport beat Ballina Town, it will leave them 15 points clear with four games to play.
However, Castlebar Celtic will still have two games in hand, meaning they could return a possible 18 from their remaining fixtures and finish with a total of 32 points. Ballina can finish with a maximum of 30 points — provided they beat Westport on Thursday — so the Coveys need just six points from their remaining five games to be champions.
Having been on an unbeaten competitive run since last November, this seems well within their grasp, but nobody, not least Ballina or Celtic, will want to see them achieve a perfect campaign.
The signs are that Westport are going to have to fight harder than ever in the next number of weeks to maintain their 100 per cent record.
On Saturday evening last, local rivals and Superleague newcomers Fahy Rovers provided the challenge, but were comprehensively outplayed over 90 minutes. The Sports Park was in immaculate condition following recent work, and having been at the point of near ruin only a few months ago, is a credit to the club once again.
Westport led from the first whistle but lost David Hoban after 20 minutes when he went over hard and injured himself after coming out of a challenge.
Plagued with knee problems in the past, Hoban knew he could not continue, and given his devastating form this season, his loss at such a crucial juncture will be felt by the team.
However, there was no sign of that on Saturday as his partner JP O’Gorman netted a hat-trick, while Vinny O’Malley - who replaced Hoban - rolled back the years with a vintage display, including two volleyed goals, the first of which was Van Basten-esque from the edge of the area.
Hoban had opened the scoring from close range before injuring himself, on a night when Westport’s strikers just couldn’t put a foot wrong. O’Gorman added a tap in and a looping header to his impressive season tally, either side of a thunderous left-foot smash from outside the area. To say the Ballinrobe-man is making an impression in his first season with Westport would be a ridiculous understatement.
Fahy came close in the first half when Michael O’Rourke headed over the bar, while Gary Goggins missed a gilt-edged chance late in the second half - slotting wide with just Gary Cunningham to beat.
To be fair, Goggins is a bit rusty after a long time away from competitive soccer, but Fahy will be hoping a player of his ability will quickly find form as they enter a crucial part of the season fighting relegation.
G Cunningham, D Horkan, J Lawless, S Tagg, A O’Malley, D Cameron, D Browne, P Fitzgerald, A Carroll, D Hoban, JP O’Gorman.
Subs: V O’Malley for Hoban, C Browne for A O’Malley, C Keane for Cameron.
N Gallagher, L Joyce, J Keane, A Cannon, C Napier, M O’Rourke, R Cafferkey, T Keane, A Leahy, F O’Meara, G Goggins.
Subs: S O’Malley for J Keane, M Goggins, C Hayes.
Referee: K Cox (Castlebar)