EYES ON THE PRIZE Westport United’s Joe Lawless only has eyes for the ball as West United’s Ronan Caldwell awaits developments during Sunday's Connacht Cup semi-final at Eamon Deacy Park in Galway.
West United 1
K Lee 31
Westport United 1
P Keegan 90
(Westport win 4-2 on pens)
WESTPORT United left it late to rescue matters in normal time. before they did all the damage in the penalty shoot out as they qualified for their first Connacht Junior Cup final since 2012.
At Eamonn Deacy Park on Sunday afternoon, Phil Keegan came to their rescue with a last-minute equaliser, before goalkeeper Gary Cunningham supplied the crucial save in the penalty contest to send them into a provincial decider against Salthill Devon on September 6.
Speaking to The Mayo News afterwards, Westport coach Padraig Burns admitted his side played second fiddle for large parts but were ecstatic with the win.
“Look we left it late, but you have to take it whatever way it falls,” he said. “Now the game was strange in that we started reasonably well, but never built on it.
“We seldom looked like opening them up from play and were never in control – but eventually got away with it.”
In a competitive close contest little separated the sides in a game that was switched from West United’s own ground at South Park to the Dyke Road venue due to Goverment regulations.
It was a contest in which defences dominated for the duration and following Keith Lee’s opener for the home side they looked to be in control of affairs as Westport struggled to make any sort of impact in the last third of the park.
Then, with normal time just up on the clock, James O’Donnell swept in a near-post corner and in a crowded goalmouth it was Keegan who got the vital touch to rescue matters at 1-1.
With extra time failing to raise much excitement, it took penalties to sort the issue and both teams made a poor start as Keegan and Ronan Caldwell blasted their efforts almost out of the ground.
Matters settled as Darren Browne and Derek O’Brien got their sides off the mark, before Mikey O’Brien put Westport 2-1 ahead. Cunningham then dived to his left to keep out an effort from Oisin Connolly to put the visitors in the driving seat. O’Donnell and Barry McEntee cancelled one another out with further goals, before Jack Murphy was calmness personified to as he slotted past John Cotter to give them an unassailable 4-2 lead and a place in the decider.
In a tame opening half it was the visitors who almost broke the deadlock on 13 minutes when Joe Lawless got on the end of a Cian McAllister corner, but it was swept off the line by Mixer Devaney. Moments later at the other end, Cunningham came to their rescue when he advanced to the edge of his area and saved from Caldwell in a one-on-one.
Twice in quick succession timely challenges by Lawless denied Gary Matthews and Caldwell clear runs on goal, before a Darren Browne left footer tested Cotter at the other end.
West United broke the deadlock on 31 minutes when a deep free kick by Nathan Ward was knocked back across goal by Caldwell and central defender Lee made it 1-0 from close range.
Midfielders McAllister and Murphy worked diligently to try and maintain a forward momentum, but the front runners were getting very little time or space.
The closing stages saw Westport go to three at the back as Lawless was repositioned in attack, but nothing was created and little appeared to be working until O’Donnell’s set piece was finished by Keegan to eventually set up the perfect rescue. Keegan had a chance to win it in extra time, but a poor header in front of goal did not do justice to a fine O’Donnell cross.
“Salthill Devon are a very good side and will be favourites in the final, but we want to win it,” Burns concluded.
SHAUN TAGG & JOE LAWLESS
THE duo were outstanding at the heart of the Westport defence as they afforded Cunningham plenty of protection, while limiting the chances of the home side.
J Cotter, M Devaney, E Whelan, D Lydon, K Lee, B McEntee, G Matthews, R Casserly, J McPhilbin, R Caldwell, N Ward.
Subs used: C Duffy for Ward (63 mins); S Murray for Devaney (76 mins); O Connolly for McPhilbin (72 mins).
G Cunningham, M O'Brien, G McDonagh, J Lawless, S Tagg, C McAllister, P Keegan, J Murphy, D Browne, E Conway, J Frisch.
Subs used: J O’Donnell for Conway (62 mins); C O’Toole for McAllister (83 mins); D O’Toole for Frisch (102 mins).
Referee: P Kilcoyne (Sligo)