SPOT THE BALL Action from last Sunday’s FAI Junior Cup clash between Manulla and Fairview Rangers at Carramore. Pic: John Corless
Fairview Rangers 2
Bradley (pen) 45, Arra 79
MANULLA’S FAI Junior Cup journey ended for this season on Sunday last in atrocious weather conditions in Carramore.
Nine-time Cup winners Fairview Rangers from Limerick scored at key times to convert their marginal superiority and end new Manulla manager Walter Barrett’s unbeaten run since he took charge.
“I’m very disappointed for the lads,” he told The Mayo News afterwards.
“They are a fantastic bunch who put an awful lot of effort in these past few weeks. They really showed up today and weren’t in any way over-awed by the quality of the opposition.
At one-nil we were well in the game, but the second goal killed us.”
This was more an endurance test than a football match with torrential downpours, a pitch cutting up rapidly, and the robust challenges such an encounter presents.
Fairview were on top for most of the first half, but couldn’t break down the home defence in which Rian O’Connor and Ruairi Henry were magnificent. Anything that got past them was dealt with brilliantly by Jack Livingston in the Manulla goal.
O’Connor’s only error was severely punished. A minute before half-time he momentarily lost his footing on the slippery surface and fouled Conor Ellis in the box.
Fairview’s best player on the day, Steven Bradley, scored from the spot to give the visitors the edge as they went for shelter.
Manulla attacked more in the second half but didn’t create any real chances and generally lacked a cutting edge in front of goal. Eleven minutes before the end, substitute Jack Arra sealed the win for Fairview with a fine shot from the right on the break.
If the first goal was tough on Manulla, the second one broke their hearts.
Despite the defeat this was a good performance by Manulla.
They were up against a team, many of whom have played in the League of Ireland, and have represented Ireland at Junior level.
Midfielder Shane Duggan won two Airtricity League First Division titles with Cork City and Limerick FC, and was a regular for Galway United until last season.
Manulla’s new management team has stabilised the club in recent weeks, and wins over Westport United and Carberry have given them confidence. They are a pacey and competitive side now, but they need to create better quality chances and need a sharper edge up front.
Gerry Canavan, who also represented Ireland, is heading to Australia and will be a big loss to them next season. Walter Barrett still has a big job on his hands to build a side capable of challenging for the Mayo title, especially when the GAA season starts, but the success he has achieved will boost the club and help him continue to rebuild.
Man of the match Rian O’Connor was outstanding for the homeside, and Darragh Byrne, Ruairi Henry, Gerry Canavan and Jack Livingstone were excellent for Manulla too.
Fairview midfielder Steven Bradley was their best player, with excellent performances too from Duggan, Jeffrey Judge, Conor Coughlan and Conor Ellis.
“We need to convert our chances,” remarked Walter Barrett afterwards.
“At this level you don’t get as many chances as you might normally, and you have to have ice in your veins in front of goal when the chances fall. At half-time, with us a goal down, I just reminded them we were every bit as good as them.
“Going into the game, given the reputation of Fairview and their players, our players might have it in the back of their head that they were coming up against superstars, but I thought we were every bit as good as them in the opening half.
“I think they realised that at half-time, and we were better in the second half.
“I want to wish Gerry Canavan the very best,” he added. “He has been one of the finest players the club has ever had. Hopefully he’ll be back to us in the future. He leaves a huge hole in the side to fill but thankfully we have nineteen or twenty lads training every week and hopefully one of them will step up.”
J Livingstone, L Conroy, R Henry, R O’Connor, G Jennings, C Walsh, P Beirne, S Corcoran, D Byrne, G Canavan, A Brennan.
Subs: S Benson, S Sweeney, C Benson, C Mannion, L Lyons, S Martin, C Stapleton.
A Savage, W Colbert, S Kirwan, J Dillon, J Cross, S Bradley, J Judge, S Duggan, C Ellis, C Coughlan, D Rainsford.
Subs: J Mullane, J Leahy-McNamara, J Cross, J Arra, P Walsh.
Referee: D McGrath