EDENDERRY TOWN 1
WILLOW PARK 0
EDENDERRY Town capped a hugely successful season by sealing the CCFL Youths double on Saturday night.
CCFL Youths League winners and FAI Youths Cup semi-finalists, Edenderry were fancied to collect their second trophy when they reached the final of the CCFL Youths Cup against the Willow Park Under 17s.
But in the finish it took a 74th-minute Adam Mahon goal to give Edenderry the prize they craved against a richly talented Willow Park side.
If Edenderry arrived in this final at Leah Victoria Park with an impeccable pedigree - their only defeat in the FAI campaign was to eventual champions Castleview - Willow had an impressive formbook too, having already won the Under 17 league with a 100 per cent record and having added the cup too.
A treble was always going to be a tall order for the Athlone youngsters but once they settled they showed themselves to be a passing side with very few peers in the CCFL.
And in right full Mike Aka they had arguably the most gifted player on the pitch, and crucially, he was marking one of the Edenderry danger men, Mikey Cleere.
Aka got the better of that contest and began to add an attacking threat to his defensive duties as the first half wore on.
Though Willow went close when Simon Keller's free-kick had to be tipped over by Cain Brereton and when Eoin Fox had to cut out Nicky Kelly's brilliant cross-field ball to Jamie Fahy, the Athlone side did not make their possession count on the scoreboard.
Town's giant central defender and captain Aaron McDonnell slammed the ball over the bar at the other end when Willow keeper Jason McHugh slapped at a Cleere free kick, but Willow went even closer in the 39th minute when Aka's dipping effort again had to be touched over by Brereton, and they were then aggrieved when a hand-ball claim was waved away.
The early part of the second half was tamer than the first and on the hour Edenderry boss Pat McDonnell made a key change, bringing in Alex Kenny, a star of Town's FAI quarter-final win over Mervue, releasing Sergio Camara into midfield and switching Cleere to the right wing.
Town gradually began to get a grip but clearcut chances were still scarce. From early on the suspicion was that Edenderry's greatest threat was from setpieces and so it proved when Kenny's left footed corner kick reached the head of Mahon and he nodded it in at the near post.
Willow Park held their heads after the concession of that goal and worked their way back into the game, heaping fierce pressure on Edenderry in the last 10 minutes of normal time, plus an added five.
When busy substitute Shane Tierney won a corner in the 88th minute, Simon Keller swung it in and it eventually flew to Aka whose header across the goals struck the far upright.
With that, Willow's chance was gone and Edenderry could celebrate the domestic double at the end of a long season.
Edenderry manager McDonnell said he knew Willow Park were going to be formidable opposition, especially as he had to plan without injured striker Cian McMonagle. "I knew they'd be a hard team to beat because they won the Under 17 league, they never dropped a point, they won the Under 17 cup, so I'm absolutely over the moon because these lads made a major effort all year," he said.
EDENDERRY TOWN: Cain Brereton; Sergio Camara, Adam Mahon, Jamie Dolan, Aaron McDonnell, Ciaran Farrell, Tone Byrne, Daniel Pyke, Joe Mulraney, Ruairi McNamee, Mikey Cleere. Subs: Alex Kenny for Cian Farrell (60 mins), Leslie Nolan for Joe Mulraney (90 mins).
WILLOW PARK: Jason McHugh; Mike Aka, Matt Darling, Eoin Fox, Sam Omoraho, Peter Ryan, Nicky Kelly, Cathal Callinan, Evan Dalton, Jamie Fahy, Simon Keller. Subs: Chris Reid for Peter Ryan (69 mins), Shane Tierney for Nicky Kelly (81 mins), Ryan Gaffey for Evan Dalton (88 mins).
Referee: Leslie Buckley (Offaly Branch).