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martino the spot king



A STOPPAGE-time penalty from Shane Martino sealed the CCFL Under 19 Division title in dramatic circumstances for Tullamore Town.

CCFL Youths co-ordinator Eamonn Brady thought he would be keeping the cup in the boot of his jeep as the 90th minute approached and the sides were still deadlocked 1-1.

But when Tullamore captain Mark Casey was upended in the Ballinahown box and referee Ultan Beaumont pointed to the spot, Martino had the chance to clinch the league and he did so clinically.

Even a draw would have kept the league race just about alive for Ballinahown and they might argue they deserved a point on the day, but in truth Tullamore did have the edge.

Referee Beaumont had a busy afternoon, especially in the frantic closing stages and Ballinahown were screaming for a handball infringement in the build-up to the decisive 92nd-minute penalty incident.

But the match official got it right in the 84th minute when he flashed a straight red to Ballinahown's Niall Gaffey, as he had before that when Tullamore were appealing for a penalty after a tackle on Eddie Connolly.

Beaten LFA Under 19 Cup semi-finalists Tullamore Town were favoured to win the league, but they were under fierce pressure after the first kick-off on Saturday when they found themselves playing against a stiff breeze and coping with an uneven pitch.

Luckily for the visitors, they had an excellent back four in Matthew Hynes, Diarmuid Carroll, Ross Kinnarney and Rory Condron and, after surviving half an hour of pressure, they took the lead when Macdarragh O'Neill crossed from the left for Martino to knock home the opener.

O'Neill and Martino, plus the tall Jason Dunne, made for a useful attack force on a day when Town were without the suspended Dillon Melia and the injured Ted Conway.

With the wind against them after the break, it was expected that Ballinahown would find the going tough, but they actually produced their best football in the second half.

They switched to a back three of substitute Jason O'Shea, Gaffey and Terry Rushe and took the game to Tullamore. In the 69th minute, they levelled when Dunican reached high, but spilled Rushe's free kick and Ballinahown's second substitute, Eanna Duffy, buried the rebound.

After that it appeared that Town would have to wait for another day to seal the deal, but Martino's spot-kick changed all that even though Ballinahown did have a handball appeal themselves before the six minutes of added time were up.

Ballinahown still have a chance for some silverware as they take on Abbeyleix in the Under 19 Cup final while elsewhere in Youths action, Willow Park Under 17s, who have already won their own league and cup double, will meet league winners and FAI Youths Cup semi-finalists Edenderry Town in the CCFL Under 18 Cup decider.

BALLINAHOWN: Conor Tumulty; Jamie Anders, Terry Rushe, Jordan Marshment, Niall Gaffey, Mark Halligan, Eoin O'Reilly, Ian Rosney, Shane McCormack, Conor Rohan, Johnny Kiernan. Subs: Jason O'Shea for Shane McCormack (46 mins), Eanna Duffy for Johnny Kiernan (63 mins).

TULLAMORE TOWN: Patrick Dunican; Matthew Hynes, Rory Condron, Diarmuid Carroll, Ross Kinnarney, Mark Casey, Gary Hutchinson, Eddie Connolly, Shane Martino, Macdarragh O'Neill, Jason Dunn. Sub: David Doyle.

Referee: Ultan Beaumont (Midlands Branch).