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Forde power has athenry motoring

Athenry were crowned Umbro Connacht Junior Cup champions for the third time in four seasons as they saw off the Hibernians challenge at Terryland Park on Saturday night.

A Gary Forde header just after the restart was to prove to be the difference between the sides at the finish as the ten man winners held on in a back to the wall situation as the City side dominated the last quarter of the game.

It was a contest in which Athenry should have being out of sight by half time as they missed a number of early opportunities. A smart reflex save by Mark Cobey kept out a Mark Moran header, but the custodian could do little as Cathal Fahy got on the end of a Forde flick on 16 minutes and made it 1-0 with a neat low finish.

Forde hit a close range effort into the side netting before Fahy should have added a second on 25 minutes. A Cobey clearance off the ground was blocked by Moran and fell kindly into the path of Fahy, but the front man was slow to react and the goalkeeper got back to atone for his error.

Hibernians levelled matters on 31 minutes when Dave McDonagh let fly from 35 yards and Ciaran Kilkelly never moved as a wonder strike hit the top corner to make it 1-1. In injury time a Gary Kelly blockbuster was blocked by one of his own players as Athenry were rocked by the recovery.

In their first attack of the second half Athenry struck the match winner on 46 minutes. An Alan O'Donovan corner was allowed to bounce in the box and the advancing Forde had the easiest of headers from six yards to make it 2-1.

Now Hibernians seldom looked like rescuing anything from the game until Athenry were reduced to ten men on 71 minutes-when Mark Moran collected his second yellow card.

From there until the finish Hibernians dominated, but cracking saves by Kilkelly denied Derek Lally and Shane Gallagher, but it was his diving save down low to keep out a Cathal Walsh header in injury time that was to prove to be the turning point of the game.

Afterwards, it was Athenry captain Emmett Byrne who collected the Connacht Junior Cup from Connacht FA Chairman Michael Rowland.

Athenry: Kilkelly, Rabbitte, Quinn, Kinneen, Byrne, O'Donovan, Crowe, Delaney, Forde, Fahy, Moran. Reserves: Cannon for Forde (51mins), O'Driscoll for Delaney (82Mins), Mannion for O'Driscoll (inj-86mins).

Hibernians: Cobey, Griffin, Loughlin, S Walsh, C Walsh, Maher, Lally, Kelly, McDonagh, Ward, Curran. Reserves: Gallagher for Loughlin (h/t), Keady for Curran (65mins), Butterfield for Maher (89mins).

Referee: Tony Geasley (Galway).

Long time leaders St Bernard's are First Division champions. In their last game away to second placed Dynamo Blues they held out against all the odds for a scoreless draw and both will now ply their trade in the top flight next season.