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Still plenty of silverware for Willow Park to chase!

WILLOW Park's FAI Junior Cup journey ended at the quarter-final stage with defeat in Athlone to 1994 winners Clonmel Town.

It was a bitter way for Willow Park to be awoken from their dream of reaching the decider of Irish junior soccer's blue riband as they probably feel they did not do themselves justice on the day.

Clonmel scored in the first couple of minutes of play, taking a lead they never relinquished when Dwayne Burns grabbed possession and shot past the shocked Ian Bolger from 30 yards.

It was the kind of start to the game that the South Tipperary visitors could only have dreamed of but it was so early that Willow had plenty of time to mount a comeback.

As is their style, the Athlone boys played plenty of attractive football in the time that remained and while they lacked a little in the final third, they still probably deserved to get an equaliser and take the game to extra-time.

There were chances for Aidan Hyland, Robbie Shine, Brian Frawley and Ronan Frawley but they all came up against some people's man of the match, the Clonmel goalkeeper Richie Ryan.

Willow Park manager Tony Sullivan will ponder what might have been if experienced midfielder Colin Fortune had been available.

Unfortunately, Fortune was suspended as a result of being sent off in Cork in the previous round when the Athlone side saw off the challenge of Leeside.

So, after seven wins, Willow Park came unstuck in their eighth outing, just one game away from the last four in the tournament.

If nothing else, it means the local bragging rights, at least as far as the FAI Junior Cup is concerned, remain with Athlone rivals St Peter's, who made it all the way to the final last year, only to be beaten by Ballymun United.

But, as followers of the regional soccer scene know very well, Willow Park have plenty to play for, with silverware still within their grasp on several fronts.

The coming weeks will decide just how well Willow do. Perhaps the coming seasons will dictate if they can have another real crack at the FAI Junior Cup.

Cup destination swings away from the capital

EVEN despite Ballymun's victory in the FAI Junior Cup last season, the powerbase in recent years has swung decisively away from Dublin in the competition.

The quality of teams coming out of places like Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford has been well but documented.

But an Athlone team did win it on one occasion. Who can name the team? And what was the year? Answers to gjkeegan@eircom.net please

Gallen's day off to recover from Cheltenham outing

GALLEN United, who wrecked Arlington's bid to clinch the Division One title last Sunday week, had yesterday off.

The reason? Apparently, it was because some of the players, Eunan Healy among them, were on their way to Cheltenham.

Former Gallen manager Liam Cullinane, currently on the committee at the club, is a well known figure in racing circles.

With the first of Kilbeggan's eight meetings for the year approaching in the coming months, keep an eye out at that venue for the Gallen horsey set.