Óhannáin’s super strike sees off gallant Arklow Town
Avonmore FC 1
Arklow Town 0
A sweetly struck free-kick from the boot of Fiachra Óhannáin was enough to see Avonmore FC claim their first ever Wicklow Cup crown when beating Arklow Town FC in a memorable and enjoyable decider in Shamrock Park in Rathnew.
Paddy Broughan’s side showed character and courage to bounce back from the defeat to Glencormac United in the Jim McLaughlin Cup final seven days previous and their intent and improvement were there to be seen from the very start.
Óhannáin’s 79th-minute bullet that flew like a rocket to the bottom corner of Mervyn Travers’ net came about after team captain Paddy ‘Gooch’ Kennedy won a free directly in front of the Arklow Town goal. The solid defender stepped up and sent a peach of a shot flying off his left boot and sent the Avonmore players and supporters crazy with delight when it skipped off the damp surface and beat the experienced Town netminder down low to his right.
Interestingly enough, Óhannáin should be in Australia instead of bagging the winning goal in a Wicklow Cup final but his decision to change his ticket and take his position with his beloved Avonmore FC on the biggest day in their history will surely go down as one of the best moves he’s ever made, aside from that screamer of a free-kick!
This was a totally different Avonmore side to the Jim McLaughlin Cup final in terms of attitude and energy. Ger Byrne took the place of Jason Porter in goals and turned in a serious shift between the sticks, pulling off a number of key saves and looking very solid in what must have been something of a pressure-cooker environment for him.
With Adam Tuke also unavailable, Paddy Broughan redeployed Cian Óhannáin on the left wing with Mark Cullen coming into the fray in place of the talented Tuke. Óhannáin didn’t let the change of position bother him in any way, putting in a man-of-the-match performance on the way to a historic victory for the Rathdrum men.
For their part, Arklow Town played a major part in this decider, asking plenty of questions of Avonmore across the 90-odd minutes and they will use this experience and season as a significant learning experience as they look to build and become a major force in the WDFL over the next number of seasons.
The loss of captain Ciarán Burke to injury after 67 minutes didn’t do Tony Breslin and Sean Tolan’s men any favours given that the centre back had been performing very well and they will look back on some missed opportunities, especially in the closing stages of the game, when they reflect upon this proud albeit disappointing day for the Arklow club.
Early nerves that led to a few moments of hesitation in the Avonmore defence suggested that there was room for Arklow to make hey if the right ball could be delivered in, but Eugene Dunne marshalled a solid defence from there on in. Zach Cullen, unavailable for the Jim McLaughlin Cup final, delivered a strong showing in the middle of the field while Callum Pursey, Kaelin Broughan and Shane Beevor were others to impress.
Up front, Ryan Cahill looked dangerous throughout, although credit the Arklow defence for keeping tabs on him when he looked to be in promising positions on numerous occasions in this game and he had a golden opportunity to kill the game after 86 minutes when he charged through only to pull his effort wide of the posts.
Arklow Town had chances of their own. An early Sean Crowley free had too much pep after 11 and sailed over Ger Byrne’s crossbar. Indeed, Crowley had a very good game for Town over the course of the game.
Avonmore did find the net with 15 on the clock but Cian Óhannáin’s effort, after being released by a sweet Ryan Cahill pass, was ruled offside.
Eugene Dunne was taking the game by the scruff of the neck at this stage but his effort after a booming run after 19 minutes was easily saved by Travers and a short free from Kaelin Broughan to the feet of Dunne outside the box came to nothing after the wiry defender managed a poor connection and the effort tailed harmlessly wide.
Aaron Kelly would have a decent shot saved by Ger Byrne just before the stroke of half-time thanks to good work from Ryan Kenny, but both sides headed to the dressing room knowing that the Wicklow Cup crown was there for the taking, although Avonmore would have the slight advantage of the blustery breeze that was sweeping across Shamrock Park in the second half.
Quality work from Cian Óhannáin provided Ryan Cahill with an early chance after the restart but the effort flew wide while a Nathan Cullen cross at the other end was met by the head of substitute Matthew Burke, but he could only register a wide after three.
Arklow were growing more and more into the game and had good moments from Burke, Aaron Kelly and Ciarán Burke.
A sweet cut back from Cian Óhannáin to Kaelin Broughan brought a save out of Travers while a tasty through ball from Ryan Kenny to Aaron Kelly required Ger Byrne to be off his line like lightning with nine on the clock as the crowd a Shamrock Park started to really get behind their teams.
Arklow would register three wides in the next few minutes, the first from a long Nathan Cullen free, the second from the same man who was looking for Matthew Burke and the third from a cross to Chris Furlong.
At the other end, Mervyn Travers had to be alert when a long ball from Ger Byrne found Cian Óhannáin and his dangerous cross into the Town square had to be dealt with and the experienced Travers did just that.
A spell of Avonmore pressure followed, not long after Ciarán Burke was forced off with injury. Paddy Kenny, Kaelin Broughan and Cian Óhannáin all went wide while Conor Breslin had to be razor sharp on Ryan Cahill.
And then Paddy Kennedy was fouled by Aaron Kelly. Up stepped Fiachra Óhannáin and the defender fired home an absolute rocket to the back of the Arklow net in what was a huge score in the context and flow of the game.
Joe Ledwith was sprung from the Arklow bench and one of his first acts was to force Ger Byrne into a fine save while the Avonmore netminder would also be required to stop a Sean Crowley shot moments later.
Ryan Cahill then watched as his late effort flew wide while Paddy Kennedy played a captain’s part by winning a free and disrupting an Arklow attack in the process.
A frantic finish was unfolding but a long Nathan Cullen ball was gathered by Ger Byrne and a shot from Philip Erasmus was blocked and when Carl Doyle sounded the final whistle it was the men of Avonmore who roared with relief and delight having put the disappointment of the previous week behind them by delivering a solid and capable performance to make beautiful history for the proud Rathdrum club.
Avonmore FC: 1. Ger Byrne, 12. Callum Pursey, 3. Fiachra Óhannáin, 4. Eugene Dunne, 5. Shane Beevor, 6. Paddy Kennedy (capt.), 7. Zach Cullen, 8. Mark Cullen, 9. Ryan Cahill, 10. Kaelin Broughan, 11. Cian Óhannáin. Subs: 13. Cody Reid, 14. Rhys Van Dsyk, 15. Peter Kennedy, 16. Ross Williams, 17. Mario Gomes, 18. Danny Horsey.
Arklow Town FC: 1. Mervyn Travers, 2. Mark Fitzgerald, 3. Nathan Cullen, 4. Ciarán Burke (capt.), 5. Sean Crowley, 6. Conor Breslin, 7. Ryan Kenny, 8. Philip Erasmus, 9. Jack D’Arcy, 10. Aaron Kelly, 11. Chris Furlong. Subs: 12. Mark Wixted, 13. Conor Harris, 14. Shane Harris, 15. Dylan Mordaunt, 16. Mattheew Burke, 17. Joe Ledwith, 18. Kyle Jordan.
Referee: Carl Doyle