Blast from the past: Six seasons ago
Walsh Island Shamrocks 2 ( B. Duffy 55′, T. Connor 85′ ) Clonminam Rovers 0
Runaway league leaders Walsh Island took another bounding leap to a coveted championship title with a hard-fought home win against Portlaoise opponents Clonminam Rovers. Clonminam had gone on a great winning run of late and so they too had faint title aspirations coming into the tie. This reverse, however, ensures the Laois side slip back into the mid-table pack and are now out of the running away from the table summit. Played in treacherous, freezing conditions it needed the experienced hand of match official Pat Geoghegan throughout to let the game flow.
With a dazzling cover of snow covering the Walsh Island pitch both sides started tentatively. Eventually the hosts began to trouble Rovers’ keeper Robbie Foran. With James Gallagher and Adrian Kiernan raiding forward to good effect down the flanks Clonminam were being progressively pinned back in their half. Using a couple of half-chances as his cue Gallagher eventually broke through on goal but his rasping shot brought an exceptional save out of Foran. Not to be outdone Aaron Reynolds then went mighily close to unpicking Clonminam’s defensive lock. As the clock wound down to half-time the Offaly side’s striker Ian Duffy saw his low shot just fly past the outside of Clonminam’s far upright. Rovers had a golden chance of their own late on but Rory Heffernan could only look on in despair as his close-range effort didn’t perturb Noel Carty in the home goals.
Stalemate so at the break but Walsh Island quickly found their snow feet after the resumption. Just ten minutes into the concluding half the Offaly side got the all-importtant breakthrough goal. Awarded a free twenty yards out from the Rovers’ goals Cathal Duffy stepped up to the mark. His setpiece cannoned off Clonminam’s defensive wall and the ball broke out to team captain Barry Duffy. Duffy’s piledriver of a shot found a way past the diving figure of Foran before hitting the roof of the net.
Rovers’ response was quick in arriving. Some good old-fashioned wing play from Alan Gaynor was capped off with a dangerous cross into the Offaly side’s area. Barry Lyndon stole a yard on his marker and met the inswinging ball with a fierce thud. Alas for the visitors from Laois Carty got down smartly to save. Then Rovers’ striker Philip Lawless uncharacteristically lost his scoring touch when put through on goal.
Eventually Walsh Island doused ice on Clonminam’s red-hot revival and came to dominate the last quarter. Much to the locals’ delight Walsh Island grabbed a late, late insurance goal with just five minutes remaining. A huge, booming Carty kick out saw the ball break to Thomas Connor. The subsitute showed his freshness by zooming past the last two Rovers’ defenders before planting his low, hard shot just inside Foran’s right-hand upright.
On a day that franked Walsh Island’s title hopes they can thank a rampaging James Gallagher who cut a swathe through Clonminam out wide on the Offaly side’s right wing. His cousin John Gallagher was a forceful yet calming presence at the back while his centre-half partner John McCourt didn’t put a foot wrong all day. Ian Duffy ran Clonminam’s defence ragged with an energetic display up front. For Clonminam Rovers midfielder Ambrose O’ Donavan, defender Derek Keane, keeper Robbie Foran and winger Alan Gaynor stood out.
Walsh Island Shamrocks: Noel Carty; Paul Cox, John McCourt, John Gallagher, Cathal Duffy; Barry Duffy, Trevor Cahill, James Gallagher, Adrian Kiernan; Aaron Reynolds, Ian Duffy Subs Used: Jason Carroll, Adrian Mahon, Thomas Connor, Niall Duffy, Keith Cahill
Clonminam Rovers: Robbie Foran; Derek Keane, Paul McCormack, Phil Keogh, Brian Devaney; Barry Lyndon, Ambrose O’ Donovan, Barrie Montgomerie, Alan Gaynor; Rory Heffernan, Philip Lawless Subs Used: Marcin Sidor, Brian Walsh
Main Man: James Gallagher kept Walsh Island purring forward with his well-timed raids up the flanks