Date Published: 22-May-2012
FOR Athenry there was a form of compensation for their Connacht Cup loss when they saw off the East United challenge to clinch the Michael Byrne Cup in Saturday’s decider at Terryland Park.
Cathal Fahy opened the scoring for Athenry, and Conor Cannon struck a brace, while John King grabbed the city side’s goal as the seasoned campaigners just had too much guile for an East side who were appearing in their first final.
After a poor start, the city team certainly made it competitive for Gabriel Glavin’s side and after finding themselves two down, they pulled one back and only two terrific saves by John Grealish was to deny them taking an interval advantage.
Athenry had to line out without Alan O’Donovan (work commitments), Seamie Crowe and David McDonagh (both injured) from their Connacht Cup starting XI and their absence allowed Benny Lawless, Ray Moran and David Carroll in from the start, and all made a significant contribution as Athenry started well and were two up within 24 minutes.
Following a neat passing movement, Ray Moran provided the final pass to set up Fahy for the opener and Fahy then turned provider as his cross was headed home by Cannon to gave them a 2-0 advantage.
The early set back stung Kevin Curran’s charges into action and they pulled one back before the break when King slotted home a Dara Kelly pass to make matters more competitive at 2-1.
Continuing to build on their comeback, East had two great opportunities to gain an advan-
tage before the interval, but firstly Gary Manogue failed to get the better of Grealish in a one-on-one situation, before another smart save kept out a David Cummins header.
The introduction of Dave O’Boyle and Kenny Lydon in the second half gave East some renewed energy, but against a settled Athenry back four they hardly created a chance of note.
The involvement of Lydon certainly created some urgency in their attack, but it was just an occasion that the ball didn’t fall their way.
The same could be said of Athenry at the other end, as a swiftly breaking side failed to punish East on a few occasions.
Lawless was rash and wild from close range, before Gary Forde tested Anthony Ryan and this was followed up by good defensive cover by Denis Lydon as he blocked a David Carroll effort in the box.
The swift counter attacking eventually paid off in the final minute when Moran released Cannon and after rounding Ryan he made it 3-1 with a side footed effort into an empty net.
East continued to probe and Christian Ryan had a pile driver blocked in the area, before Mark Griffin brought a good save from Grealish in the final act of the day.
For Athenry, victory was a reward for a side which was collecting silverware for the third year in succession and while disappointed at the outcome, East United will know that their first season in the top flight was one of consolidation and having done that so impressively, the cup final appearance was just a further reward.