Superb Connery strike secures the double for St Michael’s

Clonmel Credit Union Tipperary Challenge Cup Final

Clonmel Credit Union Tipperary Challenge Cup Final

ST. MICHAEL’S AFC 1 OLD BRIDGE AFC 0

A spectacular direct free-kick from 20 yards by ‘man of the match’ John Connery on the stroke of half-time was sufficient for holders and TSDL champions St. Michael’s FC to overcome the gallant challenge of First Division underdogs Old Bridge FC in the Clonmel Credit Union Tipperary Challenge Cup Final played at a very well prepared Celtic Park, Clonmel on Easter Sunday.

This final played in windy conditions never lived up to expectations one would expect for what is the showpiece of the TSDL season as many moves broke down either with a misplaced or over-hit pass. Old Bridge might have been the underdog, but showed that they can compete with the best and could have produced a major upset against a St. Michael’s side that were only missing the services of Chris Higgins from an international back-line that included Irish Amateur skipper James Walsh and Paul Breen.

However, it was former junior international and Saints striker Aaron Moroney who had the first opportunity after 4 minutes when he neatly turned Walsh, but his effort was well off target. St. Michael’s building from the back and using the flanks to good use created a good chance on 10 minutes that saw Jimmy Carr cut in from the left but his low shot was easily dealt with by ‘keeper John Butler.

Old Bridge showing that they were capable of opening the the highly rated Saints defence saw Michael Kennedy run from his own end-line down the left before finding Aaron Moroney who set-up Eoin Leahy whose lob went just the wrong side of the right hand post on 15 minutes. With the Old Bridge rearguard continuing to frustrate the Saints attack a long clearance from David Peters caught the opposition defence flat-footed allowing Moroney in on goal, but his first touch was too heavy and the ball drifted the wrong side of the post as the half hour mark was reached. Old Bridge had further chances with Eoin Leahy opting to shoot instead of finding a colleague in a better position.

St. Michael’s best opportunities came prior to the break when Old Bridge net-minder John Butler failed to hold a John Connery free-kick and only an expert tackle from Emmet Ryan inside the penalty area prevented Michael Maguire finding the back of the net. Maguire had another chance on 42 minutes when his shot under pressure went the wrong side of the woodwork. Paul Tobin saw his free-kick a minute later being punched clear by John Butler and it fell to the unmarked Jimmy Carr whose hastily taken shot went the wrong side of the crossbar.

But right on the stroke of half-time St. Michael’s struck the killer blow. The overworked Old Bridge defence conceded a direct free-kick on the edge of the ‘D’ and from John Connery well executed set-piece the ball didn’t even dip as it found the right hand top corner of the net with ‘keeper Butler rooted to the spot and give the holders the physiological advantage.

Buoyant by that lead everyone was expecting St. Michael’s to run out comfortable winners after the changeover, but it was not the case. Old Bridge determined to show their more illustrious opponents that they were worthy opponents were quickly out of the blocks securing their first corner-kick of the game on 51 minutes but from it a Moroney header went the wrong side of the crossbar. On 55 minutes Old Bridge had an appeal for handball turned down when a shot from Michael Kennedy struck the arm of a Saints player.

Kennedy was again called into action on 62 minutes when he went on a penetrating counter-attack down the left wing following a Saints corner-kick, but he took the wrong option, by firing wide of the target instead of picking out Aaron Moroney who was unmarked. Then a quickly taken free-kick by Thomas Fahey for Saints to the unmarked Jimmy Carr, who cut inside but his low shot was taken at full stretch by ‘keeper John Butler. On 65 minutes Old Bridge’s best chance to draw level saw Emmet Ryan’s well weighted pass split the Saints defence leaving Eoin Leahy one-on-one with the ‘keeper but Derek Breen came quickly off his goal-line to block the ball which was eventually cleared to safety.

On 70 minutes an unfortunate accident occurred when St. Michael’s striker Michael Maguire in an attempt to prevent the ball going dead stood on it and damaged his knee in the process. That became the focal point from then on as he was taken to South Tipperary General Hospital by ambulance. Everyone in the game wish him a speedy recovery. As Maguire was off the pitch when the incident happened the game continued with Trevor Cosgrave replacing him, but the high tempo set by both sides was no longer evident.

As the final ten minutes were reached Old Bridge cleared their bench with Richie Crowe already on for Leahy, Barry O’Neill for Emmet Ryan and Noel O’Brien for Kennedy as they tried to pull this game out of the fire. A Paul Ryan free-kick was headed clear by Paul Breen on 85 minutes and in the Clonmel side’s last attack of the day Aaron Moroney’s well delivered end-line centre saw a free header from Richie Crowe go the wrong side of the crossbar and with it went Old Bridge’s hopes for another year. St. Michael’s Jimmy Carr had a good opportunity to add the icing to the cake in the dying seconds when Richie Ryan set him up but blasted over with just the ‘keeper to beat.

The man of the match award presented to St. Michael’s winger John Connery was kindly sponsored by John Quirke Jewellers of Cahir.

St. Michael’s FC - Derek Breen, Michael Fitzgerald, Paul Tobin, Paul Breen, Thomas Fahey, John Connery, Richard Ryan, Pat Quinn, Michael Maguire, Jimmy Carr

Substitutes: Trevor Cosgrave, Jason Sutton, John Carew, Darragh McKenna, Chris Higgins

Old Bridge FC - John Butler, Brian Cleary, David Fahey, David Peters, Stephen Kearns, Emmet Ryan, Paul Ryan, Noel Walsh, Aaron Moroney, Martin Kennedy

Substitutes: Richard Crowe, Noel O’Brien, Bobby Farrell, Andy Pyke, Barry O’Neill

Officials: N. Coughlan, T. Keating, J. Hadnett