Action from the Division 1 Shield Final between Clonmel Celtic and Peake Villa of Thurles
DIVISION 1 SHIELD FINAL
PEAKE VILLA 1 CLONMEL CELTIC 2
Clonmel Celtic’s first team emulated their seconds by winning their divisional Shield title against Peake Villa at the Tower Grounds in Thurles on Sunday last, thanks to a brace of goals by ace striker Mark Heffernan.
The game was played on a perfect pitch that was a credit to the Thurles club, in brilliant sunshine, but with a stiff breeze blowing downfield that often made fluid football difficult for the teams.
The two sides were committed to attacking right from the off and tried to fashion chances, with the first one of note coming in the fifth minute. That was when a ball fell to Villa’s youthful midfielder Keelan Graham, and his shot from all of 30 yards had David Cashin at full stretch to touch it over the crossbar.
A minute later Celtic had their chance to open the scoring, but Darren Sweeney scuffed his effort from ten yards and the Villa defence scrambled the ball clear.
After that Villa began a period of dominance, playing the better football but being regularly repelled by a very composed Celtic defence.
On 18 minutes, the hosts raided up the right hand side of the pitch and Alex Moloney whipped in a delightful cross that Michael Anthony McCarthy headed towards goal, only to see Cashin push the ball over the top again.
Seven minutes later Evan Croke headed wide with the Celtic ‘keeper stranded, and two minutes after that Robbie Stapleton evaded two Celtic defenders before forcing Cashin to palm away his effort.
That save was to prove significant later on, because the visiting team’s goalie aggravated an injury that was to force him from the field at half time.
However, despite these mounting chances, the lack of finish was to be punished almost on the half-hour mark when Cian O’Sullivan, who was excellent all game at the heart of the Celtic defence, intercepted a crossfield pass and fired a direct ball to his attack.
Slight hesitancy in the Villa defence was bravely and ruthlessly punished by the lurking Mark Heffernan, who beat Shane Maguire to the ball at the edge of the area and flicked it to the net, giving the Clonmel side a lead they scarcely expected at that time.
This rocked the home side for the rest of the half and Celtic were unlucky not to increase their lead when Heffernan almost got on the end of a cross into the area, with an open goal beckoning, but he just couldn’t add the final touch, leaving his side go to the break with just a single goal lead.
Five minutes into the second period, Villa were unlucky not to level matters when confusion in the Celtic defence was pounced on by substitute Scott Drennan, who found Evan Croke in space, but his final shot let him down and went wide of the post.
A minute later this miss came back to haunt the Villa, when another long ball delivered upfield towards their goal looked to have been comfortably defended, but Darren Sweeney managed to seize the ball and find Mark Heffernan, who side stepped the home team’s ‘keeper and shot to the net to give Celtic a two-goal cushion.
Clonmel Celtic Division 1 Shield champions. Back: Patrick O’Connor, Julian Kerton, Darragh Sweeney, Sean O’Hara, Andrew Cosgrave, David Cashin, Mark Heffernan, Peter O’Dowd, Jack Purcell. Front: Oisin O’Donoghue, Niall Prendergast, Jack Forrestal, Sean Hawkins, Nathan O’Shea, Cian O’Sullivan, Rory O’Dowd, Ayo Williams, Alex Greene. Picture: MICHAEL BOLAND
Sweeney himself almost made it three on the hour mark, but Shane McGuire was quickly off his line to save the shot with his legs before his defence cleared it.
With the home side now becoming increasingly desperate to pull themselves back into the game they started attacking with abandon, and had the crowd on their feet ready to celebrate when a curled shot by Adam Garrett looked goal-bound, only for Clonmel Celtic’s substitute ‘keeper Oisin O’Donoghue to pull off the save of the game, diving full stretch to fingertip the shot onto the post and out to safety.
But he went from hero to villain in five minutes when he could only parry a free kick driven by Mark Lennon back into the path of Sean Condon, who slid in and finished to the net to halve the deficit.
Unfortunately for the home side, though, they were unable to use the momentum of the goal to push on and get the all-important equaliser.
Cian O’Sullivan was magnificent at the heart of the Celtic defence, along with veteran Andrew Cosgrave in the middle of the field, and they managed to dictate the pace of the rest of the game in their favour to hold on for the win.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.