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DONOGHUE SCORES TWO AS LAWLESS SAVES THE DAY
Athenry Junior B Jack Lillis Cup Final November 30th 2016
Athenry were victorious in the Lillis Cup Final on a cold evening in Eamonn Deacy Park. This was a finely contested match that went all the way to penalties, two goals from Captain Stuart Donoghue and a hard working Athenry team were matched for 110 minutes
by a physical Claregalway side. Mark Lawless put in a man of the match performance and at the end saving two penalties in the shootout.
Athenry came into this game off the back of a three-nil win in the league but had suffered defeat at the hands of Claregalway the week before. Athenry got off to a brilliant start when after working the ball forward, Colin Bane chipped the ball over the defence on to the feet of Stuart in the Claregalway box and the keeper could do nothing as he calmly slotted home. However even an early goal couldn't calm the nerves, Athenry couldn't control the game as Claregalway came close to equalizing on a few occasions. Mark Lawless was called into action saving what looked like a certain goal from point blank range.
The hard work from centre backs Sean McGrath and Padraic Corcoran couldn't stop Claregalway getting a scrappy equaliser. The defence seemed to have stopped the danger but couldn't clear the ball as Claregalway's attack forced the goal making it one all. Midway through the half Athenry were devastated to lose Vice-Captain Neil Murphy to a serious knee injury that saw him stretchered off with Damien Fahy coming on in his place. The disappointment quickly turned to joy however when a lovely back post cross from William Fouere was slotted home by Stuart to earn his second of the night putting his team into the lead which their hard work and discipline deserved.
Both sides struggled to create any chances with Claregalway's defence dealing with several Athenry crosses, with Colin and Daniel Bane putting in crunching tackles in their defensive third to help the team not concede. Centre midfielders Shane Trout and Fahy tried to utilise the front fours pace and decisive runs in behind and catch the opposition on the counter attack but couldn't extend their lead.
The second half was played out very evenly with both sides again defending well. The nerves seemed to settle for Athenry, both Shane Trill and Damien Sweeney keeping the Claregalway wingers from creating any chances. McGrath and Corcoran were winning most aerial duels with the opposition strikers. Both sides started making changes with Keith Loughnane and Sean Foley for William and Colin.
A lapse of concentration proved costly for Athenry when a Claregalway striker was allowed to get a clear shot at goal that was parried by the keeper back across the box and an unmarked player placed the ball out of Mark's reach into the back of the net. Athenry responded with some nice football around Claregalway's box but couldn't fashion a chance. The last moments of the second half saw a nasty collision involving the Athenry number one and an onrushing Claregalway player. There were shouts for a penalty but the referee didn't see any foul.
Extra time was needed and eventually penalties to decide the winner of the Lillis Cup, with extra time remaining uneventful with fatigue preventing either team controlling the game or press on for a winner. Lawless set the tone saving the first penalty. Claregalway scored two and Athenry scored three, it came down to Sean McGrath against his old Club to smash in the winning penalty making Athenry the champions. The team jumped around in celebration with the coaching staff and the fans, in the night that lasted longer than originally desired but completely worth it in the end for the Athenry men.