Dunmanway Town 0
(Dunmanway won 5-4 on pens aet)
STEPHEN Daly made the crucial save and Mark Buckley converted the winning penalty as Dunmanway Town claimed the West Cork League Premier Division title in dramatic circumstances at the Baltimore Road.
A pulsating finale to this season’s WCL title-race matched the recent week’s English Premier League and Champions League drama. A huge crowd was in attendance at a perfectly-prepared Baltimore Road to witness Dunmanway Town’s success.
The two clubs that finished ahead of defending champions Drinagh Rangers couldn’t be separated after two hours of intense action so a penalty shootout was required to decide the outcome. Stephen Daly made a crucial save to open the door for Dunmanway and Mark Buckley stepped forward to complete a 5-4 shootout triumph.
Amid Dunmanway’s wild celebrations, you couldn’t but feel sorry for a gallant Ballydehob who contributed so much to this year’s title chase only to lose out on penalties.
‘It has been a long season and we had a good Beamish Cup run as well so it was tough to go all way down to the last game of the season,’ Dunmanway manager John Buckley said.
‘Even in our last game against Drinagh, we got a draw and set up today’s game. Three times we have played Ballydehob this year and three times we have drawn. They are a tough, strong team but we matched them. I think we were well worth the win in the end.’
The league decider got off to an explosive start with Town’s Cathal Daly striking an upright after 30 seconds. Ballydehob survived that scare and settled before a succession of corners ended with Sean Minihane having his close-range shot cleared off the goal-line.
Ballydehob enjoyed the better of the opening quarter and three consecutive set-pieces had their opponents scrambling to clear. One free-kick ended with Tim Regan prodding the ball goal wards but once again Dunmanway managed to avert the danger.
Cathal Daly and Sacha Walden exchanged chances prior to the Mohona club creating their best opportunity. Mark Buckley whipped a free-kick towards the top corner only for Joel Davis to produce a marvellous finger-tip save after 30 minutes.
Clear-cut chances remained hard to come by until Ballydehob wasted a glorious opportunity when Peter O’Driscoll diverted a six-yard attempt over the crossbar. Mark Buckley responded with a stinging free-kick that Joel Davis did well to keep out before Mark Cronin’s delicate chip cleared the crossbar by inches at the opposite end.
The second period matched the intensity of its predecessor with a Mark Buckley cross having to be diverted out for a corner before Dunmanway could profit. Ballydehob looked to release Joe Hickey and Peter O’Driscoll but Town centre-back’s Stephen O’Donovan and Stephen Keohane were in imperious form and ensured the final remained scoreless after 55 minutes.
Keohane had a chance to break the deadlock shortly after but couldn’t keep his header on target following an in-swinging corner. Ballydehob breathed a huge sigh of relief and began to pepper their opponent’s penalty box in an attempt to open the scoring. Stephen Daly proved a safe pair of hands during a difficult Dunmanway spell in which Kalum Geary and Peter O’Driscoll threatened.
Dunmanway remained dangerous on the break but it was their opponents who continued to dominate as Aidan O’Donovan cleared a shot from inside his six-yard box and Stephen Daly palmed a goal-bound Mark Cronin volley over the crossbar. The closing stages saw a flurry of yellow cards help keep tempers in check as an even league decider concluded 0-0, heralding two periods of extra-time.
Substitute Ryan O’Neill sprung Dunmanway’s offside trap two minutes into the first additional period, prompting Stephen Daly from his line to deny the in-rushing striker. Creditably, Dunmanway defended competently and utilised Barry O’Donovan and Mark Buckley’s pace to dominate either side of the second interval. Buckley linked up with Cathal O’Donovan and surged into the penalty area but couldn’t find the target 8 minutes from the end.
A frenetic finale saw the Rathravane club have loud penalty claims waved away before being reduced to ten men when Stephen Duggan received a red card. It finished 0-0 but Dunmanway Town held their nerve to edge an ensuing penalty shootout 5-4 and claim the 2019 WCL Premier Division title.
Ballydehob: Joel Davies, Barry O’Brien, Stephen Duggan, Sean Minihane, David Roycroft, Aidan Coughlan, Sacha Walden, Tim Regan (captain), Mark Cronin, Joe Hickey, Peter O’Driscoll. Subs: Ryan O’Neill, Kalum Geary, Diarmuid Hegarty, Damien Roycroft, Michael Helen, Donal O’Sullivan, Mike Coughlan.
Dunmanway Town: Stephen Daly, Aidan O’Donovan, John Healy, Stephen Keohane, Stephen O’Donovan (captain), Cathal Daly, Mark Buckley, Barry O’Donovan, Rhys Coakley, Jamie Carroll, Jamie O’Donovan. Subs: Ray Jennings, Kieran Forbes, Declan O’Dwyer, Cathal O’Donovan, Cian Collins, Cullan Barry.
Referee: Anthony McDermott.