Stradbally Town 1 Monksland 3
John Farrell Combined Counties Cup Final (AET)
Stradbally Town’s historic 2018/2019 season came to an end in Tullamore this evening as they were defeated after extra time by Monksland.
Derek Beale’s side were probably the better team for 80 minutes of the contest but Monksland got on top in the closing stages and dominated extra time where two goals left Stradbally heartbroken.
They have had one of their greatest seasons in their history with promotion from Division 2 and a Division 2 cup final triumph – and while their first ever appearance in the John Farrell Combined Counties Cup final has not ended in victory, it has been a remarkable year.
Stradbally Town went into the game against their Senior Division opponents unbeaten since October and they went very close in the opening minute when Monksland keeper Cathal Hannon had to tip over a Jody Dillon free kick.
The men in green continued to create chances with Dillon and Benny Lawlor while Monksland largely resorted to pumping the ball long in hope of creating a chance on the break.
And a minute before half time, that tactic paid off. Conor Jordan forced a great save from keeper Wayne Comerford but the ball broke to Cathal Callinan who forced it to striker David O’Brien and he got enough on his effort to get the ball to the net – despite the best efforts of Billy Murphy on the Stradbally line.
That was a sucker punch for Stradbally Town but they responded admirably and got level just before the half time whistle.
Jody Dillon combined well with left back Podge Fitzpatrick who centred to Benny Lawlor and he rattled the net from close range – 1-1 at the break.
Stradbally continued to control the game in the second half and had three decent chances to take the lead.
Podge Fitzpatrick was unlucky to see an effort fly over the bar while a Benny Lawlor cross directed at an incoming Damien Murphy was just slightly over-cooked.
Dillon went close from a corner with 75 minutes on the clock but the Athlone men began to dominate after that.
They had a number of half chances before sub Dylan Jinks had the chance to win it in the 94th minute when he was picked out completely unmarked at the back post but Stradbally keeper Wayne Comerford pulled off an incredible full length save to thwart his volley.
We headed for two ten minute periods of extra time and in the third minute of the first one, Monksland regained the lead.
Dylan Jinks got in down the wing and his shot came back off the post where once again chief poacher David O’Brien was there to tap the ball home.
Stradbally were rattled again and failed to create a chance in the first period of extra time.
But they threw everything at Monksland in the second period and almost scored from a Benny Lawlor corner when Richie Ryan, the semi final hero, threw himself at the ball but his header just went wide.
And from the resulting kick-out, Monksland sub John Stapleton flicked the ball on with his first touch to another substitute, Kevin Brennan, who raced clear and smashed the ball to the net.
The only real action of note from there came in the closing seconds when Monksland centre half Earl Gaylard was dismissed for picking up a second yellow card.
But it mattered not as Monksland claimed the John Farrell Combined Counties Cup for the first time in their history.
STRADBALLY TOWN: Wayne Comerford; Colin Beale, Billy Murphy, Richie Ryan, Podge Fitzpatrick; Jimmy Langton, Ray Mullally, Damien Murphy, Jack Langton; Jody Dillon, Benny Lawlor. Subs: Alan Delaney for Jack Langton (50, inj), Liam Knowles for Jimmy Langton (55, inj), Jake Byrne for Mullally (100)
MONKSLAND: Cathal Hannon; Padraig Geraghty, Keith O’Reilly, Earl Gaylard, Kevin Dunne, Kevin Gaylard, Andy O’Sullivan, Donal Beirne, David O’Brien, Cathal Callinan, Conor Jordan. Subs: Kevin Brennan for Callinan (ht), Dylan Jinks for Jordan (48, inj), John Stapleton for Jinks (107, inj)
Referee: Vicki McEnery