Leinster Senior League Division 1B
Tullamore Town 3 St Joseph’s Boys 0
Tullamore increased their lead at the top of the table by eleven points with this well deserved win over second placed St Joseph’s Boys in Leah Victoria Park as they extended their unbeaten run to fourteen games. Not having played for six weeks due to the Christmas break and adverse weather conditions this was always going to be a tricky assignment for the League leaders. Both teams threatened during the early exchanges with Cain Brereton doing well to punch a dangerous Robert Love free kick clear while, at the other end, Macdarragh O’Neill played in Kevin Williamson but he was denied by a fine relieving tackle from James Byrne. The visitors went close when, following a corner, Brian Horgan fired over from the edge of the area and then Owen Moore got on the end of Sean Brennan’s free kick, but his header flew outside the post. With the Tullamore trinity of Enda Carroll, Stephen Francis and Kevin Williamson tightening their grip on midfield and Trevor Moylan and Macdarragh O’Neill raiding down the St Joseph’s left flank the visitors found themselves pinned back in their own half. As they continued to press lovely play by O’Neill on the right saw him pick out Williamson in the area but his effort was charged down by Byrne. With twenty five minutes on the clock the home side came perilously close to taking the lead when Trevor Moylan played a great ball out to Macdarragh O’Neill on the right and his cut back found Robert Bracken who drilled his effort past Stephen Kelleher only for James Byrne to somehow get back to scoop the ball off the line. Five minutes later they again went close when Williamson and Moylan combined to pick out Brian Francis in the area and his deft lay off found O’Neill only for Kelleher to bring off a superb point blank save to keep his side in the game. As Tullamore moved up through the gears Rory Condron played a defence splitting pass behind the Joseph’s defence for Bracken to run on to, but Kelleher again came to the rescue with a fine save. It was far from all one-way traffic and the visitors threatened when Robert Love picked out Brian Horgan but he fired past the left post. Stephen Francis and Trevor Moylan combined to create a chance for Brian Francis but Kelleher saved down to his left and Moylan was again in the thick of the action as he picked out Macdarragh O’Neill who skipped past his marker before delivering the ball to the back post, but Robert Bracken just failed to control it as the referee brought the first half to a conclusion with the scores tied at nil all.
Tullamore began the second half as they had finished the first with Macdarragh O’Neill going on a great run through the middle before being crowded out and then Robert Bracken played in Kevin Williamson, but Ross Flynn got back to clear. With fifty minutes gone Joseph’s were presented with a fine opportunity when a free out wide on the left was deflected into the path of Eric Smith but he fired over when well placed. As the home side went in search of the opener O’Neill won back possession in midfield and picked out Brian Francis but, just as he was about to pull the trigger, the ball got caught under his feet and the chance was lost. With Shane Dolan coming on for the injured O’Neill on the hour the game swung dramatically in Tullamore’s favour. Kevin Williamson played a lovely cushion pass to Stephen Francis who picked out Robert Bracken on the left and his low cross was fired home by Dolan with his first touch of the ball. They increased their advantage on sixty five minutes when Ken Doyle got on the end of Trevor Moylan’s corner to post a superb header into the roof of the net. It was all Tullamore now as Stephen and Brian Francis combined to pick out Dolan but his searching cross was cleared and then Brian Norris found Brian Francis on the left and his thirty yard effort was scrambled around the post by a relieved Stephen Kelleher. Robert Bracken played a great cross field pass to Shane Dolan but his effort flew over while, at the other end, Cain Brereton did well to keep out Robert Love’s vicious free kick. Kevin Williamson went close when he broke clear in the inside left channel, but he dragged his shot outside the right post. Dolan and Bracken combined to set up Brian Francis but he was denied by a fine tip over save by Kelleher and, from the resultant corner, Bracken fired over from close range. With minutes remaining Williamson played a lovely pass through to Robert Bracken and, with the goal at his mercy, he unselfishly squared the ball for the inrushing Shane Dolan who gratefully fired it past Kelleher to set the seal on an outstanding all round team performance.
Tullamore’s good form shows no sign of abating as they continue to build on their dominant league position. Under the stewardship of Tony O’Sullivan they are playing with a freedom and style that is a joy to watch and with more players returning from injury they look set fair for a second successive promotion push.
There were excellent contributions from Brian Norris, Stephen Francis, Kevin Williamson and Robert Bracken with Stephen Kelleher, James Byrne, Ross Flynn and Robert Love the pick of the visitors, but the man of the match award went to Tullamore’s central defender and goal scorer, Ken Doyle.
Tullamore: Cain Brereton, Trevor Moylan, Ken Doyle, Rory Condron, Brian Norris, Enda Carroll, Stephen Francis, Kevin Williamson, Macdarragh O’Neill, Robert Bracken and Brian Francis.
Subs: Shane Dolan, John Duffy, Ross Kinnarney, Kevin Minnock, Alan O’Connell, Adrian Kelly and John Paul Casey.
St Joseph’s Boys: Stephen Kelleher, James Kavanagh, Shane Fitzpatrick, Ross Flynn, James Byrne, Craig Farrelly, Robert Love, Eric Smith, Owen Moore, Brian Horgan and Sean Brennan.
Subs: Paul Barr, Conor Devaney, Ger Blake, Colin Flynn, Ryan Sennines, Reuben Dunster and Fred Kenny.
LSL Senior Division 1B
Tullamore Town 2 Kilnamanagh AFC 2
High flying Tullamore had their wings clipped by a battling ten man Kilnamanagh side who mounted a tenacious rearguard action in chilly Leah Victoria Park last Friday to wrestle a point from the league leaders. On a night that would have frozen the brass off a bald monkey the home side were slow to get going but did not appear to be in any great difficulty during the opening exchanges. They were first to threaten when Kevin Williamson and Macdarragh O’Neill combined to create an opportunity for Brian Francis but his effort was well saved by Michael Lonergan. They again went close when Robbie Bracken’s shot was blocked and O’Neill pounced on the loose ball only to be denied by a superb point blank save by Lonergan. As they continued to press Trevor Moylan picked out Bracken in the area but Adam Walsh got across to clear just as he was about to pull the trigger and minutes later Brian Gill tried his luck from distance but his effort flew past the left post. With quarter of an hour gone Tullamore were rocked back on their heels when Paul Ellis won possession wide on the left and drove the ball across the face of the goal for Anthony Hanevy to fire home from close range. As they hit back Gill got on the end of Moylan’s searching cross but his glancing header failed to hit the target while, at the other end, a fine run by Keith O’Neill saw him drive his effort past the left post. The home side were struggling to get back in the game but went close when O’Neill was taken down on the left and Williamson’s free kick was headed narrowly over by Brian Gill. Williamson again created danger when he played the ball through to Brian Francis, but Michael Lonergan was quickly off his line to clear. With forty minutes gone the visitors were dealt a body blow when they were reduced to ten men after Adam Walshe was sent off for a second yellow card offence. This handed the initiative back to Tullamore and they nearly equalised when lovely play by Kevin Williamson and Brian Francis created an opening for Robbie Bracken but his effort was charged down in the area as half time arrived with Kilnamanagh one goal to the good.
From the start of the second half the ten men of Kilnamanagh set up in defensive mode and defied Tullamore to break them down. As the home side went in search of an equaliser Kevin Williamson played a great ball through to Robbie Bracken but his attempted cut back was blocked by Michael Lonergan. The visitors showed that they still carried a threat when Keith O’Neill fizzed a shot in from thirty yards that was well saved by Cain Brereton down to his right. Tullamore went back on the offensive with Brian Francis threading the ball through to Macdarragh O’Neill in the inside right channel, but Robbie Bracken just failed to get on the end of his cross. With manager Tony O’Sullivan bringing in Shane Dolan the home side began to move up through the gears but, with Karl Nolan outstanding at the heart of the Kilnamanagh defence, they held firm. Tullamore went close when Stephen Francis picked out Brian Francis but his drive was brilliantly tipped over by Michael Lonergan and minutes later the same two players combined but this time Brian’s effort flashed past the right post. They again threatened when Kevin Williamson picked out Shane Dolan but his curling shot just missed out the right post, but he was not to be denied on sixty five minutes when he got on the end of a Macdarragh O’Neill cross to crash a stunning volley into the back of the net. The league leaders were now in full flight as they went in search of a winner and they nearly opened up the Kilnamanagh defence when Brian Francis played a great reverse pass to Stephen Francis, but he elected to pass instead of shooting and the ball was scrambled out for a corner. Macdarragh O’Neill and Brian Francis then combined to create an opening for Shane Dolan but Lonergan again came to his sides rescue with a fine tip over save. A great run on the right saw O’Neill pick out Dolan but he was denied by a superb last ditch tackle from Karl Nolan, but with seventy eight minutes on the clock they hit the front. Macdarragh O’Neill and Brian Francis combined to find Robbie Bracken in the area and he rifled the ball into the back of the net to put his side in front for the first time. Displaying tremendous resilience the visitors immediately hit back with Anthony Hanevy playing a wonderful defence splitting pass to Paul Ellis and he coolly placed the ball into the bottom right hand corner to level the scores. With Kevin Minnock coming on Tullamore threw everything into attack with Trevor Moylan picking out Shane Dolan but his effort was deflected past the right post. Brian Francis fired over from the edge of the area and Dolan went close when he got on the end of Minnock’s cross, but his shot was well held by Lonergan. With minutes remaining Brian Francis broke into the area but again Nolan got across to clear the danger as referee Pat Geoghegan brought this pulsating encounter to a conclusion.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession Tullamore’s approach play on the night was a little narrow which allowed Kilnamanagh to deploy their resources to maximum effect. While they increased their lead at the top of the league to eleven points this was a timely reminder that there are no easy games in this Division and that there is still a lot to do before promotion is realised.
Tullamore: Cain Brereton, Trevor Moylan, Ken Doyle, Brian Gill, Shane Tierney, Brian Francis, Enda Carroll, Stephen Francis, Kevin Williamson, Macdarragh O’Neill and Robbie Bracken.
Subs: Shane Dolan, Kevin Minnock, John Duffy and Alan O’Connell.
Kilnamanagh: Michael Lonergan, Adam Walshe, Andy Canavan, Jason Lonergan, Karl Nolan, David Dowling, Keith O’Neill, Lee Whelan, Paul Ellis, Anthony Hanevy and Dillon Hersey.
Subs: John Melee, Stephen O’Brien, Jamie Daly, Stephen Murphy and Chris Germon
LSL Senior Division 1B
Wicklow Rovers 1 Tullamore Town 2
Tullamore moved ten points clear at the top of Division 1B as they continued to build on their great start to the season. Last Sunday they made the long trip to Wicklow and after a hard battle came away with another fine win. This was their tenth league outing and to date they have amassed an impressive total of twenty eight points from nine wins and one draw. They were quickly into their stride and opened the scoring on twelve minutes when Rory Condron picked out Stephen Francis who played a lovely one two with Shane Dolan who in turn slipped the ball through for Robbie Bracken to send a twenty five yard screamer into the roof of the net for a tremendous score. Two minute later they increased their advantage when Brian Francis won possession in midfield and raced down the right wing before sending over a pin point cross for the inrushing Bracken to give the keeper no chance with his second goal of the game. Following this the home side regrouped and began to enjoy the lion’s share of possession but, apart from a few corners, they rarely troubled the Tullamore defence.
The second half proved to be a much more competitive affair with chances at a premium as both defences dealt with whatever was thrown at them. With sixty six minutes on the clock Tullamore went close when Trevor Moylan played a great ball over the top to Shane Dolan, but he failed to find the net when well placed. This was to prove costly as, from the kickout, Adam Cox went on a surging run on the right and pulled the ball back for Conor French to beat Cain Brereton with a fine effort from the edge of the area. Rovers were now back in the game but Tullamore refused to panic and continued to pose problems for the home defence. With seventy two minutes gone Wicklow were presented with a golden opportunity to level the game when Cox broke clear on the right and his attempted cross struck Rory Condron on the arm with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Sean Duffy stepped up to take the penalty and drove it to Cain Brereton’s right but it was brilliantly kept out by the keeper. There were to be few more chances as the visitors held out for a priceless victory to consolidate their position at the top of the table.
While Tullamore were not at their best the return of Brian Francis from suspension and Macdarragh O’Neill from injury will greatly increase their attacking options as they enter the winter period. There were excellent contributions from Cain Brereton, Brian Gill, Stephen Francis and Robbie Bracken, but the man of the match award went to their outstanding playmaker, Kevin Williamson.
Tullamore: Cain Brereton, Trevor Moylan, Ken Doyle, Brian Gill, Rory Condron, Shane Tierney, Stephen Francis, Kevin Williamson, Brian Francis, Shane Dolan and Robbie Bracken.
Subs: Macdarragh O’Neill and John Duffy (both used)
LSL Senior Division 1B
Tullamore Town 3 Leicester Celtic 0
Tullamore stretched their lead at the top of Division 1B to seven points with this impressive performance against Dublin side Leicester Celtic in Leah Victoria Park last Friday. They are unbeaten after nine games and, despite injuries and suspensions, show no sign of loosening their grip on top spot. They were quickly into their stride with Robbie Bracken picking out Shane Tierney but his effort flew outside the left post. As the visitors hit back Philip Halligan went on a surging run through the middle but was halted by a fine Ross Kinnarney tackle. With ten minutes gone Tullamore jumped into the lead when Kevin Williamson got on the end of a great Rory Condron cross to head home through a ruck of defenders. Rory Fortune threatened the home goal when he broke clear on the left but he was denied by a fine sliding tackle from Ken Doyle while, at the other end, Enda Carroll threaded the ball through to Robbie Bracken but Mark Lew tipped his shot around the post. Celtic went close when Fortune picked out Michael Mustapha but Ken Doyle did well to head his effort to safety and they again threatened when Andy Murphy found the overlapping Neil O’Kane, but Rory Condron got across to cut out the danger. With forty minutes on the clock Colm Whelan played a great ball through to Philip Halligan but Trevor Moylan got back to knock the ball behind and from the resultant corner Mustapha headed Fortune’s cross over when well placed. Tullamore went back on the offensive with Robbie Bracken playing a lovely ball out to Moylan on the right and his low cross was drilled narrowly wide by Brian Gill. Great play between Kevin Williamson, Stephen Francis and Brian Gill ended with Williamson firing over but, with the game entering time added on, they increased their advantage. Tullamore won a free kick out on the left and when Trevor Moylan swung the ball in Brian Gill rose above the defence to send a superb header into the roof of the net to leave the score 2-0 at the interval.
Leicester began the second half brightly with Adam O’Reilly having his shot charged down and, when the ball broke back to Michael Mustapha, he was denied by a great relieving tackle from Stephen Francis. Tullamore hit back with Shane Tierney playing the ball though to Kevin Williamson but his effort was blocked by Stephen Scully. Williamson then picked out Brian Gill but he fired over from the edge of the area. As the home side began to dominate the midfield exchanges Kevin Williamson sent a lovely curling shot inches outside the far post, but with sixty five minutes gone the visitors were presented with a great chance to get themselves back in the game. Michael Mustapha picked out Philip Halligan on the left but his pin point cross to Andy Murphy was headed weakly into the welcoming arms of Cain Brereton. Tullamore had another scare five minutes later when Rory Fortune went on a tremendous run through the middle before being bundled over in the area but the referee, much to the relief of the home fans, waved play on. As Tullamore wrested back control of the game John Duffy fired outside the far post and then Shane Dolan and Stephen Francis combined to create danger but Stephen Scully got back to clear. With forty three minutes gone Ken Doyle played a superb ball through to Shane Dolan but he was denied by a great relieving tackle from Dave Miley. As the game moved into injury time Town finally put the result to bed when Enda Carroll played a lovely ball out to Gary Buckley on the left and his cross was rifled home by John Duffy as they laid claim to all three points.
This was a very satisfying performance for manager Tony O’Sullivan who appears to have instilled a tremendous sense of belief in his entire squad of players as competition for places continues to hot up. For the home side there were excellent contributions from Kevin Williamson, Enda Carroll and Brian Gill with Neil O’Kane, Stephen Scully and Michael Mustapha the pick of the visitors, but the man of the match award went to Tullamore’s tireless midfielder, Stephen Francis.
Tullamore Town: Cain Brereton, Trevor Moylan, Ken Doyle, Ross Kinnarney, Rory Condron, Shane Tierney, Stephen Francis, Enda Carroll, Kevin Williamson, Brian Gill and Robbie Bracken.
Subs: Shane Dolan, John Duffy, Gary Buckley and Alan O’Connell.
Leicester Celtic: Mark Lew, Rob Ellison, Neil O’Kane, Stephen Scully, Chris Curtis, Philip Halligan, Colm Whelan, Michael Mustapha, Rory Fortune, Adam O’Reilly and Andy Murphy.
Subs: Mark O’Hagan, John Halligan, Eric Healy, Dave Miley and Jack O’Callaghan.
George Moore Cup 1st Round
Edenderry Town 1 Tullamore Town 0
A penalty two minutes into the second half was all that separated these close neighbours in a very entertaining encounter in Edenderry last Friday. The fact that Tullamore played almost half the game with ten men was a significant factor in deciding who progressed to the next round but, despite their numerical advantage, Edenderry were never able to relax their grip on this tightly contested cup tie. With both teams unbeaten this season this was a highly anticipated fixture that drew an impressive crowd to Paddy Maloney Park, and they were certainly not disappointed.
The visitors were first to threaten on fifteen minutes when Trevor Moylan picked the ball up thirty yards out on the right and unleashed a rocket that Eddie McDonald brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar. Fine play by Brian Gill saw him cut through the home defence but Stephen Doyle got across to clear while, at the other end, a penetrating run by Oran Farrell ended with his shot being well held by Cain Brereton. As Edenderry began to enjoy the lion’s share of possession Stephen Doyle pulled the ball back to Sean Moore who fired past the left post and then Niall O’Neill was denied by a great last ditch tackle from Ken Doyle. With half an hour gone Oran Farrell played a defence splitting pass through to O’Neill, but again Doyle came to his sides rescue with a superb sliding tackle. As Tullamore hit back Macdarragh O’Neill was taken down and from the resultant free kick Brian Gill brought a fine save from McDonald. As half time approached good play by Shane Dolan saw him cut the ball back to Gill, but he fired wide as the interval arrived with the scores tied at nil all.
The second half began disastrously for Tullamore when, with only two minutes gone, Ken Doyle took down the flying Niall O’Neill in the area with Derek Foran despatching the spot kick into the bottom left corner to put his side in front. Five minutes later a bad situation became even worse when Brian Francis became embroiled with his opposite number and was red carded for retaliation. Despite these two major setbacks the ten men began to dominate proceedings as Edenderry found themselves pinned back in their own half for long periods. Tullamore went close when Rory Condron pulled the ball back for Macdarragh O’Neill but his effort was charged down. As the game progressed the home side began to exploit their numerical advantage. Niall O’Neill broke clear on the right but was denied by a fine relieving tackle from Ross Kinnarney and then John Doyle picked out Brian Donoghue but his shot was deflected wide. With five minutes remaining Tullamore almost equalised when Brian Gill got on the end of Trevor Moylan’s free kick but his header flew outside the right post. Edenderry again went close when Lorcan Pender played a great ball through to Niall O’Neill but Cain Brereton brought off a superb point blank save to deny him. O’Neill again threatened when he cut through the middle but Ross Kinnarney was alive to the danger as he got across to clear. With minutes remaining Macdarragh O’Neill slipped the ball through to Shane Tierney but he was crowded out as the referee brought this pulsating cup tie to a conclusion.
Despite playing a team from a higher division Tullamore never looked out of their depth and indeed, for long periods, looked a more skilful outfit than their more illustrious opponents. It was a shame that an uncharacteristic moment of indiscipline should have been their undoing but they certainly demonstrated that they have all the requirements to progress to a higher level of football. For the home side there were excellent contributions from Derek Foran, Oran Farrell and Niall O’Neill while Cain Brereton, Ross Kinnarney and Enda Carroll were the pick of the visitors, but the man of the match award went to Tullamore’s outstanding young defender, Rory Condron.
Edenderry: Eddie McDonald, John Doyle, Stephen Doyle, Derek Foran, Alan Doyle, Brian Donoghue, Sean Moore, Michael Cleere, Niall O’Neill, Jack Foran and Oran Farrell.
Subs: Lorcan Pender, Richie Baker, Dessie Baker and Cian Farrell.
Tullamore: Cain Brereton, Trevor Moylan, Ken Doyle, Ross Kinnarney, Rory Condron, Brian Gill, Stephen Francis, Enda Carroll, Brian Francis, Macdarragh O’Neill and Shane Dolan.
Subs: Shane Tierney, Derek Coolahan, Aidan Nicholson and Johnny Duffy.
FAI Intermediate Cup
Parkvilla 0 Tullamore Town 1
Tullamore’s great start to the season continued last Friday when they travelled to Navan and narrowly defeated the home side to progress to the next round of this prestigious competition. This was the second meeting of these two sides in three weeks with Tullamore winning the earlier encounter in Leah Victoria Park. Since then Parkvilla had won all their games so Town knew they had a tough assignment on their hands. Their response was to produce a quality performance that saw them dominate for long periods of a very entertaining game. With central defender Ken Doyle ruled out through injury team manager Tony O’Sullivan shuffled his pack and cleverly moved Brian Gill back into defence where he delivered a majestic display which he capped off by scoring the only goal of the game. Once again the midfield of Brian and Stephen Francis and Enda Carroll laid the foundation for this latest victory as they controlled the tempo of the game and continually picked out Macdarragh O’Neill and Johnny Duffy in the wide areas. Up front Shane Dolan was a constant threat with his incisive running and was unlucky not to end up with a couple of goals to his credit.
Tullamore began strongly and with twelve minutes gone Brian Francis won possession thirty yards out and curled a great shot inches wide. Stephen Francis then fired in a twenty yard drive that was brilliantly kept out by Luke O’Malley in the home goal. It was not all one way traffic and with minutes remaining in the first half Parkvilla had a great chance to jump into the lead when Mark Redford got on the end of James Blake’s cross but, from only five yards out, he headed over.
The second half continued in similar vein with Brian Francis played a lovely ball through to Shane Dolan but he was denied by another superb save from Luke O’Malley who dived full length to turn his goal bound effort around the post. It was all Tullamore now and the breakthrough duly arrived on fifty eight minutes when they were awarded a free kick forty yards out on the right touchline. Trevor Moylan delivered the ball into the area and Brian Gill rose above the defence to send a bullet header into the roof of the net to put his side in front. O’Malley produced two fine saves to keep out Brian Francis and Shane Dolan as the home side were reduced to hitting long balls in an effort to get back in the game but the Town defence was rock solid throughout. With Aidan Nicholson and Derek Coolahan coming on in the later stages the visitors comfortably held out for a well deserved victory.
Manager Tony O’Sullivan was delighted with his sides win but, with most of his players becoming available over the next few weeks, he has some serious selection problems to sort out as competition for places hots up. In what was a very pleasing all round display there was one player who stood head and shoulders above everyone else. In an unfamiliar position Brian Gill produced a wonderful controlled performance throughout. His reading of the game and passing and heading ability ensured that this talented football player was the undisputed choice for the man of the match award.
Leinster Senior League – Senior Division
Tullamore Town 4 Portlaoise Town 2
These two great rivals served up a wonderful evening’s entertainment in Leah Victoria Park last Wednesday as Tullamore retained their 100% start in Intermediate football with another impressive display. But following the game all talk was of Macdarragh O’Neill, a prodigious young talent who has emerged in the last couple of seasons from the club’s underage structure. With an hour gone and the match balanced on a knife edge he conjured up a goal of extraordinary invention and execution that left the visitors brave fight-back in ruins and settled the result in his team’s favour.
The home side were first to threaten when Trevor Moylan lofted a free kick over the defence to the inrushing O’Neill but his effort was just off target. As Portlaoise settled into their game Darren Rodgers searching cross was well taken by Cain Brereton and then Stephen Lawless capitalised on some slack midfield play and fired over from twenty five yards. With eight minutes gone Tullamore hit the front when Moylan’s free kick was knocked down by Shane Dolan to Macdarragh O’Neill on the edge of the area and he drove the ball unerringly into the bottom left hand corner. As they began to tighten their grip on the game Rory Condron played a great crossfield pass to Dolan but he failed to pick out anyone in the area and he again went close when he cut in from the right but Neil Heffernan got across to clear. They nearly increased their advantage when good play on the right by Brian Francis saw him find O’Neill in the box, but his close range effort was blocked on the line by Evan McEvoy. The home side continued to press as Enda Carroll played a lovely ball through to Johnny Duffy but he was denied by a fine relieving tackle from Shane Brophy and minutes later Martin Staunton did well to intercept Condron’s dangerous cross with Dolan lurking menacingly. With twenty minutes gone great play by O’Neill saw him pick out Brian Francis twenty yards from goal and his crisply hit drive flew inches outside the right post. At the other end Dylan McCabe found Jason Murphy but his effort was charged down by Trevor Moylan. Shane Dolan sent Enda Carroll clear on the right but his searching cross was well held by Mick Nolan and Dolan again threatened when he latched on to a weak clearance, but Staunton did well to get back to clear the danger. With forty five minutes on the clock Tullamore added to their tally when Dolan sent Macdarragh O’Neill clear and as he accelerated into the area he was taken down by Martin Staunton with the referee pointing to the spot and brandishing a red card. Trevor Moylan duly despatched the penalty into the bottom right corner to leave his side two goals to the good at the interval.
If Tullamore thought they were in for a comfortable second half against ten man Portlaoise they were in for a rude awakening. Within minutes of the restart Jason Murphy knocked the ball through to Aaron Rafter and he held off his marker before coolly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner. Five minutes later they were level, both numerically and on the scoreboard, when Stephen Francis was adjudged to have handled a Darren Rodgers cross in the area, resulting in his dismissal and the awarding of a penalty which was converted by Dylan McCabe. With the home side reeling from this dramatic turn of events Macdarragh O’Neill took centre stage. Picking the ball up wide on the left he weaved his way past four defenders before emerging like a footballing Houdini at the edge of the area and fired the ball high into the roof of the net for a breathtaking individual score. This was a shattering blow to the visitors but they never gave up and went close when Shane Brophy broke clear on the left and flashed his shot across the face of the goal. With manager Tony O’Sullivan introducing Aidan Nicholson to the fray the home side began to wrest back control of the game and they went close when Shane Dolan pulled the ball back to O’Neill and his deep cross just missed out Nicholson at the back post. Dolan and Enda Carroll then combined to create an opportunity for O’Neill but his effort flew over while, at the other end, Brian Francis did well to knock Jason Murphy’s dangerous cross behind. With five minutes remaining Tullamore put the game to bed when Derek Coolahan charged down an attempted clearance by Mick Nolan and from an acute angle curled the ball into the net for a fine goal.
Tullamore’s first half performance was as good as anything they have produced over the last few seasons, but a tendency to lose concentration at the back when in control needs to be addressed. There were outstanding contributions from Brian Norris, Johnny Duffy and Enda Carroll while Stephen Lawless, Dylan McCabe and Aaron Rafter were the pick of the visitors, but the man of the match award went to Tullamore’s magical maestro, Macdarragh O’Neill.
Tullamore: Cain Brereton, Trevor Moylan, Ken Doyle, Rory Condron, Brian Norris, Johnny Duffy, Brian Francis, Enda Carroll, Stephen Francis, Macdarragh O’Neill and Shane Dolan.
Subs: Aidan Nicholson, Derek Coolahan, Jason Pohl, Ross Kinnarney and Gary Buckley.
Portlaoise: Mick Nolan, Evan McEvoy, Shane Brophy, Neill Heffernan, Martin Staunton, Gary Sullivan, Dylan McCabe, Stephen Lawless, Aaron Rafter, Darren Rodgers and Jason Murphy.
Subs: Luke O’Brien, Jayson Bergin, Jodie Dillon, James Mullaney, Maleusz Cwienk and Shane Collins.