Portlaoise AFC 3
Kinnegad FC 2
KINNEGAD FC stood in the way of Portlaoise AFC making it a clean sweep of MSL U/15 competitions this season at the Midlands Cup final in Leah Victoria Park, Tullamore.
Yet again Portlaoise would be up against a strong team in Kinnegad in a final looking to avenge league and cup defeats like Mullingar had looked for in recent weeks in the other cup final.
Kinnegad started by pressing hard against AFC and prevented them getting time on the ball or allowing them to play their normal quick fluid football. AFC were a bit loose at the start so all in all it made for a decent, competitive if not a little frustrating opening to the game.
Cathal Lee produced the first bit of chaos around the Kinnegad box when he and the keeper seemed to dance the full width along the edge of the box before the keeper was forced to punt the ball out sideways to safety.
With eight minutes gone the first half chance fell to Cathal Lee on the turn in the box but the ball just looped over the crossbar.
It took another eight minutes for the first chance for Kinnegad to materialise from a corner after sloppy play at the back from AFC allowed the attacker to cause confusion. The resulting free header just went wide left.
Then another half chance on the volley fell to Ben Doyle but he was well closed down and the shot blocked.
Conor Brown used his physical presence and great work rate on the left side to work the ball into the middle and Cathal Lee was there to slot it away past the helpless keeper to make it 1-0 to AFC.
AFC were at times struggling to get some passages of play strung together and were making some poor decisions not helped by Kinnegad trying to close down at every opportunity.
AFC’s back four of TJ Delaney, Kieran O’Donnell, Colin McEvoy and Kanye Tshula had to be alert and time their tackles perfectly at the back as they were busier than they had perhaps been in many games this season and Conor Brown was taking no nonsense with tough tackling.
AFC were guilty of getting caught offside too when in promising positions so there were a few wasted opportunities to calm the nerves a bit more.
With three minutes left in the first half a free from the halfway line from Kieran O’Donnell forced the keeper to put it out for a corner. Conor Brown whipped in the corner from the right side and Kieran O’Donnell was there to out jump the pack and stick it in the bottom left corner for 2-0.
Cathal Lee nearly added a third with the last passage of play of the first half when a through ball from Ben McDonald was flicked up by Cathal but it was gathered by the keeper with the ball there to be contested as they both clashed into each other.
At half time it was a gritty 2-0 lead but not AFC’s best half of the season.
AFC came out with intent after the break and a crossbar cracker within a minute of the restart from Cathal Lee from 25 yards tried to signal to his team mates to push for it.
With 43 minutes on the clock a short AFC kick out and poor back passing brought trouble in on goal forcing Colin McEvoy and Lee Smyth to pull off double blocks and saves and then sent AFC off for the break. Kinnegad’s supporters roared encouragement as did Portlaoise’s to try and rouse their players.
AFC won a penalty on 44 minutes when Cathal Lee was taken out in the middle of five Kinnegad players near the penalty spot. Kieran O’Donnell was unlucky not to win a free in the build up but the penalty made up for that. Cathal Lee calmly sent the keeper the wrong way and sent the ball to the bottom left corner. Giving some breathing space to AFC.
A super ball from Cian Moore on the right side put across the box and Ryan Mitchell was unlucky not to connect but Ben Doyle did get there and it just went to the right post after the keeper scrambled to get a block on it.
On 57 minutes a potential game changer became an atmosphere changer. The scoreboard read 3-1 as Kinnegad scored from a corner and their sidelined erupted. Maybe this would spirit AFC to life for the last 15 minutes.
With 10 minutes to go AFC got in on the Kinnegad goal with a free and then a corner but no joy. They then gave the ball away in the middle and were lucky that the attacker was offside or it could have been another goal chance for Kinnegad.
A confident towering catch from Lee Smyth in goal from a thumping in-swinging corner was decisive in keeping it at 3-1 with five minutes to go to full time, and then another save at the feet by Lee kept a pressing Kinnegad at bay.
The last minute of normal time saw a free in from the left from Kinnegad make it a very nervy 3-2. Kinnegad poked the ball home from a packed box after the ball was dropped and left by AFC defence.
The last minute or so of injury time was very nervous at the back for AFC but they hung on and roared with delight and some relief to finish the job and secure a phenomenal fourth trophy of this fantastic season.
Man of the match was Kieran O’Donnell for a tireless effort but huge credit to a Kinnegad team who battled right to the end and nearly forced extra time.
Two leagues and two cups are a great testament to this Portlaoise AFC side who didn’t lose a Midlands League or Cup competition match since last August with huge credit going to Mark Farrell and Cathal Hewitt for guiding them along the way.