Friday, 18 February 2011 12:53
Westport United crashed out of the FAI Junior Cup in heartbreaking fashion at the Sports Park on Sunday when they succumbed to the resilience of Ballinasloe Town in a dour affair.
But they had only themselves to blame after missing a number of decent opportunities to take
command of the encounter.
The visitors were rewarded for their spirit and commitment when Mark Duffy snatched the game's only goal three minutes from the end of extra time.
He pounced in ruthless style when Kevin Joyce and goalkeeper Niall Gallagher got their wires crossed in dealing with a probing delivery by Aiden Warde.
Joyce threw his right foot at the ball and, when he failed to make contact, Duffy squeezed in front of Gallagher to stab the ball into the net.
It was a bitter blow for United as they had enjoyed the greater share of possession for long periods and created the better openings.
However, they found Ballinasloe goalkeeper Paul Hickey in exhilarating form as he produced at least three telling saves.
United completely dominated the opening half and should have taken the lead when David Cameron had Hickey at his mercy.
But the ball seemed to bobble on the turf before the United midfielder executed his shot and it blazed wide of the target.
The powerful David Hoban was also causing problems for the Ballinasloe defence despite operating in an unaccustomed wide role. His finishing, however, failed to match his exciting approach play.
Once they weathered the early storm, Town succeeded in applying some pressure of their own at the other end.
And they would have taken the lead against the run of play in the 40th minute had the unmarked Niall Stack made contact with Liam Lynch's corner kick, which screamed right across the face of the United goal.
Hoban was on the rampage again for United early in the second half when Shaun Tagg picked him out with a magnificent pass, but his attempt failed to trouble Hickey.
The Ballinasloe goalkeeper demonstrated his quality in the 72nd minute with an inspirational save.
A Mark McNally headed effort, from Cameron's sweetly-struck corner kick, appeared to be heading for the roof of the Town net before Hickey got a hand to it.
Vinny O'Malley had a golden opportunity to open United's account moments later when he outwitted the Ballinasloe offside trap.
With Hickey off his line, O'Malley elected to lob the ball over the goalkeeper's head. He struck it with too much force, however, and Ballinasloe were let off the hook.
The Roscommon League side, without the suspended Darragh Concannon, clearly looked stronger and fitter as the match entered the closing quarter.
Sensing the game was there for the taking, they pushed more players into attack, with the pace of Aiden Warde and the purpose of Gary Egan posing problems for a visibly tiring United rearguard.
They went agonisingly close to scoring on the stroke of full time when Duffy roamed into the United six-yard box before the ball got stuck under his feet.
It was a clear warning to United that the big centre forward needed to be man-marked far more tightly.
Hickey engineered another heroic save in extra time when he denied Hoban from point-blank range. It proved United's last chance of winning the encounter.
Ballinasloe had strong claims for a penalty overruled in the 104th minute when Ward was pushed in the back in the United 18-yard box.
Their frustration did not last long. Within two minutes, Duffy secured an unlikely victory with his memorable late, late goal, which cued the Ballinasloe celebrations.
Westport United 0
Ballinasloe Town 1
(After extra time)
Westport United: N. Gallagher, A. O'Malley, D. Scahill, J. Lawless, M. Geraghty, S Tagg, D. Cameron, K. Joyce, V. O'Malley, D. Hoban, M. McNally.
Subs used: D. Mulchrone, G. McGreevy, G. McLoughlin.
Ballinasloe Town: P. Hickey, J. Clogher, G. Fury, P. Keighery, N. Stack, K. Kenny, G. Campbell, A. Ward, L. Lynch, M. Duffy, G. Egan.
Ref: M. Halligan (Castlebar).
●Star rating: Paul Hickey...heroic goalkeeping.