Tuesday, 22 March 2011 14:37
Westport United travelled to Waterford to take on a high-flying Villa side to earn a place in the SFAI Under 16 Barry Cup quarterfinal and the right to travel to Dublin to take on crack DDSL outfit, Belvedere FC.
Given Villa's reputation in Waterford schoolboy football and that 11 of the squad represented the Waterford and District Schoolboy League that won last year's Under 15 SFAI Inter-League title, this was going to be a major test of credentials if Westport United were going to advance.
Villa took the game to Westport in the early exchanges, looking to hit their excellent left winger constantly, which gave Brian Mullen lots of problems to deal with.
The home side, who have a reputation for executing set pieces, did come close from a corner at the back post, while at the other end, Mullen header over a Adam Dennany corner.
United escaped when Villa had a strike cannon off the outside of the post, and in attack, the visitors engineered a clear-cut chance when Ruairí Keating came on to a through ball but shot straight at the Villa 'keeper.
Villa came close again from set pieces and from a counterattack following a Westport United corner, while United were constantly clearing the ball to safety, allowing Villa to recycle possession.
When Villa did get the ball down and play in the middle third, they did so with breakneck speed but were looking to switch to the left-winger. The visitors were starting to question the referee as he gave Villa loads of free kicks for the slightest contact, while Villa challenges went largely unchecked.
In the 28th minute, Brian Mullen was harshly judged to have fouled a Villa player and from the resulting free kick, Villa scored with a little flick at the near post. Westport had an opportunity to equalise moments later when Brian Mullen headed downwards but wide from Alan Carroll's corner kick.
United went into the break in arrears for the first time this season and had to work something out to engineer a comeback.
They did a re-jig for the second half but Villa started off strongly once again and had an early opportunity. The referee was beginning to infuriate the travelling support with what they viewed as his inconsistent handling of the game, but on 46 minutes the visiting army were finally happy.
Conor O'Malley kicked the ball from his hands and Ruairí Keating latched onto the ball with his head bravely in front of the advancing goalkeeper, and the ball nestled in the net.
The response from Villa was instant as they laid siege on the Westport goal, aided by plenty of set pieces that United were getting to better terms with, but Villa were getting to the second ball.
United had a massive scare when a cross spilled out of Conor O'Malley's hands and the follow-on shot just went wide. Moments later Pádraig Keane cleared off the line.
Midway into the second half, Villa regained the lead when the left winger, a thorn in Westport's side, looked to be in an offside position when he received the ball and beat Conor O'Malley on his near post with his finish.
The visitors needed to respond even more but the main talking point was the inconsistent refereeing, which saw Villa being awarded a disproportionate number of free kicks as opposed to Westport United on challenges of a similar nature and frustrations boiled over with the Westport United players as a consequence.
Villa were still threatening United and the possibility of a third goal to kill the tie off was always there but United did enough at the right time, while James O'Donnell had two strikes on goal from free kicks.
With time running out, United pushed more bodies forward in search of an equaliser and force the game into extra time. The game took a dramatic twist when Paul McDonnell and Brian Mullen got kicked inside the penalty area and despite appeals for a penalty, the referee waved play on, which added to the visitors' frustrations.
Deep into injury time, United won a free kick. James O'Donnell whipped the ball into the danger area and it went out for a corner. Everyone, including goalkeeper Conor O'Malley, was in the box and Alan Rocliffe's flick-on was headed over by a Villa head, though the referee judged that O'Malley got the last touch.
That was to be that as Westport exited the Barry Cup in somewhat frustrating circumstances.
United my not be in the quarterfinals to face Belvedere in Dublin, who are thundering through the competition with huge scorelines, but still have the Connaught Cup to play for, with a quarterfinal tie against Strand Celtic of Sligo in the Sports Park on Saturday. Kick off is at 2 p.m. They will have home ties up to the final if they get that far.
The defeat to Villa was only United's second loss in 21 games, a super record. The lads can be very proud of getting this far and can hold their heads up very high, and the footballing public in Westport have congratulated them for going this far in the competition.
The management would like to thank Villa FC for the use of the Astroturf for training on Friday evening, the Viking Ramada Hotel in Waterford for the hospitality, the supporters for undertaking the long journey, Corduff Travel for the bus and Pa McGrath's, Boher, Co. Limerick, for sponsoring a free case of Lucozade.
Villa (Waterford) 2
Westport United 1
Westport United: Conor O'Malley, Brian Mullen, Pádraig Keane, Pádraig O'Malley, Niall Tierney, Ciarán McFadden, Alan Rocliffe, Adam Dennany, Alan Carroll, James O'Donnell, Ruairí Keating.
Subs used: Paul McDonnell, James Gibbons.