Monday, 09 May 2011 09:01
Manulla are Connaught Cup champions at Under 14 level for the first time in their history after overcoming Mayo league and cup champions Castlebar Celtic with a narrow 1-0 victory in Willow Park, Athlone. A gallant and brave display from Manulla left Celtic shell-shocked and desp
ite numerous second half chances, the goal wouldn't come, meaning a 68th minute winner from clever striker Liam Flatley sealed a historic day for the central Mayo club.
With the aid of a strong breeze, Manulla were in the ascendancy early on and were in the faces of Celtic straight away. Sean Morrissey shot over before Luke Ralph tested Adam Chambers in the Celtic goal but he was equal to the challenge.
They continued to dominate and after 15 minutes, livewire striker Jesse Devers' rasping drive from 25 yards beat Chambers but cannoned off the crossbar and was cleared to safety.
In a rare attack, Irish international Noe Baba's shot was deflected wide for Celtic and Cathal Lisibach tested Manulla 'keeper Matthew Flanagan who saved smartly.
Due to the elements, this was always going to be a game of two halves, and Celtic began to dominate territory early on in the second period.
However, with the pace and skill of Devers and Flatley up front, Manulla were always a threat and on 44 minutes the two combined, with Flately heading just over.
Baba once again threatened, striking the post from the edge of the area after good play from Sam Hastings and Michael Sweeney.
Solid displays from Keelan McDonnell and Shane Conway at the back for Manulla frustrated Celtic and when Flanagan tipped Gary Walsh's effort over the bar there was a feeling amongst the Manulla faithful that the underdogs may have their day.
And with extra-time looming, Flatley chipped the ball over the head of Matthew Ruane before unleashing a venomous right-footed volley which flew past Adam Chambers and – with the aid of the post – into the back of the net just two minutes from time.
Celtic continued to press and conjured up numerous corners and set pieces but Conway and his team-mates held firm.
Late on Flatley nearly added to his tally, his delicate chip coming off the crossbar with Chambers beaten.
The miss didn't matter in the end as Manulla held on for a historic victory, one which was thoroughly deserved after a brave and battling display.
Philip Ruddy, Gary Walsh, Sean Conlon and Noe Baba impressed for Celtic while the victors had excellent displays from Shane Conway, Sean Morrissey, Jesse Devers and goal scorer Liam Flatley.
Castlebar Celtic 0
Castlebar Celtic: A. Chambers, P. Ruddy, M. Howley, M. Ruane, S. Conlon, S. McDermott, C. Lisibach, G. Walsh, M. Sweeney, N. Baba, S. Hastings.
Subs used: J. Hunt.
Manulla: M. Flanagan, S. Morrissey, S. Conway, L. Henry, K. McDonnell, B. Freyne, L. Flately, G. McHale, J. Devers, L. Ralph, M. Bell.
Subs used: D. Padden.
♦Star rating: Liam Flatley...match winner.