A last minute strike from Kilcormac’s David Guinan plunged Ballybrittas deep into the relegation mire in a bottom of the table clash in Rath that could spell the end of Athletic’s tenure in Division 2.
CCFL Division 2
The Laois men just never got going in this crucial clash and although it looked like they would escape with a point, Guinan smashed home from a couple of yards out and Ballybrittas slipped to the foot of the table with their victors leap-frogging them.The only consolation for Ballybrittas was that fellow relegation candidates Coolraine were easily beaten by Walsh Island Shamrocks, but they will still be kicking themselves after putting in one of their most disappointing performances of the season at such a pivotal time in their season.
In an almost non-event of a first half neither goalkeeper was seriously tested. The closest Kilcormac came was a half chance from the edge of the box that the otherwise impressive Alan Conroy failed to keep down, while at the other end Eamon Dunne fired a long range shot into the arms of Kilcormac keeper for their only shot on target in the opening period. Ballybrittas in particular struggled to get into anything close to their top gear and it was the visitors who just about shaded a drab first half.
They didn’t have to wait very long after the restart to get their rewards, and when they took the lead five minutes after the break the game finally kicked into life. With a makeshift back four, Ballybrittas never looked comfortable in defence and after they failed to clear their lines, David Guinan forged through only to be bundled over in the box and referee Patsy Pardy immediately pointed to the spot. Midfielder Fergal Lambe assumed responsibility and he duly slotted home from twelve yards sending Athletic keeper Padraig Bannon the wrong way.
That setback woke a slumbering Ballybrittas up to the prospect of losing this crucial tie and for the first time they started to threaten the Kilcormac defence. With Alan Gaynor moving into a central midfield berth they saw a lot more of the ball and after fifteen minutes of huffing and puffing they finally found a way past the Offalymen’s rearguard. Steven Slevin did very well to control a long ball down the right flank and he powered his way through on goal. Although Trevor Screeney made a smart stop to deny Slevin, there was nothing he or anyone else could do to prevent Shane Mullins from firing the rebound into the back of the net from close range.
Ballybrittas knew that a win would be a massive boost to their survival hopes and they continued to press for that all-important second goal. They were still lacking that spark of creativity in the final third but with fifteen minutes left they could well have won a penalty after Shane Mullins was upended in the box under a hefty challenge from Joe Scully. It was one of those that could have went either way, but after awarding a spot-kick at the other end earlier in the half, the hosts were less than pleased when Patsy Pardy waved away their claims feeling that Scully had got enough of the ball to make it a fair challenge.
Buoyed on by that reprieve, Kilcormac managed to get back into the game for the final quarter of an hour. Substitute Bobby Scully snatched at a decent chance and sent his half-volleyed effort from just inside the box wide of Padraig Bannon’s goal but they weren’t to be denied shortly afterwards as they grabbed the winner right at the death. Alan Conroy floated a dangerous corner into the mix and when it was headed back across goal by Fergal Lambe, Dave Guinan was in the right place at the right time to bury a low shot beyond the Ballybrittas defenders on the line and hand Kilcormac a vital win in this titanic three-way relegation dog fight.
BALLYBRITTAS: Padraig Bannon, Dessie McNair, Michael Fitzgerald (Colin Kehoe ‘35), Alan Gaynor, Kyle Condron, Mick O’Connell, Eamon Dunne (Eoin Finlay ‘72), Shane Mullins, Steven Slevin, Darren Finlay, Tomas Loughman (Sean Gordon ‘81).
KILCORMAC: Trevor Screeney, Joe Scully, Brian Gorman, Shane Melia, Paul Funian, Alan Conroy, Paul Commins, Fergal Lambe, Peter Troy, Dave Guinan, Peter Hourley (Bobby Scully ‘67)
Referee: Patsy Pardy