Tullamore Town put a dent in Abbeyleix’s Division 1 title hopes when they arrived at Fr. Breen Park and took al three points with a competent display that stifled the hosts who failed to create enough chances up front and slipped to their second defeat of the season against their nearest challengers.
Athletic remain top but the manner of this defeat to Tullamore will be a worry. Town were by no means totally dominant, but they restricted Abbeyleix with a well-drilled defensive performance and took their chances from two set pieces to move within three points of the league leaders. It could all have been so different and had Oisin Carroll converted a good chance less than ninety seconds in, they could easily have gone on to win the game with ease.
A brilliant passage of play down the left wing between Stephen Hawkins and skipper Niall Wallace saw Hawkins scamper free and such was the power behind his low shot, Tullamore stopper Ciaran Carragher could only parry the shot back into the danger area. Carroll was first to react but his guided right-foot effort rose too quickly and sailed narrowly over the bar from ten yards out. It was a huge let-off for the visitors, and one that they would punish severely as the game wore on.
Abbeyleix remained in control of possession for the half without creating much in the way of scoring chances, and when Tullamore broke the deadlock on the half hour, it was slightly against the run of play. A superb in-swinging corner from former Mountmellick Utd forward Niall Lynch caused havoc in the Abbeyleix rearguard and striker T9 rose highest to power an unstoppable header past A1 to hand his side a 1-0 lead at the break.
The hosts were on top again after the restart as Tullamore sat back on their lead. A4 and Conor Bergin both came close to finding the equaliser as they upped the tempo but apart from those two opportunities Tullamore kept Abbeyleix at bay and the longer the tie went on the less likely Abbeyleix looked like finding a way back.
Any chances of that happening were well and truly dashed with fifteen minutes left however when another pinpoint Niall Lynch delivery brought about Town’s second goal. Lynch whipped in a free from the edge of the area and with Tullamore players queuing up at the back post to finish it off Anthony Coyne was the one who did the trick with the simplest of headers.
Abbeyleix were given a ray of hope a minute later when Tullamore midfielder picked up the second of two needless yellows but even with ten men Town looked comfortable and indeed it was them who came closest to adding another as the final whistle approached. T9 should have bagged his second when he pounced on a poor kick out from A1 but the Abbeyleix keeper recovered with a good save. Tullamore saw out the job however and this could prove to be a decisive result in the race for Division 1 glory come the end of the season.
ABBEYLEIX: David Bonham, Tom Bergin (David Cole 76), Darren Whelan (Conor Bergin 45), Neil Cooney, David Brennan, Eoin O’Brien, Adrian Stynes (Daniel Coffey 36), Oisin Carroll, Stephen Hawkins, Niall Wallace, Scott Conroy.
TULLAMORE: Ciaran Carragher, Anthony Heffernan, Anthony Coyne, Darragh Gorman, Willie Duffy (Stephen Duffy 20), Jody Duffy, Trevor Francis (Mattie Carragher 51), Aidan Nicholson, Johnny Donoghue, Niall Lynch, Alan Martin.
Referee: Kevin Conroy