In the twentieth minute of this clash young Abbeyleix midfielder Pauric Lalor was sprung from the bench to replace the injured Joe Bergin. Within a minute he had set up Abbeyleix’s opener and he went on to score the second and create the third as Athletic recovered from last week’s slip-up in this impressive win over an unusually off form Derry Rovers side.
CCFL Premier Division
Abbeyleix Athletic 3
Derry Rovers 0
Athletic named a number of changes from their 4-3 defeat in Stradbally last weekend, most notably between the sticks with former Dynamo Town keeper Daire Phelan taking over the number 1 jersey. That Abbeyleix recorded a much-needed clean-sheet reflects well on Phelan, but in truth Derry Rovers were the architects of their own demise with a lack of ideas in the final third that meant the Abbeyleix goalkeeper had a very quiet day at the office.
Right from the off Abbeyleix looked the hungrier of the two. First to almost every tackle and looking much more determined than their opponents, they started brightly despite the deluge of rain and they should have taken the lead fifteen minutes in when a superb Stephen Hawkins cross was somehow headed wide at the back post by the usually clinical Niall Wallace.
He didn’t have to wait too long to make amends however. On came Podge Lalor, and with his first touch he stole the ball from Keith Hickey and sending Hawkins through on goal. He could have went himself but he spotted Wallace in a much better position and rolled the ball across the face of the goal where the Athletic skipper sidefooted home from a few yards out.
Jimmy Dunne did well to turn a Stephen Hawkins strike around the post as Athletic looked to double their lead, and despite the odd counter-attack with pacey winger Ajibola Baridola at the centre of most of their attacks, they couldn’t find that killer pass in the final third and right on the stroke of half-time that man Podge Lalor fired his side into a two-goal lead.
David Moloney retrieved possession brilliantly and set Dan Coffey free down the right wing. Coffey’s low cross was parried away but the ball rolled dangerously across the 18-yard box where Lalor arrived at pace to smash a stinging left-footed drive into the back of the net which somehow stayed in situ despite the venom of the strike.
The second half was a subdued affair. Even at the interval a comeback seemed highly unlikely and as the second period went on a disjointed Derry Rovers rarely threatened. Abbeyleix remained well on top and although they too became a little bit scrappy they retained their shape and continued to carve out a number of good chances.
Anthony Coffey came close to making it three when Jimmy Dunne spilled a catch but Coffey failed to guide his looping effort into the roof of the net. Although few chances came at either end it was Abbeyleix who remained well in control and they bagged the third and final goal of the game with less than twenty minutes left. Podge Lawlor muscled Rovers’ Niall O’Hagan off the ball and his slider-rule pass cut through the visitors’ defence to leave Stephen Hawkins through on goal. The winger rolled the ball under the outstretched past Jimmy Dunne and the game was all but over. The win sees Abbeyleix remain in control of the Division 1 and on this performace few would back against Mick Gorman’s men look to be nicely on course for a second successive promotion.
Abbeyleix: Daire Phelan, Dan Coffey, Darren Whelan (Anthony Coffey ’45), David Brennan, Neil Cooney, David Moloney (Eoghan Fennelly ’71), Ger Fennelly, Oisin Carroll (William Bowe ’14), Stephen Hawkins, Niall Wallace, Joe Bergin (Podge Lalor ’20)
Derry Rovers: Jimmy Dunne, Johnny Jones, Lanre Yusuf, Paddy Clarke, Damien Nolan, Eddie Connolly, Keith Hickey, Samu Adu, Niall O’Hagan, Ajibola Baridola, Lukasz Rustukowna.
Referee: Alan Lynch