Portlaoise Town hosted Peake Villa from Thurles in the round of 32 in the U-15 SFAI National Cup at the leisure centre. Thurles played with the assistance of a stiff breeze blowing into the St. Brigids end in the first half.
Portlaoise Town 1
Peake Villa (Thurles) 3 *AET
For the first twenty minutes most of the play was in the Portlaoise half. The competition for possession in the middle third was very intense with both sets of players showing a willingness to put their foot on the ball despite the importance of the occasion. The Thurles twin strikers were proving to be a real handful.
However, time and again the Portlaoise rear guard of Kyle Enright and Darragh Kelly flanked on either side by Jamie Preston and Josh Hogan were very polished with their interceptions, tackling and most of all their ability to play calmly out from the back linking with their midfield under intense pressure from both their opponents and the breeze.
The first opportunity fell to Thurles in the sixth minute when a thirty meter free was cleanly held by Conall Rowney in the Portlaoise goals. Portlaoise counter attacked through midfielder Daire McDonald to Tiernan Cahill who slipped the fullback, drew the keeper and squared to Jason Horan who shot over the bar from 15 meters with the goals momentarily vacated. Two minutes later a fine Daire McDonald drive was well parried by the Villa keeper and Jason was unlucky to be blown for offside as he was about to knock the ball home.
Daire McDonald and David Olubowale were having a titanic battle with their Villa counterparts in the midfield, in particular Villa’s tall strong Spanish exchange student Alex Diaz was asking lots of questions. An intelligent slide rule pass from the Spaniard put his striker Liam McCormack in on goal. The number 9 shot just over the bar as the keeper quickly closed down the space.
Villa’s left winger thought he had put his Darran Stakelum through on goal only for Darragh Kelly to make an excellently timed tackle to avert the danger. In a wonderful Portlaoise foray right wing Ben Dempsey found Brian Smith who in turn squared for in rushing left full Josh Hogan only to be thwarted by the advancing keeper diving at his feet.
On the half hour fabulous interplay between McElgunn, McCormack and Rafter for Villa required Conall Rowney to dive full stretch to divert an excellent cross from reaching the Villa striker racing in on the back stick. Villa’s keeper, Josh Coady then showed his aerial prowess when he assuredly clutched a threatening delivery from a Darragh Kelly free out on the right wing.
Fine combination play between Jason Horan and Josh Hogan resulted with Tiernan Cahill shooting wide from fifteen meters under close scrutiny from the Thurles left full.
Thurles almost made the breakthrough three minutes before the interval when Alex Diaz for once scythed through the Portlaoise tackles before being foiled by the advancing Rowney who made a vital diving body block. Portlaoise threatened next when a splendid Daire McDonaaldl cross-field ball was carried down the right by Ben Dempsey, he crossed for Tiernan Cahill who was just offside.
Just on half time Portlaoise almost opened the scoring when Brian Smith played a one two with his keeper before delivering to Daire McDonald in the centre circle. Daire passed beautifully to Jason Horan who drilled a ball across to Tiernan Cahill who was well tackled by the centre half.
Despite playing into the breeze Villa went on the offensive at the start of the second half. Striker McCormack shot into the keepers midriff from twenty meters before he and Stakelum combined to cross for their sub to be thwarted by the keeper at the back post. Villa took the lead in the eighth minute of the half when Stakelum cut the ball back outside the box to his midfielder. The Spaniard controlled the ball and unleashed a powerful drive into the bottom left corner of the net from 20 meters.
Minutes later Stakelum found McCormack whose strong shot was well blocked by the Portlaoise keeper over his head. Portlaoise introduced Daryl Ntumba up front and moved Michael Culliton to left full releasing Josh Hogan to midfield in order to restore parity in a tiring midfield.
Within three minutes Portlaoise had their reward. Jason Horan and Daryl Ntumba combined and won a free on the Villa end-line. Ben Dempsey crossed beautifully and Brian Smith headed home powerfully from seven meters to level the game.
Portlaoise were now bossing the game. Michael Culliton created an opportunity for Jason Horan who from the left shot low and just wide of the far post. Jason then had a good shot well secured by the keeper. Villa countered wonderfully and McElgunn failed to connect properly with the goal at his mercy from six meters out.
Ben Dempsey was then off target having been set up by an excellent diagonal ball from David Olubowale. With six minutes to play good approach play between Josh Hogan and Daryl Ntumba resulted in Daryl being felled outside the Villa box. Darragh Kelly wisely chose to shoot low, however he failed to hit the target from a great position.
Moments later Kelly made an audacious interception on the edge of his own box to foil an excellent Villa offensive. His partner Kyle Enright expertly snuffed out yet another Villa threat. Just on the stroke of time Conall Rowney advanced smartly from his line to make a great save from Villa’s striker.
In extra time Jason Horan shot wide of the right post having got the assist from Brian Smith. Jason then linked with Michael Culliton whose fierce cross shot went just outside the angle of the goals.
On five minutes a clearance from the Portlaoise keeper was intercepted on the wing by the Villa winger. He cut in field before playing a sweet pass through the centre. McElgunn wrong footed the defender by feigning to turn left while allowing the ball to run behind him, he then turned right taking one touch before planting the ball in the bottom left corner of the net.
Subs Luke Dunne O’Connor and James Wheeler combined only for James to have his shot blocked by a defender. Samuel Emmanuel and the busy Cillian Friel combined to create an opportunity for Luke, who shot wide of the target under severe pressure. Villa clinched the game when their excellent keeper came to his penalty spot to claim a dangerous Ben Dempsey cross from a free from the left wing.
He then lofted a monstrous kick down field with the aid of the breeze. With the Portlaoise centre halves out of position from the free the excellent fair haired Villa striker won the tussle for the hopping ball against a Portlaoise defender and he had the presence of mind to expertly lob the advancing keeper.
PORTLAOISE: Conall Rowney, Jamie Preston, Darragh Kelly, Kyle Enright, Josh Hogan, Ben Dempsey, David Olubowale, Daire McDonald, Jason Horan, Brian Smith, Tiernan Cahill, Michael Culliton, Daryl Ntumba, Luke Dunne O’Connor, Samuel Emmanuel, James Wheeler, Cillian Friel.