Newmarket Celtic turned around a half-time deficit to secure a long awaited victory over the Limerick DL champions and advance to the final of the Munster Junior Cup.
Two slender reverses to Janesboro in both the FAI Junior Cup and Munster Champions Cup suggested that the Limerick side had Newmarket’s number. A tight first half of few chances, that the ‘Boro just shaded, did little to suggest otherwise.
Although the Clare side got in behind Janesboro left back Lee O’Mara on a couple of occasions, it was the Boro’s forays into the Newmarket right back area that looked likelier to produce the opener. Mike Hogan, fielded on the left of midfield, was looking bright and was unlucky to see an early effort deflected wide after Newmarket failed to deal with a Stephen Walsh goal kick.
It was no surprise therefore when Hogan opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, taking advantage of loose marking from David O’Grady to collect a Shane Clarke cross at the back post and fire past Niall Quinn.
This shot across the Newmarket boughs raised the temperature of an already heated encounter further, with a late David McCarthy tackle on Shane Clarke almost causing a melee before the half-time whistle. Fault here must lie at the door of the Desmond League officials, whose leniency in failing to punish two earlier Newmarket bookable offences was coming back to haunt them.
Janesboro’s narrow half-time lead didn’t last long. A brave challenge from the combative Michael Crosby won possession in the Janesboro half in the opening minutes of the second period. Ian Collins picked up the loose ball and played in striker Eoin Hayes, who had run in behind the ‘Boro left back. Despite the efforts of the advancing Walsh, the experienced Hayes kept his cool to slot it home and level the scores.
Despite this setback, Janesboro went extremely close to restoring their lead mere minutes later, thanks to more good work from Hogan. A clever first touch and cross from the winger teed up O’Mara in the six-yard box, who could only make contact with his shoulder. Aidan Hurley followed up at the back post, but was unable to turn it in under pressure from Quinn.
And then, Eoin O’Brien stepped up with a piece of magic worthy of settling any game. The Newmarket winger had been poor in the first hour of the game, guilty of making several unforced errors to cost his side possession. But his left footed first time volley to meet Stephen Kelly’s flicked header was something out of the very top drawer. Route one became the road to the final for the Clare champions.
Although Quinn produced a stunning low save when Tom Clarke flicked on John Tierney’s free kick, Janesboro never looked like forcing extra-time. The dual introductions of David Donnan and the injury-hampered Shane Waters did not change matters, nor did asking Tom Clarke to join his brother in the frontline. Newmarket sat deep, added an extra midfielder to the fray and saw it out comfortably; with Hayes and substitute Brian Monaghan spurning two glorious late chances to put the game to bed entirely,
Janesboro have now suffered the pain of two semi-final exits in a week, after last Sunday’s 4-1 reverse to Sheriff YC in the FAI Junior Cup. Although they were exploited at times in the left-back zone, they largely defended well here and gave up few quality chances to their victorious opponents. Janesboro’s real problem today lay at the other end of the field where, save for the efforts of Hogan, the Limerick champions were not good enough.
Marquee players with well earned lofty reputations have not been performing to those heights for some time now. Recent cup results, paired with a shocking 1-1 league draw against an Annacotty side that struggled to field an eleven, may indicate that this individual underachievement is beginning to bite for the southsiders. They will need to rectify this state of affairs quickly, if they are to recover from a difficult fortnight and successfully defend their league title.
Hogan 42′; Hayes 49′, O’Brien 59′