Fading light rendered Fairview Rangers’ two-goal fightback redundant, as the final midweek LDL Premier Division fixture of the summer ended prematurely in farcical circumstances.
With the composed presence of John Mullane confined to the bench, Fairview failed abjectly to compete in the air against Janesboro’s newly-minted strike partnership of Shane Clarke and Kevin Barry.
Barry won the 15th-minute penalty-kick from which Clarke opened the scoring, when the powerful striker was downed by goalkeeper Peter Healy after profiting from a mid-air mix-up between Bobby Tier and Jonathan Hannafin.
More aerial incompetence soon afforded the hosts a second goal, when a simple clearing header was misjudged by one of the visiting centre-backs. With neither Fairview central midfielder in his vicinity, Arron Nunan profited from the resultant knock-down to drill a low strike into the bottom corner from range.
Clearly still struggling with the injury he sustained against Carew Park in mid-August, Craig Madigan was unable to provide the protection his defence is accustomed to from the tireless midfielder.
Meanwhile, in possession, he and his team-mates – particularly midfield partner Paudie Quinn – were guilty far too often of wasteful speculative long balls in behind the Janesboro defence.
That home defence, the leakiest among this season’s serious contenders, was rendered even more vulnerable by the dual absences of Aidan Hurley and Donie Curtin, in addition to Thomas Clarke’s continued injury lay-off.
A weary Danny O’Neill, who starred on his international bow against Northern Ireland on Wednesday, was twice caught by Darragh Rainsford at the back post in the first-half. The former Limerick winger narrowly failed to nod in Darragh Carroll’s deep cross, but made amends in the 36th-minute by firing home David Hannon’s square pass.
Hannon’s assist stemmed from a poorly defended throw-in, and the Janesboro defence was culpable again six minutes later, when a Quinn interception instigated a Fairview counter-attack that the right-side of Janesboro’s rearguard was not prepared for.
Steven Bradley, who deputised admirably at left-sided centre-back, was forced to come across and illegally attenuate Quinn’s dribble, and George Daffy produced a beautiful curler to net the resultant free-kick.
Mullane’s half-time introduction, in place of Madigan, added some much-needed steel to the visitors back-line, but the hosts continued to create chances through their aerial dominance.
O’Neill fashioned two headed chances for Clarke with his crossing – one of which was acrobatically repelled by Healy – but Janesboro’s clearest-cut chance of the second stanza was a route-one affair.
Just after the hour-mark, Clarke beat Mullane in the air to flick on John Mulready’s punt. Barry outmuscled a frazzled Tier to pick up the scraps, but struck wide of Healy’s near post when through on goal.
Structurally, the game had degenerated into an absolute mess by this point. With Fairview incredibly slow to re-form at defensive transitions, and Janesboro’s isolated target men evoking memories of Declan Considine’s Pike Rovers side by playing in a different zip code to their team-mates, oceans of space materialised between both back fours.
Amazingly, this wasn’t the most farcical element of the evening however, as referee Ken Gorman was understandably forced to call a halt to proceedings in the 79th-minute, due to fading light.
Quite apart from the ongoing risk of muscle injury posed by the relentless two-game-a-week schedule, attendees at last week’s dimly-lit midweek fixtures were keenly aware of the folly of continuing the unnecessary practice any further.
Dissatisfaction was rife, but the fixture secretary was unmoved, and tonight the inevitable abandonment came to fruition. Although almost half the season has been played in mid-September, stakeholders in tonight’s game engaged in an avoidable waste of time and energy for a fixture that is now likely to be replayed. Shameful.
Clarke (pen) 15′, Nunan 27′; Rainsford 36′, Daffy 42′