Aisling Annacotty’s Evan O’Connor struck in extra-time to secure his side’s first taste of top-tier silverware since 1978’s Saxone Cup triumph.
Shane Clarke’s late extra-time dismissal in Killarney heralded Kevin Barry’s return from a long injury lay-off to lead the line in Janesboro’s 4-1-4-1 system. The beaten FAI Junior Cup quarter-finalists were also without their first choice central-midfield, with both Thomas Lyons and Donie Curtin forced to sit this one out due to suspension.
Richie Mullins, overlooked on Sunday evening, also missed out for the same reason; but at least junior international Steven Bradley was available again after his own brush with the red card against Navan Cosmos.
Robbed again of target man Jason Lipper, ineligible for the Tuohy Cup due to his ‘B’ registration, Aisling manager Mike McCarthy otherwise persisted with the same personnel and system that came a cropper in Broadford on Sunday. Keith Mawdsley was restored to the frontline, with Oisin Kelly introduced on the left of midfield.
And it was good work from Kelly that instigated events leading to Aisling’s 15th-minute opener. After holding the ball up in an inside-left position, Kelly laid it off to Chimka Manjor, who beat Thomas Clarke before being felled in the area by a sliding Bradley challenge.
Mawdsley planted the unsaveable resultant spot-kick smack-dab in the right-hand bottom-corner of John Mulready’s goal.
Evan O’Connor, he of the semi-finals brace against Pike Rovers, looked just as sharp as Kelly on the opposite flank, and Aisling were unlucky not to double their lead when the former Limerick FC trainee’s right-wing pull-back was driven wide from the edge of the Janesboro area by Mawdsley.
O’Connor was released in behind Aled Harkin by an excellent Patryk Staniszewski ball, but the centre-back almost turned villain in the 42nd-minute — fouling the lively John Tierney between the lines to set up a crossbar-rattling Harkin free-kick.
Tierney also delivered two earlier crosses from the right of the Aisling penalty-area — one to the back-post, and one to the near — neither of which were snaffled by Adrian Power or Barry, underlining the importance of Shane Clarke’s absence.
Power did pick the ball up in behind Aisling right-back Neil O’Brien in the opening seconds of the second-half, but the former Moyross United winger ultimately skewed Mike Ryan’s excellent pass well wide of Stephen Walsh’s right-hand post.
Things went from bad to worse for Power a few minutes later. Having survived a dubious 7th-minute penalty shout, the industrious winger eventually saw yellow — as he did on Sunday in Killarney — for simulation, with Staniszewksi in close attention.
Referee Brian Higgins’ yellow card was out again on the hour-mark, resulting in the dismissal of Thomas Clarke. Janesboro’s forward push in search of an equaliser was always going to expose their relative lack of pace, and so it proved when the experienced centre-back brought O’Connor down on the left-wing to arrest a counter-attack.
Co-manager Shane O’Hanlon also got his marching orders for protesting, before colleague Aidan Ryan removed holding-midfielder David Donnan, reorganising his side into a 3-4-1-1 formation with Shane Waters introduced on the right-flank.
Moved from right-wing to right-centre-back, Junior International Player of the Year nominee Danny O’Neill very nearly cost his side dearly in his new position, forcing Aidan Hurley to bail out his underhit backpass with yet another saving-tackle to foil Mawdsley.
Yet, despite this let-off, ten-man Janesboro found themselves firmly in the ascendancy after their change of shape. Perhaps rattled by the sudden growth in the ‘Boro’s frontline, Aisling retreated into their collective shell, with Stephen Goggin lucky not to go for a second-bookable offence of his own.
When Damien Collins cleared a back-post Waters effort off the line, after Tierney had spun Staniszewski on the left-flank, things looked very ominous indeed. And, indeed, mere seconds later, ‘Wobbler’ brushed off Ryan in the box to concede what was universally hailed as an extremely soft penalty.
Hurley tucked it away nonetheless — but not before Walsh saved it, and allowed it to trickle under his body and over the line.
Walsh, the standout in Broadford on Sunday, was involved again at the death, underhitting a pass, and forcing O’Brien to react quickly and prevent Power from alighting upon the loose ball.
But it was Aisling, against the run of play, that should have won it in injury-time. More good work from O’Connor facilitated a pinpoint Brian Butler back-post cross that Mawdsley somehow contrived to turn wide.
That miss heralded a 20-minute period of extra-time, in which Janesboro picked up where they left off. Bravely maintaining that perilous 3-4-1-1 shape, they immediately fashioned a chance for Waters — from a Jamie O’Sullivan pass — that Walsh did well to smother.
And Janesboro were emphatically punished for wasting their purple-patch in the first minute of the second-half, when O’Connor capped another standout cup performance by completing a one-two with Evan O’Neill, dancing past both Hurley and O’Neill, before slamming a left-footer past Mulready. A glorious goal, worthy of winning any game.
Mawdsley (pen) 15′, O’Connor 101′; Hurley (pen) 78′
Man of the Match