Janesboro are four points away from regaining the LDL Premier Division crown, after a routine victory over Regional United at Pearse Stadium.
Taking temporary charge, in the wake of former player-manager Brian O’Callaghan’s departure, Gordon Cowpar was faced with a familiar Regional problem.
Perennially faced with selection issues for midweek fixtures, Regional were forced to cope without target man Stephen Keeley for this one, with midfielder Mikey Lyons also unavailable from the start.
Returning from suspension, Janesboro co-manager Shane O’Hanlon collaborated with Aidan Ryan on one enforced change from the team that secured a vital April 2 win over Pike Rovers. Thomas Clarke returned from his own ban at the heart of defence, replacing Steven Bradley, who accrued four yellow cards.
Despite their well-earned reputation as a taller-than-average team, Regional’s struggle to defend set-pieces cost them parity in the eighth minute. Aled Harkin’s corner-kick bypassed goalkeeper Timmy Dalton in the six-yard box, with John Boyle profiting from the resultant back-post scramble to slam home from eight yards.
Shane Clarke’s attempt to head home a John Tierney corner-kick was foiled by Michael Guerin’s goal-line clearance, but Janesboro’s leading marksman doubled his side’s advantage from the spot soon after.
Boyle was involved again, popping a diagonal over the head of left-back Shane Cox for Tierney, whose low right-wing cross was deflected into Clarke’s path. Dalton advanced from his line and fouled the striker, allowing Clarke to draw level with Regional hitman Olly O’Driscoll on 14 goals for the season.
Dalton, despite being the last man between Clarke and goal, correctly received only a yellow card from referee Martin Monaghan, with the recently-instituted ‘triple jeopardy rule’ saving his bacon.
Clarke’s brother Thomas got in on the chance-creation act in the 21st-minute, when his long ball went under Kieran O’Connell’s right-boot, putting Danny O’Neill through on goal. Alas for the hosts, the winger’s strike was underhit and directed straight at Dalton.
Regional then gained a foothold in the game, without really threatening John Mulready’s goal, until Evan Patterson jinked past Boyle in midfield to create a rare chance for the visitors. The young midfielder picked out a delightful lobbed through-pass for Colm Hyland, who lifted the ball over Mulready, forcing Thomas Clarke to clear off the line.
And Regional right-back Ian Hughes repeated his fellow defender’s feat just before half-time, blocking Tierney’s point-blank effort, after Clarke had skinned O’Connell on the right-edge of the Regional area.
It was more of the same in the second-half, with O’Neill wasting a Tierney through-ball in the opening minutes by striking another penalty-area effort straight at Dalton. Thomas Clarke then struck the bar seconds later, from a Tierney corner-kick, as Regional’s set-piece woes continued to compound.
Eventually, Shane Clarke wrapped this one up with a wonderful goal just before the hour-mark, surpassing O’Driscoll at the top of the goalscoring chart in the process.
Controlling Mike Ryan’s lofted right-wing pass on his chest, and bypassing O’Connell by so doing, Clarke then lifted the ball over an advancing Dalton, before finishing with aplomb into an empty net.
That was Regional’s cue to move to a three-man defensive system in pursuit of an unlikely comeback, and while decent chances for Guerin and David Cowpar came and went, that never looked like materialising.
Instead, it was super-sub Kevin Barry who bagged a fourth for the league leaders in injury-time — the striker’s third scoring effort from the bench this season.
Boyle 8′, Clarke 17′ (pen), 58′, Barry 90+2′
Man of the Match