Despite wasting a hatful of chances, and weathering a late Aisling Annacotty storm, Janesboro secured the three points they needed to claim the Limerick DL Premier Division crown.
Games of greater significance have inspired a damaging loss of composure in front of goal for Janesboro this season, as this game’s opening two minutes demonstrated.
With only ninety seconds on the clock, Janesboro should have been two goals to the good and out of sight in the race for the title.
Instead, in the opening seconds, Shane Clarke got on the end of Danny O’Neill’s long ball in behind the Aisling central defenders, and screwed it wide.
Then, moments later, from a left-wing John Boyle cross, the league’s top goalscorer headed air first, before wasting his second bite at the cherry by blasting the ball at Stephen Walsh from point-blank range.
O’Neill’s freedom to advance, against Aisling’s narrow shape, was a key feature of this game. The international full-back later found Clarke again, with a back-post cross, but the striker chose to test Walsh rather than square to an equally unmarked Adrian Power.
Luckily for co-managers Aidan Ryan and Shane O’Hanlon, their nervy charges had already taken one chance to go ahead by that point.
Power skipped past an Aisling midfielder on the left-flank, teeing up John Tierney with a byline cut-back. Tierney duly laid the ball off to his right, for Clarke to hold off his marker, allowing Mike Ryan to score.
Aisling manager Mike McCarthy and his team felt that referee Donal Power should have awarded a free-out for Clarke allegedly going to ground in the box. That was a stretch, but the visitors did have cause to expect another decision to go their way, for a right-flank Janesboro foul earlier in the build-up.
McCarthy then lost veteran central defender Damien Collins to a facial injury, worsening his side’s defensive woes; woes that were compounded by the manner in which his side were defending set-pieces.
With seemingly every delivery directed down Walsh’s throat, and the corner-count mounting thanks to Janesboro’s dominance of wide areas, only one outcome was likely.
Eventually, one such corner-kick, from the left-boot of Aled Harkin, was allowed to strike the crossbar, causing Alan Connors to turn the ball into his own net in a vain attempt to keep it out.
Now two goals ahead, and seemingly cruising, Janesboro were still determined to make life as difficult as possible for themselves; as evidenced by Power’s shocking 10-yard miss, facilitated by Ryan’s powerful run through a sea of penalty-area Aisling bodies.
Power’s dismayed response showed that the southsiders were far from convinced that they had put this game beyond Aisling. And their fears were confirmed early in the second-half, when Jason Lipper scored direct from a free-kick with a marvelous strike to bag his eighth goal of this league campaign.
Home nerves continued to jangle, and familiar psychological frailties resurfaced. Barry Hooton’s long-throw, a hallmark of Aisling’s game this season, caused havoc just before the hour mark — evading the head of Connors at the near-post, with goalkeeper John Mulready in no-mans land. Somehow, the loose ball fell to a black shirt, who cleared.
Then, a trio of fantastic blocks denied Janesboro a crucial third goal. Goalkeeper-turned-defender Jimmy Fyffe was responsible for two of them: first denying a Clarke rebound after Power had struck the woodwork; and then blocking a goalbound Clarke bicycle-kick, after the striker was allowed to control a Harkin free-kick on his chest.
Finally, another Harkin free-kick was fired towards goalkeeper Walsh, resulting in a palm-out to Boyle, whose resultant strike was blocked on the line by one of Fyffe’s colleagues.
Minutes later, that high ball into the six-yard box finally paid another dividend, when the outside of Tierney’s right boot produced one in open-play, that was inadvertently directed by Walsh into the path of a grateful Power. The former Moyross United man duly deposited the resultant tap-in to increase his personal goalscoring tally to 10.
Still, Janesboro’s nerves remained uncalmed. Aisling substitute John Lysaght, featuring in what could be his last Premier Division game, spurned a wonderful chance to make it a goalscoring one with three minutes to go. Lysaght’s strike popped up into air after Mulready’s save, allowing Keith Mawdsley to nod it in for his 14th of the season.
With news of Nenagh’s late, late turnaround to defeat Carew Park filtering through to Pearse Stadium, there wasn’t an unbitten Janesboro fingernail in the ground as added-time approached.
Fortunately for the new champions, Aisling were unable to fashion another decisive opportunity before Power’s final-whistle kicked off the raucous celebrations.
Ryan 7′, Connors (o.g.) 29′, Power 72′; Lipper 52′, K. Mawdsley 87′
Man of the Match