Villa 2; Portlaw 1
The good guys do eventually get their rewards in football. That was the message which came out of Graun Park on Saturday afternoon last.
At a quick glance the final scoreline may not raise many eyebrows but behind it there is a heartwarming story. Some time ago, the local Schoolboy League committee decided to play cup competitions for the various grades, a move which was warmly welcomed by the majority of underage football lovers. That decision has proved to be extremely successful, because it has given many more players the chance to sample a cup final day, and needless to say to get a chance to win a medal which will be cherished for a very long time to come.
They say winning is not everything in football, but try telling that to the players of Villa and Portlaw. Both sets of players wanted to get their hands on the trophy and as a result they served up a thrilling game despite the high wind and pouring rain.
The victorious Villa team have been playing together as a group since their Under 12 days, and finally they got their hour of glory on Saturday last. Their manager, Neil Kelly was overjoyed to see the players he has worked with for over four years enjoy the best day of their young football lives. He had every right to.
Spare a thought for the young players from Portlaw also. The good folk who work so hard to keep football alive at ‘The Paddock’ would have loved to see their young side bring the cup back to Portlaw but alas it was not to be. However, going on this performance, their day will come also, sooner rather than later.
All in all this was a very special occasion, and congratulations to everyone who were lucky enough to be part of it all.
The play moved up and down the superb Graun Park from the moment referee Andrew Mullally got proceedings underway and the breakthrough came after 15 minutes. Barry Power found a little bit of space before releasing Kevin Flynn, and he gave the Portlaw goalkeeper Sean Archer no chance.
It remained one-nil in favour of Villa until the interval. Portlaw got back on level terms after 51 minutes. A nice three-player move saw Blake O’Connor finish off the move, leaving the Villa goalkeeper Mark Weldon with no chance.
Back came the Villa and they regained the lead five minutes later. Kevin Flynn turned provider this time, crossing to Aaron Gailbert who finished in superb fashion.
It goes without saying that Portlaw threw everything at the city side during the remainder of the game, but the Villa held out for a historic victory. On what was the weekend anniversary of Frank O’Byrne’s death, perhaps, just perhaps justice was done by the great man above.
Villa (panel): Mark Weldon, Mark Hobbs, Cieran Purcell, Ben Cross, Lee Atchinson, Paul Mates, Aaron O’Loughlin, Barry Power, Aaron Gailbert, Kevin Flynn, Robbie Lannon, Conor Kirby, Stuart Quilty, Jonathan O’Brien, Sean Harris, Cian O’Hara, Dean Butler.
Portlaw (panel): Sean Archer, Jack Butler, James Rooney, Mark O’Rourke, Denis O’Connor, Richard Fitzpatrick, David Kearns, Ivan O’Connor, Blake O’Connor, Darren Kiely, David Duggan, Shane Power, Darren Nugent, Alex Hackett.
Referee: Andrew Mullally.