Crystal\'s Martin Tynan is outnumbered in midfield.

Crystal's Martin Tynan is outnumbered in midfield.

Villa 3; Waterford Crystal 1

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Leading up to this game in Ozier Park on Friday night last the tributes continued to pour in for the much lamented Villa founder Frank O’Byrne who had passed away the previous week. Perhaps it was written in the stars that the famous old Waterford club should lift the Ardagh Cup on what was a very special occasion.

Football can at time be a very cruel game but it can also throw up a fairytale and that was the case in the soon-to-be-developed Ozier Park last Friday. It would appear that the Villa have only won this trophy on one previous occasion, sometime back in the early ’70s but in truth no-one could actually come up with concrete proof of that fact. It mattered lot a lot because the players wanted to win this trophy for Frankie and team captain Declan Furlong said as much. “This is for Frank O’Byrne”, he told the gathered attendance, receiving the heartfelt applause from all present. Waterford Crystal had already been crowned league champions a few weeks earlier and they took this defeat just like the champions that they are. They applauded their victors and congratulated them on their magnificent triumph. Now that is the sign of true champions and their attitude added greatly to what was an extraordinary evening in many ways. Teams do not win cups on sentiment alone however and on the night the Villa were the impressive outfit through the 90 minutes. The Crystal players weren’t the tight unit that saw them crowned Premier League champions and as a result their double dreams went up in smoke.

So the curtain has fallen on the Premier season of 2007-08 and what a season it has proved to be. Crystal, league champions. Villa, cup winners, and Carrick United, FAI Cup kings. Not a bad nine months at all, and already we are looking forward to the new term which will kick off in August. It was fitting that a season like the one just finished at Premier level should end in the manner in which it did. The script writer certainly came up trumps in recent weeks.

Early goal

Waterford Crystal almost fell behind as early as the 2nd minute when Declan Woodgate fired in a low effort from just inside the penalty area but goalkeeper Derek Hearne produced a wonderful diving save. Four minutes later at the other end Keith Sheridan tried his luck with a left footed free from the left but his effort went narrowly over Philip Tobin’s upright.

Villa took the lead after 11 minutes in fine style. Conor McDonald split the Crystal defence with a delightful ball from 35 yards. Woodgate raced forward to meet the ball, drew Derek Hearne and superbly placed the ball into the back of the net from 14 yards.

Crystal were not really creating anything at this stage. However a little bit of magic from defender David McEvoy brought them back into the game on 22 minutes. The classy No 4 played a beautiful ball 60 yards forward from deep inside his own half and after allowing the ball to bounce once Diarmuid Delehunty hooked a shot past Philip Tobin from the right side of the penalty area.

Two minutes later Philip Tobin had to be alert to prevent Crystal from taking the lead by spreading himself to save from Jason Foran who had charged forward from the back.

The Villa were dealt a blow on 33 minutes when Woodgate had to leave the field with a leg injury; he was replaced by Danny Walsh, a player who was to enjoy a wonderful moment later on. Five minutes before half-time Derek Hearne displayed his class once again by tipping over a header from Ian Cantwell.

Back in front

Philip Tobin, in the Villa goal in place of the unavailable Cian O’Brien, produced a great save from Diarmuid Delehunty 3 minutes into the second half following a cross from Martin Tynan, but it was the Villa who regained the lead on 53 minutes. Des Mullet went down the right flank before releasing Conor McDonald and the former Waterford United player sent the ball into the far corner of the net from an acute angle out on the right.

The game was almost put beyond reach of Crystal two minutes later when Danny Walsh rounded Hearne but he lost his composure and shot over the crossbar. Crystal made changes but it made no difference and Paul Omotoso nearly increased Villa’a advantage on 78 minutes only to shoot straight at Hearne from a decent position.

But the winners put the icing on the cake a minute into injury time when Danny Walsh scored a truly excellent goal by taking a pass from Ian Cantwell before rounding Hearne and brilliantly firing home. Seconds later the celebrations were underway and a glorious chapter was written into the Villa history in an unforgettable week for the club.

Villa: Philip Tobin, Niall Henneberry, Danny Sheridan, Declan Furlong, Ian Sullivan, Paul Omotoso, Ian Cantwell, Tadhg Kirby, Declan Woodgate, Conor McDonald, Dessie Mullett. Subs: Danny Walsh for Woodgate (33 mins), Jimmy Barry for Kirby (57 mins), Fergus McDonald for Sheridan (83 mins). Subs not used: Ian Hatton, Paddy Davis.

Waterford Crystal: Derek Hearne, Niall Butler, Jason Foran, David McEvoy, Paul Wyse, Mitchel Casey, Martin Tynan, Keith Sheridan, Diarmuid Delehunty, Joe Watson, Gavin Roche. Subs: Robbie Butler for Casey (64 mins), Jimmy Barden for Wyse (74 mins), Jason Halloran for Delehunty (83 mins). Subs not used: Pat Dobbyn, Brendan Rea, Martin Strumble, Paul Quinlan.

Referee. Paul O’Keeffe.