LAWSON CUP FINAL - Janesboro 2 Ballynanty 1
The curtain finally came down on the 2017/18 local football scene with the highly sought after Lawson Cup Final taking place last Saturday in Jackman Park.
The game was played before a large attendance at local headquarters. The cup final did not really ignite until the last portion of the game but when it lit up it really shone in an epic climax.
Recently crowned Premier league winners Janesboro had to re-jig their side somewhat as usual net-minder John Mulready along with John Tierney and Niall Hanley were out due to holidays.
As for Ballynanty, a side who were going for three Lawson cups in a row, they had their full squad to choose from.
This game had all the hall-marks to be a close affair and the watching supporters saw a ding dong battle unfold.
Neither side were quick out of starting blocks as one would expect the opening ten minutes were a cat and mouse affair as both outfits just sprayed the ball around and there was nothing to threaten either goal.
The first real opening came in the 12th minute and it came to Janesboro when Danny O'Neill, who would go on to have a big 90 minutes, raided down the right flank easing his way by two defenders before hitting a brilliant cross field ball that picked out Adrian Power who in turn whipped a first timer in the edge of the area to Keith Mawdsley and the Janesboro striker turned away from his marker Kenneth Meehan and from ten yards his shot brought a top class save from the Ballynanty custodian Stephen McNamara.
A few minutes later a Ballynanty move involving Darragh Hughes, David Donnan and Kevin Nolan saw Nolan's sublime ball latched onto by Eddie Byrnes and his snap shot flashed just wide off of the angle.
In the 23rd minute a speculative free kick from Danny O'Neill just on the half way line saw the Janesboro player's effort carrying all the way into about two yards from the goal line and with no one willing to attack or clear the ball it bounced and the Ballynanty net-minder Stephen McNamara had to be alert to claw the ball away for a corner that proved fruitless.
In the next couple of minutes the pendulum began to swing with the Premier league winners and in the 33rd minute yet another free kick was quickly taken by Aidan Hurley and his pin point effort saw Shane Clarke ghosting in only to see his header skim the angle of the woodwork.
In the final minutes of the half Ballynanty's Jason Hughes threaded a firm ball into the path of Kevin Nolan and the Ballynanty number ten saw his 20 yarder flash wide to leave it scoreless at the break.
On the turnover it was Ballynanty who seemed to be that bit quicker to settle into their stride.
Early in the second half, the mid-field battle began to open up with Jason Hughes for Ballynanty and Janesboro's Lee O Mara beginning to spray balls left and right, but the central defensive pairings for both outfits kept close tables on the respective front runners.
Ballynanty's centre back Dermot Fitzgerald was unlucky as his 30 yard free kick was just inches wide off the angle.
The deadlock in this Lawson Cup final was finally breached in the 75th minute when the current cup holders Ballynanty took the lead.
Dan Lucey hit a brilliant ball up the left flank that saw David Donnan strike a quick fire ball into Jason Hughes who in turn played it quickly back to Kevin Nolan. A well-weighted return ball to Hughes saw him conjure up a well-executed finish as he tucked the ball by the diving Larry Sheehan to the delight of the large Ballynanty following.
As you would expect Shane O Hanlon's outfit began to up their tempo to get on terms as efforts from Ben Quirke, Aidan Hurley and Shane Clarke were blocked by a strong Ballynanty back line.
However, in the 84th minute this game was all square as Janesboro's Thomas Clarke saw a ball into the area find his brother Shane. The Janesboro ace goal-getter was pulled to the ground leaving match official Brian Higgins no option but to award a penalty and it was firmly drilled to the net by Shane Clarke to tie up the cup final.
The game was far from over and the closing minutes saw the cup holders go close on two occasions to regaining the lead.
Firstly in the 88th minute Dermot Fitzgerald's long ball forward was flicked on by Derek Daly to Darragh Hughes and his whipped in ball was spilled by Larry Sheehan. In a good mouth scramble a clearance by Thomas Clarke saved the day for Janesboro.
Less than a minute later Ballynanty almost got in as Micheal Guerin's through ball saw Derek Daly getting in at the back post. However the winger blasted the ball over the cross-bar from close range and at this stage extra time was looming.
There was to be one final twist in the tie however. As deep into injury time the league winners launched one final attack.
Ryan Doherty raided down the left flank once he got midway inside the Ballynanty half he launched a long ball into the area which carried to the angle of the six yard area. Somehow ace goal-getter Shane Clarke rose majestically stretching every neck muscle as he peeled backwards. His looping header seemed to take an age in the air but it flashed just under the angle for a brilliant cup winning goal to send Janesboro faithful into wide celebrations.
Seconds later Brian Higgins blew for full time as the 2017/18 season finished in epic style.
Full credit must go to both outfits as they served up a cracker in the sun as the two goals notched by Shane Clarke saw finish the season as top goal-scorer edging out his team-mate Keith Mawdsley by one goal.
Janesboro: Larry Sheehan, Ryan Doherty, Stephen Bradley, Thomas Clarke, Aidan Hurley, Danny O Neill, Adrian Power, Lee O Mara, Shane Clarke, Keith Mawdsley, Kevin Murphy, Jason Doyle, Aled Harkin, Ben Quirke, Donie Curtin, Martin Sugrue.
Ballynanty: Stephen McNamara, Darragh Hughes, Dan Lucey, Kenneth Meehan, Dermot Fitzgerald, David Donnan, Micheal Guerin, Jason Hughes, Eddie Byrnes, Kevin Nolan, Derek Daly, Bobby Ryan, Jamie Daly, Paudie Hickey, Peter Ryan, Nikola Strok, Damien Conway and Daniel Daly.
Match Official: Brian Higgins