The Riedy Cup decider on Saturday night proved to be a very fitting first Final for the newly-named Mick Hanley Park as AK United and Shountrade produced an action-packed thriller in which AK prevailed 4-2 in extra-time.
Shountrade were bidding to win the trophy for the third season in a row but they suffered an early setback when AK opened the scoring in the 4th minute when Cathal Downes met Kevin O’Keeffe’s free-kick at the far post and headed in off the post.
However, it only took Shountrade four minutes to get back on level terms. A corner from the left wasn’t cleared and Joey Shire delivered a sideline cross that was met with a diving header from Shane Reynolds that went in off the post.
AK almost regained the lead two minutes later when skipper Kenneth O’Donoghue dribbled infield from the left and rocketed against the cross bar from 20 yards but they did go back in front in the 29th minute when Brendan McCarthy scored direct from a corner.
The first-half was played at a fast pace and the high-energy nature of the game continued in the second-half, with AK in particular full of running in the early minutes. They came close to increasing their lead when Mark Curran’s shot was parried by Donie Lenihan and then cleared off the line by Cathal Finn and when Brendan McCarthy headed against the crossbar from a cross by substitute Niall Maher.
Shountrade also had their chances, David Lynch’s 20-yards shot drawing a great save from Paudie Ivess, Denis Hayes glancing a header against the post from a corner by Shire and Declan Mullane firing over from a cross by Riedy but, as time ticked away, it looked as if the second-half would remain scoreless and AK’s half-time lead would be enough to see them to victory. However, there was an equaliser in Shountrade and it came four minutes into injury-time. Adam Reidy somehow managed to squeeze an angled free-kick inside the far post and his pumped-up celebration showed how much it meant to him. Shountrade were delighted to have earned extra-time but their readiness for it was diminished when Mark Mullane was dismissed for a second yellow in the last minute of normal time.
The first period of extra-time was mostly uneventful but there were two decisive moments in the second period. The first of them came when Maher and Alan Ryan combined to set up substitute Blaine Collins, whose shot was saved by Lenihan. The rebound broke to Downes, who capped a Man of the Match performance by steering home from an acute angle. The game was still on a knife-edge but the AK supporters were able to relax when Curran ran onto Anthony Cregan’s flick-on from halfway, stormed past his marker and kept his poise to fire past Lenihan.
It was easy to see from last Saturday night’s performance why AK are top of the table in Division 1. They have a class player in Downes, who is fast on the ground, strong in the air and intelligent in his positioning. His defensive heading, in particular, on Saturday night was of the highest order. Alongside Downes, Alan Ryan was a forceful and energetic presence, while striker Curran was a serious threat in the second-half and was deserving of his extra-time goal. John McCarthy and Anthony Cregan are both solid centre-halves, while O’Keeffe was a very prominent figure because of his dead-ball expertise and attacking forays from right-back. AK manager Ronan Hanley and coach Pat McMorrow showed that they have strength in depth with the impressive substitute performances of Maher and Collins.
Shountrade are managed by Kevin Lenihan, who is assisted by Joe Hogan and Tim Shiels. Their charges had a good go at winning the three-in-a-row but can’t have any complaints about the result. Their two scorers were probably their best players, Reynolds doing his best to make the most of what came his way, while Reidy’s increasingly-influential second-half performance culminated in the free-kick goal that will live long in the memory for its execution and significance.
While being a stalwart Shountrade clubman, Hogan is more widely known as the Limerick Desmond League Chairman and he exchanged his club jacket for his League jacket when it was time to present the trophy to AK captain, Kenneth O’Donoghue, who could yet have more acceptance speeches to deliver as AK are through to the semi-finals of the League Cup as well as being in pole position in the League.
AK United: Paudie Ivess, Kevin O’Keeffe, James O’Shaughnessy, Anthony Cregan, John McCarthy, Brendan McCarthy, Cathal Downes, Alan Ryan, Kenneth O’Donoghue, Keel Moloney, Mark Curran. Subs: Niall Maher for O’Donoghue (65 mins), Blaine Collins for Moloney (75 mins), Dave Dolan for B. McCarthy (85 mins), Jason O’Shaughnessy for James O’Shaughnessy (110 mins), Hugh Sheehy, Timmy Mulvihill, Ronan Hanley.
Shountrade: Donie Lenihan, Cathal Finn, Ryan McCarthy, Joey Shire, Bryan Meade, David Lynch, Mark Mullane, Richard Shorten, Tim Frawley, Adam Reidy, Shane Reynolds. Subs: Denis Maune for Frawley (56 mins), Denis Hayes for Lynch (75 mins), Declan Mullane for Meade, inj (81 mins), Denis Dunworth for Mullane, inj (102 mins), David Shire for Reidy (109 mins), Padraig O’Gorman, Mikie Doody.