The Mullingar Town team that was defeated in the Paddy Cotter Cup Final in Leah Victoria Park last Sunday. Photos: Paul Molloy.

Mullingar Town taste cup final defeat

St Peter's 1 Mullingar Town 0

The first major silverware of the Combined Counties Football League season was claimed by St Peter's after Mark McConnell’s men edged out Mullingar Town in the Paddy Cotter cup final last Sunday afternoon. At Leah Victoria Park in Tullamore, just one goal decided the destiny of the trophy as Johnny Kiernan was the Saints hero when heading home within a minute of the second half getting underway. Mullingar staged a late fightback but were unable to score the goal that would have sent the decider into extra-time.

As a contest, the final never lived up to its billing as Peter's were on top for long stages against a cautious Town team. The opening half belonged to the Athlone outfit as idle goalkeeper Darcy Lawless was not threatened between the posts.

Scott Delaney was dominant at the heart of the Saints defence adding to Mullingar’s woes. The Saints signalled their intent by earning the first corner kick in the opening minute.

Next goalmouth action came on the quarter hour mark when Kiernan set up Luke Kelly who pulled his shot wide of the far post.

Ian Dempsey then sent a snap shot over with Scott Delaney having a further chance as the Saints pressed for the opening score. The finishing from McConnell’s men was poor though as Gary Kelly, Jordan Carr and Kiernan were all off target as the half progressed. Another corner kept up the pressure on Mullingar and the best chance of the game came just two minutes from the break.

Kiernan looked set to score but fired his shot against Town 'keeper Alan Farrell. A goal would have rewarded the Saints dominance but Mullingar, whose only success was in 2017, were still in contention to again lift the cup when the half-time whistle sounded.

The final was badly in need of a lift when play resumed and got it in spectacular fashion within a minute of the restart.

The Saints were celebrating with just 55 seconds played when Kiernan struck for what proved to be a winning goal.

Carr delivered a cross from the left and Kiernan headed home off the post. On another day, the ball could easily have bounced clear but fortune favoured the Saints on this occasion as the header from their number seven crossed the line.

The boys in Green now went in search of more scores but had to be content with just the one. Carr was off target on two occasions allowing Mullingar to still remain with a chance of drawing level.

Their first corner kick after 53 minutes was one of the few times though they troubled the Saints defence.

A counter attack could easily have seen the lead doubled as the Kelly’s, Luke and Gary linked up with the latter having his shot saved. Mullingar earned a second corner before the hour mark and two corners at the other end was the only noteworthy action thereafter as the half went on.

Mullingar finally became more adventurous in the final quarter of an hour as they looked for the goal which would force extra time. Nathan McCullagh had a shot blocked and a corner was earned as the revival gained some momentum.

The Saints had been caught by a late sucker punch in a recent crucial league derby with Willow Park, but there was no repeat of that earlier setback in knock-out competition.

The heat was sapping energy levels but both teams kept going to the final whistle.

Mullingar had suffered a blow when losing inspirational defender Jason Charles to injury midway through the half but made little of the loss.

Having replaced Jamie Loran, Tristan Finnane had the opportunity to announce his introduction for Mullingar after 81 minutes while Jacko McNamee’s men had their best chance of forcing extra-time two minutes later.

Sam Watkin took aim but his goal-bound strike was blocked by the Saints defence in what proved to be Mullingar’s best chance of grabbing a goal. Watkin had a further chance in the final minute but there was no late drama as Peter's held onto their slender lead. Five additional minutes were eventually played with the Saints having two more chances of sealing victory during this period.

Carr fired a free kick over the bar while substitute Nenad Lazic ended the action when shooting wide.

The celebrations could then start when the final whistle sounded as Saints captain Dempsey received the cup from League official Barry Hennessy.

It was the Athlone team’s first success in the competition since 2009. The Counties Cup is also on the agenda for the super Saints as they now look to lift the two major knock-out trophies in the CCFL calendar.

ST Peter's: Darcy Lawless, Niall Scullion, Adam Dowling, Stephen Barr, Scott Delaney, Luke Kelly, Jordan Carr, Ian Dempsey, Gary Kelly, Clive Harris, Johnny Kiernan.

Subs: Corey Jinks for G Kelly (72 mins); Nenad Lazic for Harris (76); John Duffy for Scullion (83).

MULLINGAR TOWN: Alan Farrell, Jamie Loran, Liam Brennan, Paul Reid, Greg Kozicki, David Dyer, Jason Charles, Nathan McCullagh, Sam Watkin, Daragh Kiernan, David Mimnagh.

Subs: Shane O’Keeffe for Charles (65); Tristan Finnane for Loran (72).

REFEREE: Dean Stenson (Mullingar).