The curtain came down on the Limerick District League junior soccer season last weekend with a thrilling Lawson Cup final between Fairview Rangers and Pike Rovers at Jackman Park. The game finished 3-2 to the Fairgreen outfit.
Pike were favourites entering the tie but Jason Purcell’s Fairview side had shown their capabilities in recent weeks beating both Ballynanty and Janesboro. Experienced former Limerick FC goalkeeper Barry Ryan was called into action to produce a superb save from a Paddy O’Malley free-kick early on.
Shortly afterwards, AJ O’Connor gave Fairview the lead with a thumping header from a James Fitzgerald corner. Pike responded well and forced an equaliser.
John Mullane was taking the Fairview goal kicks in the opening stages and Pat Mullins won a header and with Mullane slow to join the defensive line, Johnathan Grant stayed high up the pitch and set-up Colin Daly who struck low past Ryan.
Purcell’s side regained the lead when a strong run from dangerman Ross Mann resulted in the striker picking out the arriving James Fitzgerald at the back post who confidently slotted past Neville. A bullet header from Pike captain Pat Mullins ensured the teams went in level at the break.
The second half was less free flowing than the first but striker Robbie Kelleher reeled back the years when he went past Mullins before crossing for Mann to brilliantly head home to give Fairview the lead for the third time.
Pike introduced the likes of Evan Patterson and Eoin Hanrahan in a bid to change things but the expected onslaught never came and solid defending led by captain John Mulland and impressive left-back Josh Considine gave Fairview their first junior trophy since 2009.
It was a tough week for Mick Sheil’s Pike outfit who lost the Munster Junior Cup final in a penalty shoot-out the week previous as well as finishing runners up to Janesboro in the league just three days later.
The Crosagalla outfit did win the Tuohy Cup this season with a 2-1 final victory over rivals Janesboro at Jackman Park.
Shane O’Hanlon and Aidan Ryan led ‘Boro to their third league title in a row which is a great achievement for the club. Ryan was delighted with the achievement of securing the third league title.
We have been very consistent in the league. You are judged over 22 matches and we have the most points so we are absolutely delighted. It’s three leagues in three years. I think it’s 5 defeats in 66 games so it’s absolutely phenomenal what the players have down
The league victory came just two days after a superb achievement for the club in winning the Oscar Traynor Trophy for the Limerick District League. On relatively short notice, Janesboro were asked to represent the league in the competition due to the lack of a management team to select players from every club.
As league champions, Aidan Ryan, Shane O’Hanlon and the players were asked to represent the league and they did so with great distinction, securing the league’s first title in 23 years following a 1-0 final victory over Kilkenny District League thanks to solitary goal from club legend Shane Clarke.
Although the Oscar Traynor success represented a huge positive for the league, the FAI Junior Cup saga will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.
We had been looking forward to an all-Limerick semi-final between Regional and Aisling Annacotty with another representative at the Aviva Stadium for the final. It would have been a packed house at Jackman Park to see two young and energetic teams battling for a place in the final.
However, Regional’s quarter-final opponents Sheriff YC objected to the eligibility of Regional player Sosuke Kimura and following a protracted case that led all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Sheriff were re-instated.
The Dublin club went on to beat Aisling Annacotty in the semi-final as all clubs were informed on the Friday, just 48 hours before the match was played. Since then, Aisling Annacotty have lodged an objection against Sheriff and therefore the final between St. Michaels and Sheriff YC was postponed at two days notice.
While the FAI Junior Council dismissed Aisling Annacotty’s appeal, it is believed that the Limerick club are ready to take the case to the FAI Senior Council.
There is hope that next season the gap between the top half and the bottom half of the PJ Matthews Premier League can be bridged. Both Coonagh and Mungret Regional were promoted from Division 1A.
Carew Park and Charleville ended miserable seasons with relegation which was effectively known by Christmas.
Fairview Rangers finished the season strongly in both the league and Lawson Cup and if the club can hold on to the likes of AJ O’Connor and Ross Mann, they will be hoping to add the consistency required to re-invent their intense rivalry with the likes of Pike Rovers and Janesboro for league honours.
Ballynanty Rovers improved this season with a third placed finish. With just four defeats all season, it shows the standard set by both Janesboro and Pike that Donal Magee’s side were still ten points off league success.
All teams will be looking to recruit immediately in order to fight for trophies on all fronts next year.
But when you consider that Pike, Janesboro, Regional, Ballynanty and Fairview Rangers will all have eyes on further improvement, the quality of player required to keep all those sides competitive does not appear to be present at the moment. Therefore, it will certainly be an interesting pre-season and transfer period.