FAI Intermediate Cup Final
Avondale United 3
UCD AFC 0
Avondale United ensured their name will take pride of place in the annals of Irish amateur football as they equalled Old Distillery’s 72 year record of four successive FAI Intermediate Cups with a comprehensive victory over UCD on Sunday afternoon at Turners Cross.
Since the middle of the last decade, United have simply monopolised this storied competition; today was their seventh appearance in a final since 2006, their fifth consecutive final and, of course, the fourth year in a row they have won it.
That they are also on the cusp of a third straight Munster Senior League, only further confirms what we knew already; Avondale United and Sheriff YC, despite their recent faltering in the Junior equivalent, continue to be the standard-setters in amateur football.
Goals in additional time at the end of either half from Ian Stapleton and the brilliant Danny Long, sandwiched Graham McCarthy’s penalty 11 minutes from time, which was prefaced by the dismissal of UCD Captain Steve Dillon, though, perhaps, the scoreline is slightly flattering.
UCD were by no means sacrificial lambs, there only to be faceless passengers on Avondale’s storybook journey. Their conditioning and cohesion meant they remained a threat until McCarthy doubled the lead.
Avondale also had to overcome the adversity of losing two of their starting midfielders before the half-time whistle as Roy Long and Karl Caulfield were withdrawn due to injury. But they persevered, and when it mattered, seized their opportunities.
As one would expect of a side that has been in this position so many times before, Avondale assumed an early control as if they were entitled to it. Danny Long and the Murphys, Kenny and Brian were omnipresent in the final third, keeping the champions in perpetual motion and the students justifiably tentative.
Not permitted to get on the front foot, UCD sought to counterattack down the wide channels. Corkonian Conor Canon was, as always, a willing target; dropping deep and wide, looking to stretch a compact Avondale rearguard, but to no avail.
That said, Eoghan Loughreed’s failure to get any genuine register on Kenny Murphy’s inviting corner in the 11th minute proved the most genuine threat on Sean Coffey’s goal in the opening half an hour; attributable more to the challenger’s grit and organisation than profligacy from John Ryan’s charges.
However, just as the students began to cast a slightly bigger shadow, Hugh Davey had to make a timely block, as Danny Long looked to re-direct Graham McCarthy’s wayward drive goal-bound five minutes before the break.
Then, in the first minute of added time, Avondale struck. Loughreed hoisted in a looping cross from deep on the left, which an unchallenged Long headed into the path of Ian Stapleton, who clipped it past the onrushing Coffey from six yards.
Harnessing the momentum, Avondale began the second period with the same vim as they did the first, the only difference being their ability to manufacture goal threats, though their poor conversion rate could have proved costly on another day.
With great agility, Coffey tipped over Loughreed’s looping header from Brian Murphy’s whipped cross nine minutes after the restart.
Soon thereafter, Danny Murphy, positioned wide left, ghosted through Dillon and Brian O’Reilly with too much ease, before cutting inside Hugh Davey and dispatching an effort that had the beating of Coffey, but not the post. A piece of brilliance deserving of a goal.
Stapleton, jumping unimpeded, should have doubled his tally when Loughreed placed a wonderful centre on his forehead, but he failed to hit the target.
Despite the mounting pressure, UCD remained composed and never abandoned their approach of neat and swift passing, most notably the trio of Marc Whelan, Conor Cannon and Tim Molloy. But an equaliser remained elusive, with Michael Whelan’s miscued shot the only occasion the champions looked vulnerable.
In the 79th minute Avondale secured their place in history. UCD Captain Steve Dillon tripped Danny Long as he entered the box, compelling the Referee, Pat Murphy, to dismiss him for a second bookable offence and award a penalty, which Graham McCarthy slotted home with ease.
Danny Long then capped off the victory, and in turn reaped his reward for a wonderful individual performance, as he arrived late at the back post to finish off Stapleton’s low, fizzing ball.
Man of the Match: Danny Long. Involved in all three goals, worked his socks off throughout, and everything he did was steeped in class.
Avondale United 1. Daniel O’Leary 2.Brian Fitzgerald 3.Eoghan Loughreed 4.Michael Mulconry 5.Mark Horgan 6.Karl Caulfield 7.Roy Long 8. Brian Murphy 9.Ian Stapleton 10.Danny Long 11. Kenny Murphy. Subs: 20. Jason Greene 12.Graham McCarthy (rep. Roy Long 22nd, booked 46th) 13. Greg Kelly (rep. Karl Caulfield 32nd) 14.Dave Kelly 15. David Spratt 17.Barry O’Sullivan 18. Dave O’Keefe.
UCD AFC 1. Sean Coffey 2.Brian O’Reilly 3.Niall Wright 4.Hugh Davey 5.Steve Dillon (sent off 79th) 6.James Timmons 7.Marc Whelan 8.Fran Moran 9.Conor Canon 10.Timmy Molloy 11.Michael Whelan. Subs: 12.Conor Butler 13.Tristan Dent 14.Ryan McErlaine 15.Joe Keohane 16.John Kelly 17.Colm Feeney (rep. M.Whelan 77th) 18.Michael Arnold (rep. James Timmons 66th)