Newpark United A 0
Clover United A 2
THE HARD work is over - now Clover United have to play the waiting game.
The Rathdowney men, who made sure of their return to the Premier Division last week, kept in the hunt for the Division One title with a good display on Sunday morning.
Their 2-0 win over Newpark had a double effect. It kept them in pole position in the race to go up as champions, but also ensured their opponents are now out of contention.
“This was a huge win for us,” said a happy Clover manager James Meagher. “We would have been disappointed not to get the win after guaranteeing promotion last week.”
United went up despite a 3-2 loss to Callan United seven days earlier. However, that result was one of the reasons they haven’t secured the silverware already.
“We could have had the league wrapped up but lost games through no fault but our own,” Meagher added. “Thomastown beat us in a game where we conceded three penalties, while two defensive errors cost us against Callan.
“Despite that we have secured back-to-back promotions,” he added, reflecting on the overall positive. “We didn’t think that it would happen at the start of the season, but now we’re delighted to be in this position.”
With both sides knowing a win was vital it was no surprise that the game opened very cagily. Therefore you could hear the huge sigh of relief from Clover when Lee Kinsella bagged the opener two minutes into the second half.
The goal, when it came, arrived almost out of nothing. Ned Browne did well to keep a long ball in play, working it out for Barry Bowe to knock into the box. Kinsella was quickest to react, leaping highest at the corner of the box to flick a header over a sea of bodies and inside the far post.
The goal lit up a game that had been largely played out in the middle third until then. Henry O’Neill had the best chance for the hosts when he let fly from a free on the right side of the box, but goalkeeper John Browne tipped the menacing 14th minute effort over the bar.
Clover’s opportunity to break the deadlock came when Shane Dollard intercepted a ball in midfield and worked it on to Enda Meagher. A clever touch gave him room to shoot, but netminder Bobby Maher got down well to stop the 19th minute effort.
Having waited 47 minutes to get the first goal, Clover wasted just 11 more before scoring their second.
Full-back Willie Bowe’s volleyed clearance out of defence provided the opening, as he zipped a long ball downfield. Sub Mark Daly was on it in a flash, the speedy winger bursting past two Newpark defenders before coolly tucking a low shot past Maher.
The visitors may have eased off in attack after that, but didn’t slack off as they kept Newpark at bay. Daly had a chance to double his tally when teed up by David Phelan, but his long range 63rd minute shot was well kept out by Maher.
Sensing time was against them Newpark upped their efforts in the closing stages, but couldn’t get past John Browne. The Clover ’keeper was called into action to stop Eamon Conway’s bullet header six minutes from time, but kept his best save until last.
A defensive collision looked costly as sub Sammy Johnson threaded a low ball across the box. Henry O’Neill was on it in seconds and looked certain to score with a powerful right foot shot, but somehow Browne blocked the point-blank effort and maintained his clean sheet.
With their league programme now complete Clover must wait to see if Thomastown United can mount a late title challenge. Having beaten Freshford Town 2-0 on Sunday morning - a result which also relegates Town - Clover must wait to see if the Grennan side drop any points from their three remaining games. If that happens, the title is heading to Rathdowney. It would be a welcome reward, their manager reckoned.
“Thomastown’s win keeps the title race alive, but I’m delighted with the form of our lads,” finished Meagher. “We’ve been on top of the table for most of the season. We were determined to win our last game as we don’t want to finish second.”
Newpark United A: Bobby Maher, Henry O’Neill, Gerry O’Brien, Ray Meagher (Christy Drennan, 66 mins), Ger Wall, John Demez, Richie Drennan (Kevin Morrissey, 66 mins), Tommy Donovan, Sean Falsey (Sammy Johnson, 80 mins), Shane O’Neill, Eamon Conway.
Clover United A: Johnny Browne, Barry Bowe, Willie Bowe, Joe Gilmartin, Lee Jones, Shane Dollard, David Phelan, Enda Meagher, Lee Kinsella, Ned Browne (Vinny Cleere, 85 mins), Ray Bowe (Mark Daly, 46 mins; Damien Bowe for Daly, 90 mins).
Referee: Tristan Eardley.