Newpark United A 1
Thomastown United A 1
(after extra-time - Newpark won 4-3 on pens)
NEWPARK continued a season-long hoodoo to book their place in the McCalmont Cup final.
John Dumecz and Bobby Maher were the heroes, the former scoring the decisive penalty and the latter stopping two in a tense shoot-out, as Mark Ryan’s side upset their fellow Division One side Thomastown United A to get into the May 27 decider.
The city side have now played Thomastown four times this season (twice in the league as well as two cup ties) - and haven’t lost a single game, drawing two and winning two.
And it was centre-half Dumecz who sent the Newpark support wild with delight as he stepped up to the last of the regulation penalties and coolly tucked it away into the bottom right corner of the net.
They may have ended with a roar, but Newpark were quiet in the opening stages of the game as Division One champions Thomastown stamped their authority on the match. They had Maher to thank for being all square after 22 minutes, the goalkeeper making an instinctive save to push Davy Wemyss’s close range header on to a post.
The resulting corner saw Thomastown go close again. Kevin O’Neill fizzed the ball to the back post, where Dessie Walsh nodded it towards Stephen Connolly, but he sliced his shot over the bar.
Thomastown were in control of possession for long spells, stringing some great passing moves together as they turned defence into attack. Newpark were forced to work for their chances, but weren’t too shy when it came to shooting at the target. They had two such opportunities on the half hour, but Kevin Morrissey’s drilled shot was deflected over for a corner while Shane O’Neill blasted high and wide when teed up by Eamon Conway.
Thomastown came back into life after that, but spurned a golden chance to take the lead seven minutes before half-time. Awarded a spot kick when Bobby Maher felled Davy Prendergast, Derek Lanigan assumed the responsibility but dragged his shot outside the left post.
The let-off proved costly, as within 90 seconds Thomastown were a goal down. Newpark hit the jackpot when Henry O’Neill pumped in a free. The ball came off a Thomastown defender before Tommy Donovan seized his chance, nipping in to send a looping header over netminder Paul Dunne and in off the crossbar.
On a high
Newpark were on a high, but could have taken a major step towards the final some 60 seconds before half-time. Again Donovan had the chance, getting his head to another O’Neill free, but this time his point-blank header was straight at a grateful Dunne.
Newpark were quickest out of the blocks in the second half and went close to doubling within a matter of minutes. Kevin Morrissey saw his chance when Kevin O’Neill’s attempted clearance got stuck under his foot, pouncing on the loose ball, but although the midfielder sped through Paul Dunne was quick off his line to make a vital stop.
Thomastown weren’t as fluid in the second half, but finally made the breakthrough after going to three at the back. With 11 minutes left they were back on level terms, hitting the net after a great move that linked defence and attack.
Kevin O’Neill won a tussle close to his own endline, then worked the ball up to the other end via Barry Maher and Derek Lanigan. Eamon Lyster whipped the ball across the face of goal, where Dessie Walsh added the finish at the back post.
There was little to trouble either goalkeeper for the remainder of the game or the 20 minutes of extra-time. Shane O’Neill could have had a chance when he latched on to Sean Falsey’s excellent 98th minute crossfield pass, but his control let him down at the vital second.
As for Thomastown, their best chance fell in the dying seconds. Paul Dempsey was the provider, going on a great run before firing in a solid cross, but Bobby Maher got down well to stop Dessie Walsh’s header.
The Newpark netminder had a big say in the penalty shoot-out. Although Barry Maher and Henry O’Neill converted the opening kicks, Maher denied Derek Lanigan for a second time from the spot when he saved with his knees.
Newpark couldn’t build on that, as Kevin Morrissey saw his kick come back off an upright, leaving the sides level. However, Maher was called into action again from the next penalty, diving to his right to push fellow ’keeper Paul Dunne’s powerful kick to safety.
That left Newpark with an advantage they wouldn’t lose as Chris Drennan fired a confident kick to the right. Although Richie Bolger and Andy Kavanagh hit the net for ’Town, Sean Falsey replied for Newpark before John Dumecz secured their place in the final.
Newpark United A: Bobby Maher, Richie Drennan (Sammy Johnson, 26 mins), Gerry O’Brien (Chris Drennan, 109 mins), Ray Meagher, John Dumecz, Keith Fleming, Kevin Morrissey, Tommy Donovan, Eamon Conway (Sean Falsey, 70 mins), Shane O’Neill, Henry O’Neill.
Thomastown United A: Paul Dunne, Kevin O’Neill (Robbie Kavanagh, 95 mins), Paul Dempsey, Richie Bolger, Davy Wemyss, Eamon Lyster (Marty Lawrence, 75 mins), Andy Kavanagh, Derek Lanigan, Davy Prendergast, Dessie Walsh, Stephen Connolly (Barry Maher, 59 mins).
Referee: Nicky Marnell. Linesmen: Eoin Walsh, Pat O’Connor.