Tears of joy flow as River Rangers win Byrne Cup

River Rangers2

River Rangers2

Thomastown United B0

THE TEARS flowed for River Rangers! They were tears of joy as the club celebrated winning a trophy dedicated to old and dear friends.

Sunday, April 29, 2012 won’t be remembered for the weather - certainly not at a weather-beaten Derdimus - but for the men from Kilmanagh it was the perfect afternoon. They finally got their hands on the trophy they wanted, the Division Two Cup.

“With respect to Thomastown United B, I’d say pretty much all of the clubs in the Kilkenny and District League were rooting for us in that final,” said goalkeeper Mitch Corrigan after the final whistle.

The netminder was probably right. The mighty ’Rangers won the competition named after two of their former team-mates, brothers Ken and Michael Byrne, who tragically died while playing for the club.

’Rangers’ world was turned upside down when Ken Byrne died while playing in the Division Two final in 2004. Tragedy struck again when his brother Michael died 15 months later while also playing for the club.

Since then ’Rangers had not reached the final of a competition named after their two colleagues, something they put right when beating Highview Athletic A last week.

Weight of expectation

Such was the weight of expectation on the side, it was no surprise that Tommy Manogue’s goal was met with a roar from the ’Rangers supporters and a clenched fist from the scorer.

The strike was good enough to win any game and it gave ’Rangers a foothold they would never surrender. Awarded a free on the right of the box, Manogue saw some hesitancy in the Thomastown wall and took his chance, drilling a low shot through a gap and inside the right post.

The goal came at the right time for Rangers, who had been steadily increasing the pressure on their opponents. Shane Butler gave United an early scare when his seventh minute free dropped over the bar, while Mason was called into action to push a testing Shane Murphy header to safety 13 minutes later.

Thomastown battled hard, but with the wind blowing every kick-out back into their faces getting forward proved tough. They managed to better the elements on a few occasions, the best of which saw Nathan Sherry and Dan McDonald combine to break through the Rangers defence on 23 minutes. The end result was a teasing ball for Owen Manning to race on to, but the midfielder was forced to rush his shot as netminder Mitch Corrigan dashed from his line to narrow the angle.

Temperatures dropped and the wind rose in the second half, but Thomastown couldn’t find a way back into the game. Brian Donnelly set up an early chance with a brilliant ball from the right flank which Nathan Sherry seemed certain to finish, but again Mitch Corrigan was smartly off his line to clear the danger.

United kept pushing hard, but the final touch needed wasn’t there. With Sherry pushed up front they had a focal point for their attacks, but couldn’t make them count. The young striker did well to steal inside Conor O’Grady and get his head a Donnelly cross on 55 minutes, but he flicked his effort wide of the target.

Lively threat

He went close again on the hour. Again Donnelly, a lively threat all day, was involved as he took a quick throw to Mick O’Keeffe. Sherry was first to the deep cross, but his header from the centre of the box flashed over the bar.

Rangers had lived on their nerves, but as the second half wore on their blue and black defensive wall grew in strength. Paddy Dalton and Darragh Murphy were to the fore at the back, while Shane Murphy and Tommy Manogue toiled hard to squeeze Thomastown out of the game.

Having played so defensively for so long, it was a surprise when Rangers almost grabbed a spectacular second goal out of the blue. Thomas Ryan got his head to a Manogue free hoisted into the box on 76 minutes, knocking the ball across to team-mate Shane Butler, but his acrobatic attempt was off-target.

They shrugged off that miss in style however, grabbing the goal that secured the cup four minutes later.

Ryan was at the heart of the attack, bombing down the right before spotting Gearoid Murphy moving into a gap in the centre. The pass was inch-perfect, as was Murphy’s run. Outmuscling Joey Murray, the striker sped through before slamming a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

Thomastown’s resistance was broken - Rangers were champions.

River Rangers: Mitch Corrigan, Paddy Dalton, Mark Hogan, Darragh Murphy, Conor O’Grady, Shane Murphy, Shane Butler, Thomas Ryan, Gearoid Murphy, Tommy Manogue, Jason Dermody (Brendan Hayes, 85 mins).

Thomastown United B: Gary Mason, Brian Begley (Jack Quarell, 67 mins), Dean Corrigan (Mark Prendergast, 81 mins), Joey Murray, Jamie Wemyss, Mick O’Keeffe, Nathan Sherry, Owen Manning, Dan McDonald (Mark Bolger, 55 mins), Brian Donnelly, Shane Egan.

Referee: Tristan Eardley. Linesmen: Ollie Falsey, Eoin Walsh.

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