Callan United 1
Thomastown United A 4
THE WAIT is over - Thomastown United are back in the Premier Division.
It was celebration time for the Blues as their three-year stay outside the top flight came to an end on Saturday evening.
The Grennan side earned their promotion with a well-deserved win over Callan United, themselves also chasing a place in the top flight. With both sides fighting for the right to play in the Premier Division next season, it was no surprise that the do-or-die game attracted a good crowd of supporters.
’Town opened brightly, quickly pushing for a quick path to goal. A neat Stephen Connolly flick sent Dessie Walsh through, but Michael Hartley was alive to the threat and snuffed out the danger with a timely intervention.
Undaunted, Thomastown kept driving on. Their persistence paid off, as they had the lead they craved by the 17th minute. Derek Lanigan provided the initial ball, but when Dessie Walsh’s shot was stopped David Prendergast was there to finish the loose ball from a matter of yards out.
Buoyed by that goal Thomastown went looking for another. Walsh almost had it just 60 seconds later when he bore down on the target, but his close range shot was well stopped by Callan’s in-form netminder Eoin Wall.
The hosts sparked into life after that, doing their best to get back into the game but they couldn’t find a way past the Thomastown defence. The visitors, for their part, had two shouts for penalties turned down before John Mark Egan forced them to live on their nerves, sending a searing 20-yard drive narrowly over Paul Dunne’s crossbar after the half hour.
That chance seemed to steel Callan, who turned the title race on its head when they grabbed an equaliser in the dying seconds of the half.
Michael Dunne was the architect, splitting wide open with a telling pass. Jason Kearney sped through, leaving the Thomastown defence for dead before coolly firing the ball past the advancing Paul Dunne from 18 yards.
The second half took its time to get going, but once Thomastown upped the tempo they moved closer to finding a way back into the lead. They went really close when a Prendergast shot was parried by Eoin Wall, but just as Derek Lanigan was poised to pounce Wall recovered to snuff out the danger.
The pressure began to mount, with Thomastown captain Andy Kavanagh heading an Eamon Lyster cross over the bar before the hour, while a Lanigan free-kick sent Walsh on his way soon after but again Wall made a fine save at his near post.
Just like in Callan’s McCalmont Cup win over Evergreen A a week earlier, Wall was in inspired form between the sticks. He had to move smartly to push a Prendergast piledriver over the bar on 67 minutes, and then came to his side’s rescue again to deny Lanigan from a Walsh pull-back.
Thomastown refused to give up, but although sub Marty Kavanagh hit the net on 80 minutes his celebrations were cut short when his strike after a great through ball from Prendergast was ruled out for offside.
With six minutes to go a rare Callan attack almost yielded a winner for the hosts. Robbie Wall went close to snatching all three points, but Thomastown heaved a sigh of relief when his brilliant effort smacked back off an upright with Dunne rooted to the spot.
Thomastown heeded the scare, storming upfield to take control of the game. They made a decisive step towards victory, sparking scenes of celebration when Lawrence cut inside to finish from a deft Walsh back-heel.
The danger wasn’t fully over, as Wall saw a free-kick whistle wide of the mark with four minutes to play. Sixty seconds later his evening ended on a low note, as he was dismissed for a second yellow.
Now with the man advantage and the wind in their sails, Thomastown sealed their victory with a late double salvo. In the dying seconds of normal time Prendergast whipped in a brilliant cross which Lyster laid off for Lanigan to fire home from a half-volley.
The champagne corks were popping when, two minutes into injury-time, Walsh found the net after some great work from Lawrence.
Promotion marks another chapter in what has been a topsy-turvy period in the Thomastown history. A side who won the Maher Shield, reached the latter stages of the Leinster Junior Cup twice in the last seven years and also chased for the Premier Division title looked to have fallen on hard times when they were relegated to Division One three seasons ago.
The fall could have been worse - they flirted with a drop into Division Two at one stage - but their return to the top could come with a silver lining.
Thomastown have cemented second place in the table, but victory over Freshford Town in their final game will see them leapfrog Clover United’s A team and go back up as champions.
Callan United: Eoin Wall, John J. Egan, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Alan Costigan, Michael Hartley, Joe Byrne, Jason Kearney (Cathal Byrne, 61 mins; Ryan Doheny for Byrne, 82 mins), John Mark Egan, Simon Burke, Michael Dunne, Robbie Wall.
Thomastown United A: Paul Dunne, Kevin O’Neill, Paul Dempsey, Davy Wemyss, Richie Bolger, Eamon Lyster, Andy Kavanagh (Marty Lawrence, 81 mins), Derek Lanigan, David Prendergast, Dessie Walsh, Steven Connolly (Barry Maher, 78 mins).
Referee: Ollie Falsey.