AUL 1 29/04/06
Ballincollig 0 Ballyphehane Celt 1
Johnny Towler headed home the first half winner as visitors Ballyphehane Celtic took the honours when the top two in Murphy’s Stout AUL 1 clashed at the Regional Park on Saturday. A win would have given Ballincollig the title – it was their final game- but Towler’s goal and his five star performance means the title race will go down to the wire.
UCC are co-favourites with Ballyphehane, following their 3-1 win over Douglas Hall, and the pair meet on Saturday next in a probable decider, that is, if they have won their games tomorrow evening when Celtic take on Alberts while UCC play Lakewood. Ballincollig will be hoping for double slip-up and a three-way play-off is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Ballyphehane manager Dave O’Mahony, who has already seen his charges win the St Michael's Cup, was naturally thrilled, happy with his charges: “I didn't make any substitutes. They were on their game, no need to disrupt that. The defence was solid throughout and the midfield worked back to help them out. This was a great team performance and I would be reluctant to pick anyone out.”
” It looks now as if it will go down to the wire. We have two games left and if we win both, then we’ll win the league and that would make it a great double for the season.”
Although reluctant to single any player out, Dave wouldn’t have objected had Johnny Towler been named man of the match: “No, I’d go along with that. He was superb, he worked his socks off, scored the goal, was close to a second early in the second half and got us a few vital corners to keep Ballincollig penned back in their own half.”
Ballincollig’s best chances to win on Saturday all came in the first half but they were denied a cruel three times by the very same post, the one to the right of Celtic's new keeper Eric O’Sullivan.
Just seven minutes in, Stephen Nolan fired a low drive towards that corner but it came back off the post. Worse was to follow in the 36th minute. Then a rasping drive, a really powerful effort by Bryan McNulty, crashed off the timber and rebounded some twenty yards or more into the path of supporting defender Leonard Long. Long met it sweetly and his swerving shot looked destined for the corner until a swerve too many took it against that post and the rebound was cleared.
Celtic were already a goal to the good, the opener scored in the 13th minute. It followed a well taken free in from the right by Wayne Hogan. The ball broke off the crowd in the box and there, on the other side, totally unmarked, was Towler and he comfortably headed the bouncing ball past keeper Cian O’Callaghan.
Earlier Alan O'Mahony drove over the Ballincollig bar from close range when he should really have hit the target and later Eric Dunlea, on the break, drove over when racing unopposed into the Ballincollig box.
The second half was a tamer affair, the hot sun taking his toll. Ballincollig failed to exert any great degree of pressure and indeed the best chance came at the other end.
That was in the 51st minute when the busy Towler robbed a Ballincollig defender and then tried to lob the keeper who was in no man’s land. But young O’Callaghan somehow managed to reach up and get a touch and he then moved back a pace or two to gather and keep his side’s hopes alive.
But his colleagues failed to rally and the defeat means they now have an anxious week, as indeed do UCC and Ballyphehane. Watch this space!
Ballincollig: Cian O’Callaghan, David O’Callaghan, Trevor O’Mahony, Jason O'Leary, Mark Buckley (captain), Leonard Long. Thomas Galvin, Stephen Nolan, Bryan McNulty, Timmy O'Leary and Cathal O’Callaghan. Subs used: David Donovan for Nolan (56th minute) and Anthony Ryan and Paul Foley for O'Leary and D. O’Callaghan (both 62nd minute).
Ballyphehane Celtic: Greg O’Sullivan, Dave Bennett, Wayne Hogan, Philip Long (captain), Michael Lee, Trevor Dunlea, Alan O’Mahony, Danny Long, Johnny Towler, Jonathan Murphy and Eric Dunlea.
Referee: Denis Crowley.