Stephen Daly (Mullingar Town) is tackled by Willow Park’s Michael Harney.

Willow crowned North kings after snatching it at the death

CCFL Over 35s Summer League Division North: Mullingar Town 1, Willow Park 2

Jason Keelan reports

Aidan Hyland’s double was the key to victory for Willow Park over Mullingar Town last Saturday evening as the Athlone side clinched the CCFL Summer League Division North title.

The early moments of the game were edgy with neither team wanting to show their hand. An aerial dual left Mickey Kelly needing treatment before the first chance was created by Brian Fogarty. His shot did not match the move as it trickled to Mullingar Town’s netminder Adrian Rapacki.

Town’s first shot in anger came from Mickey Loran but it flew over the top. At the other end, Willow worked a corner routine which ended with Damien Rushe firing just wide of the far post. Rapacki then pulled out an outstanding save to deny Michael Harney.

Fogarty did superbly well to keep the ball alive on the end line and when he squared it to Harney free on the penalty spot, his goal-bound shot was wonderfully palmed over by the Town goalkeeper.

Stephen Daly was strong in his hold-up play throughout but he ended a three-man move by being booked for an inexplicable deliberate handball at the far post when others were ready to shoot.

Town continued to put together several good combinations, the best of which ended with Stephen Fadian striking a low shot straight at Damien Kelly. Loran continued the Town passage of pressure by intercepting on the edge of the box but he shot over.

The threat posed by Hyland was growing and he had two chances in the space of four minutes before the break, both cleared by Mullingar.

Willow took this period of positivity through to the second half. However, they were finding it difficult to break down the Town defence, particularly Jason McGrath, who constantly spotted danger.

Six minutes after the interval, Hyland’s efforts were rewarded when he got his head to a pinpoint cross from Mark Nicholson to put his side ahead. Moments later, Hyland found himself through on goal but his touch evaded him and the chance went a-begging. On the hour, Daly received his second yellow card and Town had to play the remainder with ten.

Down a goal and a man, Town suddenly found a break. A long ball over the top was misjudged by two Willow defenders and Nigel Graham snuck in to slot past Kelly and level the affair.

Mullingar firmly had their tails up as they searched for the lead. Michael Fadian, in particular, showed composure and a keen eye for a pass as the game grew increasingly frantic. Half-chances came and went at both goals as the clock entered the final six minutes.

Then the killer moment as Hyland timed his run well, rounded Rapacki and slotted home. Mullingar did everything they could to find the leveller but with Willow a man up, they controlled until the end to clinch victory and, with it, the title.

Scorers – Mullingar Town: N Graham (65); Willow Park: A Hyland (51, 84).

Man of the match: Aidan Hyland (Willow Park). Hyland had a fantastic game, and clinches the accolade not just for his two league-winning goals, but also his pace, angled runs and awareness, which all helped his side to victory.

Mullingar Town: Adrian Rapacki; Jason McGrath, Mark Brady, David Masterson, Mickey Loran, Ed Cummins, Stephen Fadian, Michael Fadian, Stephen Daly, Johnny Keegan, Nigel Graham. Subs used: Daithí Garry, Vinny Timoney, Niall Whitney.

Willow Park: Damien Kelly; Mark Nicholson, Mickey Kelly, Robbie Shine, Peter Sherlock, Damien Rushe, Kieran McNally, Brian Fogarty, Aidan Hyland, Michael Harney, Brendan McGuinness. Subs used: Darren Nugent, Jimmy Shine, Paschal Dillon.

Referee: Des McEnery.