Kilgallon nets winner as Villa FC claim first FAI Junior Cup title

Waterford men edge tense decider at Turner's Cross as Limerick's Pike Rovers miss out for a third time in six years
Kilgallon nets winner as Villa FC claim first FAI Junior Cup title

DELIGHT: Villa FC players celebrate with the cup after the FAI Centenary Junior Cup Final at Turner's Cross. 

FAI Centenary Junior Cup final: Villa FC (Waterford) 1 Pike Rovers (Limerick) 0 

A first FA Junior Cup success for Waterford's Villa FC as Conor Kilgallon's second-half goal broke a grim deadlock in Sunday's decider at Turner's Cross.

Pike Rovers threw everything they had at Villa in the final 10 minutes but met with stubborn resistance as Villa FC made their debut final appearance in the Junior Cup count.

For the Limerick men, it was heartbreak once again, a feeling they have become all too familiar with after losing their last two finals in 2016 and 2018.

It took the better part of an hour for the final to ignite but the first half had its moments. Impressive skill by Villa's Dean Walsh nearly ended in a top-corner finish but Pike keeper Gary Neville kept it out. His opposite number Craig Dunphy was also busy as he tipped Robbie Williams’ excellent free-kick onto the crossbar.

Both sides had been in goal-scoring form en route to the final but that clinical edge was not evident in the first period. However, the quality of the fare improved significantly after the break.

Conor Kilgannon went close for Villa after being nicely set up by Cian Browne. Dean Walsh was becoming a thorn in Pike Rovers’ side and it was his pace that unlocked the door eventually on 52 minutes, as he got to the through ball before Pike keeper Neville for Kilgannon to roll in the opener.

CLEARANCE: Pike Rovers' Colin Daly tussles with Eoghan Rea of Villa at Turner's Cross. 
CLEARANCE: Pike Rovers' Colin Daly tussles with Eoghan Rea of Villa at Turner's Cross. 

Suddenly Pike Rovers were transformed. Villa keeper Dunphy was called into action when McGann’s swerving pile driver nearly deceived him. Rovers’ best chance came on 65 minutes as McGann beat two defenders and looked odds on to equalise only for skipper Heaslip’s heroic defending to deny him.

Dean Walsh had another golden opportunity to put daylight between the teams after Mark Walsh put him through on goal. However Neville saved with his legs and the rebound was skied by Cian Browne.

Evan Patterson and Colm Walsh-O’Loughlin were sent off late as tempers flared but it was not enough to knock Villa off kilter.

An elated Villa manager Conor Coad addressed the significance of the victory afterwards: “It’s a historic day for us and it’s been a massive season for us, we’ve never won our own local Premier League and to go and do that recently and back it up with this win is something we could have only dreamed of at the start of the year.”

VILLA FC: C Dunphy, J Kennedy (S O’Keefe, 90+1), C Signorelli (E Rea, 75), D Walsh, A Heaslip (C), L Walsh (M Walsh, 72), C Kilgannon, A O’Connor, D Walsh, C Browne, JF Tamen (A Conway, 67).

PIKE ROVERS: G Neville, D O’Neill (E Patterson, 67), W O’Donovan, P Mullins, A Lipper, E Hanrahan (P O’Malley, 82), R Williams, A Murphy (K Barry, 58, C Daly, 79), C Layne, S McGann (C), C Walsh-O’Loughlen.

Referee: M O’Connor

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