JOHN COTTER was the toast of Avondale United last night after his last-gasp winner helped the Leesiders retain the FAI Intermediate Cup at rain-swept Turner’s Cross.
Both sides had their chances to claim the title following an edgy and sometimes frantic battle, and with the clock ticking ominously towards extra-time, the Avondale skipper popped up in the five yard box in the 91st minute to knock home Eoghan Lougheed’s corner. In so doing, the ‘Dale became the first Cork club to win back-to-back Intermediate Cups.
Cotter’s late strike will be the lasting memory from a final where Bangor will rue some golden opportunities, most notably in the 79th minute. Keith Madden ghosted in behind the ‘Dale defence and, with just David O’Keeffe standing between him and glory, the forward turned his shot wide.
But over 90 minutes, Bangor faced a goalkeeper at the top of his game. O’Keeffe made two crucial saves in each half, attempts destined to hit the net but for his superb reflexes.
Bangor, who were appearing in their first Intermediate Cup final, played some wonderful football in the first-half, switching their points of attack at ease and creating the best goal scoring opportunities. In a team sprinkled with skilful operators in Terry Gleeson and Brian Mooney, the south Dublin side failed to translate their first-half possession into scores.
At half time Avondale manager, John Caulfield made a crucial switch, bringing Robert O’Mahony on to play on the left flank. O’Mahony, who plays gaelic football with St Finbarr’s, immediately caused the Bangor defence problems with his pace, skill and cultured left boot and was the catalyst for much of Avondale’s good football in the second period.
Caulfield, who has now masterminded his second FAI Intermediate Cup success for Avondale, cut a proud figure afterwards and, while having sympathy for Bangor’s plight, felt his side got just-reward following the difficult journey they faced in reaching the final.
“Throughout the year we were away to UCC, Cobh Ramblers, Mayfield, Cherry Orchard and Kildrum Tigers — we’ve travelled the country and while we may have rode our luck a bit today, our attitude and determination shone through.
Caulfield added: “In 80 years of the competition to become the first Cork team to put back to back titles together is a tremendous achievement. At half-time you’d probably have backed Bangor, but there’s incredible attitude and spirit in this team. Our defending, particularly in the last fifteen minutes when our legs seemed to be gone, was superb.”
O’Keeffe, who picked up the man of the match award, was called on to rescue the ‘Dale in the 10th minute, tipping over a dangerously in-swinging Brian Mooney corner. Three minutes later, the United custodian pulled off an incredible save when Mooney’s cross found Laurence Dunne, but the latter’s close-range effort was kept out.
Avondale survived relentless Bangor pressure, thanks largely to Noel Hartigan and Barry O’Sullivan in defence and the midfield industry of John Cotter and Tony Tynan, while stand-alone striker Derek McCarthy worked extremely hard on crumbs of possession.
Eleven minutes from time, Madden had a golden opportunity to put the Dubliners one up but fluffed his chance. As the seconds ticked down, Avondale had one last chance to create history and, when Lougheed swung over the corner, the Bangor defence was caught napping as the ball flew off Cotter’s thigh and into the net.
AVONDALE UNITED: D O’Keeffe; B O’Sullivan, T Hughes, N Hartigan, E Lougheed; T Tynan, J Cotter (c), M Kiernan (K Bruton 72), R Giltinan, A Knowles (R O’Mahony ht); D McCarthy.
BANGOR CELTIC: B Kennedy; B Fagan, A Mitchell, B Savage, D White (c); P Downey, T Gleeson, L Dunne, B Mooney; b Devlin, K Madden (P Devlin 91)
Referee: D O’Mahony (Cork).
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