KDFL Lumsden League Cup Final.
(Report by Wayne ‘Bubba’ Doyle)
Clonmullion FC 1 Naas United FC 3
Mullarney Park Castledermot seems the perennial venue for the Lumsden Cup final. With Naas Utd back in a major final after a considerable absence, taking on reigning Double Lumsden champions Clonmullion FC. The playing surface on the day was in absolute pristine condition and a real credit to all the members at Castle Villa. Clonmullion were starting the game as favourites, looking for a historic three in a row Lumsden Cup wins. Naas Utd were undoubtedly relishing the mantle of underdogs and know anything is possible in the enchantment and magnetism of the Lumsden Cup football.
Clonmullion looking threatening from the opening kick-off after Jack Dooley raced down the right flank winning a corner in the process. Nathan Robinson whipped in the resulting corner with a superb ball that Gary Comerford volleyed goal bound but Keith Higgins stood tall, making a fine save to deny Clonmullion the early advantage. Moments later Comerford turned the provider as he gave Jody Dillon his first sight on goal, but again Keith Higgins made the save in a scintillating opening five minutes with Clonmullion really coming out firing on all cylinders offensively. Darragh Flaherty was proving the ingenuity for Naas out wide as he was really causing havoc for Jay Connell who just couldn’t match his pace and skills. Naas worked an excellent move with ten minutes played, Stephen French curled a fantastic pass outside of his right boot from deep in his own half, Darragh Flaherty was onto it in a flash blowing by Dooley with a sublime first touch. He probably had a little more time than he realised as he got a decent shot off but Michael Lawless got low to make a comfortable save to keep the sides all square. Both teams settled now and there was a nice rhythm to the fixture with Clonmullion slightly dominant through the centre of midfield but Naas doing the majority of their damage out wide with Brian Nolan, Stephen French and Darragh Flaherty leading the charge.
Clonmullion worked a brilliant passage of play, a long Comerford throw found Nathan Robinson’s feet and he played a neat one two with Jody Dillon. Robinson spun his man and unleashed a wicked left foot drive that just whizzed past Keith Higgins right hand post. It was an intriguing matchup developing between Samuel Omoteso on the right wing and tried to better the experienced veteran Timmy Doyle who Marshalled the young Flyer well in the opening half hour. Clonmullion always trying to play from the back with Mark Hughes, Kian Cully, always available to take the ball, under a constant Naas press led by Brian Nolan and Stephen French. Naas Utd got the breakthrough just after the half hour mark when JP Higgins picked out Darragh Flaherty with an impeccable cross field pass, Flaherty’s quick first touch before bending in a delightful cross that Stephen French applied a rocket header pass Lawless to give Naas a deserved lead. United energised by the goal were reluctant to sit back with Stephen French and Flaherty’s combination looking particularly dangerous. Clonmullion had the last telling change of the half, again a long a Comerford throw found Jody Dillon who made a decisive run right through the Naas Rearguard. Dillon got a good sight of goal but couldn't find a way past Keith Higgins who was equal to everything the Mull threw his way. A decent half by both sides equally with Naas a goal to the good.
Chris Chanders came on for Clonmullion with Jack Dooley making way at the start of the second. Naas looked to press their advantage further with two excellent efforts in quick succession with Stephen French and Samuel Omoteso both going close in the opening minutes of the second half. Clonmullion made another change early in the second half with Timmy Doyle, who was a having a stellar game at the back was hauled off to the bemusement off the Clonmullion faithful with Mick Walsh entering the fray. Clonmullion reshuffled the formation slightly with influential playmaker Nathan Robinson taking up an unusual role out wide. Victor Oladapo really starting to have an imprint on the game in the Naas Engine room, his willingness to win ball gave Naas an edge. Lee Doyle out wide for Clonmullion couldn't find a way past the impressive Jordan Martella who didn't concede an inch, or miss tackle all through the game from right full for Naas. Clonmullion couldn't work this Naas conundrum out and were reduced to hammering long balls over the top that were aptly dealt by JP Higgins and Jamie Dunne who just mopped the floor with anything put their way. Clonmullion heavily relying on set-pieces as the clock petered down had two good chance in quick succession as Jody Dillon headed a Nathan Robinson corner just over the bar with Mick Walsh heading a ball across the box again from a set piece with Chris Chanders hitting the side netting just after the hour mark. Naas didn't offer that much offensively either but they had the lead and were quite comfortably dealing with anything Clonmullion threw their way. Naas made a couple of changes with Ritchie French on and Brian Nolan making way after a super shift.
The game finely poised heading into final quarter with both teams working hard to ascertain control but effectively cancelling each other out in the process. The Mull struggled to work any quality passing moves and looked disjointed and out of sorts as the game wore on but were still plugging away for an opening. That perseverance paid dividends with six minutes left on the clock when a long Comerford throw in was flicked on by Mick Walsh and Chris Chanders must of thought he was dreaming as he was unmarked completely alone at the back post to draw Clonmullion level to the roar of the Athy sideline. It was a case of Deja vu as literally moments later the exact same scenario played out ,this time Chanders couldn't convert as his effort flew over the crossbar. Flaherty won a freekick for Naas in the final minutes of normal time and Jack Conway delivered an inch perfect ball right across the six yard box with JP Higgins showing the desire and hunger to get across a mass of bodies to convert with a side footed finish pass Lawless to give Naas the lead right at the Death. Absolute ecstatic scenes from the Naas sideline but still a few minutes of injury time to play. Clonmullion showed that champions mentality pouring everybody forward, including Goalkeeper Micheal Lawless. Bombarding Naas with constant waves of attack. Naas stood resolute and unwavering, behind Keith Higgins, JP Higgins, Jamie Dunne and Jordan Martella who wouldn't be breached again, a monumental effort. Naas put the final nail in the Clonmullion coffin deep into injury time after Victor Oladapo chased down a Jamie Dunne clearance racing sixty yards before firing home from an acute angle to an empty net in a classic counterattack to wrap the game up.
Clonmullion Afc didn't play their best football today. With the Senior League already won and still the Senior Cup final to play there's still a lot to play for the Athy men. Naas Utd had an excellent game plan today. A strong-willed team performance that was able to nullify all Clonmullion's big threat on the day. Naas were efficient and clinical when the opportunity arose and were full value for the win.
Best for Clonmullion, Mark Hughes, Timmy Doyle, Gary Comerford, Nathan Robinson Best for Naas, Keith Higgins, Jamie Dunne, Jordan Martella, Victor Oladapo, Darragh Flaherty, Stephen French, and JP Higgins with a goal from centre back was magnificent and full value for his man of the match performance.