Nenagh AFC forced their way into the Munster Junior Cup quarter-finals thanks to a narrow win over an excellent Killarney Celtic team at Brickfields, Nenagh on Sunday afternoon. In a high quality game Nenagh AFC struck for the match-winning goal in the 34th minute when John Mitchell gathered a break following a James McGrath delivery and rifled home a left foot shot.
Do not miss John Mitchell’s winning goal at Brickfields on Sunday afternoon.
Munster Junior Cup Fifth Round
Nenagh AFC 1-0 Killarney Celtic
Jordan Lewis headed over a James McGrath corner in the fourth minute as this contest warmed up nicely. A slick short corner routine from Killarney Celtic almost created the opening goal in the 20th minute, but Nenagh AFC ‘keeper Aaron Savage saved smartly. Three minutes later Savage deflected a stinging Celtic free kick over his bar, but just when it appeared as if Killarney were getting a grip on the contest Nenagh AFC struck for the vital goal when John Mitchell drilled home from eighteen yards.
The contest thereafter was absolutely fascinating as two top class junior soccer sides battled for supremacy. Nenagh AFC worked hard, especially Danny Butler and Ryan Gilmartin, to restrict Killarney’s opportunities to build attacks from the back. The centre-half pairing of Cathal Coonan and Mark McKenna were commanding throughout while James McGrath was an absolute class act in the middle of the field.
Nenagh AFC closed out the opening half with a series of notable chances. John Mitchell’s screamer flew just wide in the 39th minute while the Killarney ‘keeper conjured a great save to deny Nathan Kelly in the 43rd.
Killarney Celtic desperately tried to assert themselves in this contest following the interval and almost plundered an equaliser in the 54th minute, but Mark McKenna cleared off his line. Three minutes later a John Mitchell effort demanded a great save from the Killarney ‘keeper while a James McGrath rasper was parried away to safety in the 67th minute.
Nenagh AFC looked dangerous on the break during the final twenty minutes and enjoyed further opportunities to double their advantage, but James McGrath, Barry Coffey and Alex Gardas were all denied by a series of top class saves.
In the fifth minute of second half injury time Killarney Celtic were reduced to ten men for a second bookable offence.
Nenagh AFC will be joined in the draw for the last eight by St Michael’s - the defending provincial champions won impressively when beating Hibernians FC 3-2 in their fifth round tie in Waterford. David Slattery and Joey Mulcahy both scored for the Saints before David Grincell struck for the winner six minutes from time.
Meanwhile Thurles Town will host Pike Rovers on the week-ending Sunday, February 19th in another fifth round clash. Thurles Town negotiated a tricky away tie against Shannon Hibernians in the last round to the tune of a 4-1 win in Clare, but have their work neatly carved out for them in the last sixteen when Noel Byrnes’ side host Pike Rovers who are regarded as one of the best junior clubs in the country. Rovers have struggled a little in the Limerick District League this season, but saw off Cork AUL side Park United 4-2 away from home in the last round and beat Ballynanty Rovers 2-0 in the previous round.
Tipperary junior soccer sides, of course, share a proud tradition in the competition with Clonmel Town winning the coveted title in 1950, 1986 and 2006. Clonmel Bohs claimed top honours in 1968 while St Michael’s have won the title eight times (1973, 1990, 1991, 2001, 2005, 2011, 2014 & 2016). Carrick United, who operate in the Waterford league, also won the title in 2004, 2010 & 2015.
LIMERICK DISTRICT LEAGUE
In 2012 Nenagh AFC became the first North Tipperary & District League side to qualify for the Munster Junior Cup final (a competition inaugurated in 1922), but found themselves beaten by Janesboro at Cooke Park, Tipperary Town. Such experiences forced Nenagh AFC to consider broader horizons as the club suffered from a lack of competition domestically.
Two years ago Nenagh AFC made the controversial decision to leave the North Tipperary & District League, but now the move appears vindicated as Dave Rooney’s men lead the Limerick District League's Premier Division.
In May 2015 Nenagh AFC collected a fifth successive North Tipperary & District League Premier Division title before completing the double when seeing off Nenagh Celtic in the Ricky Fogarty Cup final. That clash with the local rivals represented the final game played by Nenagh Town in the North Tipperary & District League.
Nenagh AFC are an ambitious club and made a controversial decision to apply for inclusion in the Limerick District League, a league Town officially joined in August 2015. Although the Limerick District League is regarded as one of the toughest in the country and despite being forced to start their A team in division 1A and a B team in division 2B Nenagh AFC finished the 2015-16 season as champions of both. The club could have opted to consolidate their position in the Premier Division, but true to the character of the club Nenagh AFC pushed on and embraced the challenge posed.
For some years now Nenagh AFC have been committed to the development of underage talent. Indeed, in May 2014 Town became the first Tipperary side since St Michael’s in 1994 to win the FAI Youths Cup following a dramatic penalty shoot-out final against Evergreen FC (Kilkenny) while in May 2016 Nenagh AFC beat Wilton (Cork) 3-2 after extra-time to win an historic FAI Under-17 Cup. And, now Nenagh AFC have an accomplished senior side which those talented young players can aspire to.
Nenagh AFC: Aaron Savage, Jordan Lewis, Cathal Coonan, Mark McKenna, Max Boghiu, James McGrath, Roy Creagh, Danny Butler, John Mitchell, Ryan Gilmartin, Nathan Kelly. Subs: (60th) Dylan Sheahan for Ryan Gilmartin, (65th) Alex Gardas for John Mitchell, (67th) Barry Coffey for Nathan Kelly.