Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Colleges and Universities FAI Perpetual Cup Final

SETU CARLOW                 6             (Butler 21, 22, 36, 52; Farrell 28; O’Reilly (pen) 68)

ATU DONEGAL                 1             (O’Reilly 69)

Kevin Egan at Athlone Town Stadium

The Colleges and Universities FAI Perpetual Cup, a trophy which has made its home in Carlow for the majority of the last decade, is back on home soil after SETU Carlow went from spending the first 20 minutes of last Wednesday’s final under the pump, to firing in four goals in 15 minutes and having the contest wrapped up before half-time.

“They started quite well against us and I was a bit worried, but once we got the first goal, they kept going in after that” was the succinct summary of team captain Oisín Hand, whose solid performance at the heart of the SETU Carlow defence contrasted sharply with how the ATU Donegal reargaurd simply collapsed during that second quarter, inviting Matt Butler to complete a first half hat trick, with Evan Farrell pulling the strings from the ‘number ten’ role, while also taking advantage of a free header to rattle the Ulster students’ net himself.

“We knew they had plenty of quality and they had beaten good teams to get here, so we came expecting a really good challenge, but we believed in the players that we had in our own dressing room as well” summarised Hand – and for the first 20 minutes, the quality in the ATU Donegal side was evident, as they piled the pressure on the SETU defence.

Wide men Damien Duffy and Stephen Black got some excellent deliveries into the SETU Carlow box, and with eleven minutes gone, one immaculate low centre from Black found Gabriel Aduaka at the far post and left the Letterkenny Rovers striker with a seemingly simple finish, but he failed to keep his shot down and cleared the crossbar.

At the time, such was the flow of play, it looked like ATU Donegal’s breakthrough was only a matter of time. Instead, their defensive frailties, and the sharpness of the SETU Carlow attack, were about to be exposed in a ruthless fashion.

Farrell set up the first of Butler’s three with a wonderful first touch to kill a 50 yard pass and put him facing the ATU goal, and his slick slide rule pass allowed Butler to just delay his shot long enough to commit the keeper, and still have plenty of angle to slip a low shot inside the near post.

The striker’s other two goals were the result of dreadful defending, as long balls forward found the Ballymun United player in acres of room, and his finishing was accurate and emphatic. Meanwhile a wonderful cross from Jack O’Reilly was met with an emphatic header from Farrell, and 0-0 after 30 minutes had become 4-0 after 36.

A foul on Damien Duffy inches inside the corner of the penalty area opened the narrowest window of opportunity for ATU Donegal to give themselves a lifeline in first half stoppage time, but a theatrical stutter step penalty from Aduaka hit the post, compounding the side’s misery.

The psychological damage was clearly done, and while the defensive work from the Donegal students was marginally improved in the second half, there was an air of resignation and lethargy about their attacking play, which in turn allowed SETU Carlow to dominate possession, and set up further goals for Butler and Jack O’Reilly (a penalty).

There was a brief flash of light when Eddie O’Reilly whipped a shot to the roof of the SETU Carlow net on the next attack after Jack O’Reilly’s spot kick, but the muted manner in which the Fanad United man turned and ambled back to the centre for the restart illustrated that he knew their race was run.

“This is a fantastic environment for us to train and develop. My Mam is from Carlow town so that was a huge advantage for me in terms of deciding to come here, but there are lots of other advantages” said Hand, who has played all 180 minutes of the first two Longford Town games of this season.

“They lads here really help, they give us days off as we need it and they manage our training sessions. We had a good session last week when the college was off, we came in and trained for a day, and another good session yesterday, and that had us ready for this final. The lads had done their homework on ATU Donegal so we knew what to expect” he added.

SETU CARLOW: Alex Moody; Ravelli Kilonda, Oisín Hand, Kevin McEvoy, Jack O’Reilly; Anto Dolan, Seán McManus, Jack Connolly, Blake Ryan; Evan Farrell; Matt Butler.

Subs used: Dragos Mamaglia for McManus (27), Jordan Tallon for Ryan (61), Precious Omochere for Butler (71), Sam Murray for  Kilonda (71), Omishola Samuel for Connolly (71).

ATU DONEGAL: Oisín Farrell; Stephen Black, Lee McLaughlin, Shaun McDermott, Fionn McClure; Ryan Creevy, Kevin Jordan; Eoin Logue, Eddie O’Reilly, Damian Duffy; Gabriel Aduaka.

Subs used: Tom Dokery for Logue (half-time), Charlie White for McDermott (half-time), Conor Black for McLaughlin (64), Nathan Plumb for O’Reilly (75), Leon Boyce for Aduaka (80)

Referee: Ciarán O’Reilly.


Man of the Match

The official award was a something of an eyebrow-raiser, as four-goal hero Matt Butler was overlooked in favour of Evan Farrell, who was usually the man loading the bullets into the chamber. It wasn’t an egregious call, but it was perhaps a little bit hipster all the same.


By Kevin Egan

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