Town complete double in dramatic style

THAT WINNING FEELING...Stephen Clarke is the centre of the celebrations as the penalty shootout is concluded

THAT WINNING FEELING…Stephen Clarke is the centre of the celebrations as the penalty shootout is concluded

Enniskillen Town 3
Tummery Athletic 3

(Enniskillen Town won 5-3 on penalties)

ENNISKILLEN Town United completed a sensational second double in five seasons by dramatically defeating Tummery Athletic 5-3 on penalties in Friday evening’s enthralling Mulhern Cup Final at Drumad.

Days after securing a sixth Mercer League title with victory at Killen, Rory Judge’s Town doubled their money by winning the Fermanagh and Western FA’s premier cup competition for the eighth time.

But while it was joy and jubilation for Town, it was bitter disappointment for a gallant Tummery side that had contributed immensely to a six-goal extra-time thriller before being edged out in the lottery of penalties.

A stunning last-gasp 25-yard free kick by Athletic’s teenage attacker Ruairi Sludden left the sides deadlocked 3-3 after 90 minutes.

At the end of extra-time it remained 3-3 and even in the nerve-jangling penalty shootout the sides were inseparable after the first half dozen spot kicks were confidently converted.

Something though had to give and when Tummery defender Declan Molloy, one of the Dromore side’s outstanding performers, stepped up Town goalkeeper Pat Cadden dived full stretch to his left to make the save.

That left Stephen Clarke to do the honours and the stoppage-time replacement duly obliged to spark the Town celebrations.

Defeat meant that Athletic have now lost four of the last five finals and few gave them much hope against league champions Town when it emerged they would be fielding without 25-goal hitman Ryan Cunningham who was in Barcelona on his stag party.

In Cunningham’s absence Athletic placed their faith in 18-year-old Sludden and that reaped rich reward on 39 minutes when the teenager latched onto a left-sided cross, following a mistake by Town defender Darren McQuade, to volley beyond Cadden’s right hand.

That apart there was a little in the way of goalmouth action in an evenly contested and at times feisty first half.

On 18 minutes Gary Beckett, who appeared to be labouring because of a knee injury, cushioned a 20-yard volley onto James Colgan’s crossbar while at the other end Adrian McCaffrey, before being replaced by Cormac McAnespy, cut in off the left flank to register Tummery’s first shot in anger straight at Cadden.

Then came Sludden’s opener which could have been cancelled out in first half stoppage-time but Colgan reacted brilliantly to deny Wallace after Dunbar had flicked on Tummon’s right-sided corner kick.

Athletic were good value for their 1-0 interval advantage but, as expected, Town began the second period with a greater sense of purpose and intensity.

On 53 minutes a Malcolm Crawford free kick into the Tummery penalty area evaded everyone including Colgan who breathed a huge sigh of relief when it bounced over his crossbar.

Moments later Wallace dug out a dangerous cross from the right corner flag but Beckett from no more than six yards out somehow scooped over a gaping goal.

The Athletic rearguard was coming under increasing pressure as Colgan punched a dinked Beckett cross off the head of the in-rushing Stephen Chambers before midfielder Matty McAuley headed a Beckett set-piece delivery inches past Colgan’s left upright.

Town continued to probe with Colgan holding a Beckett free kick at the second attempt but with 19 minutes remaining the Tummery net-minder was eventually beaten when the 39-year-old Beckett got on the end of a Tummon in-swinging corner kick to steer home from close range.

Following the former Derry City star’s equaliser the showpiece occasion exploded into life.

On 75 minutes Beckett ushered through Ryan Hanna to find Colgan’s bottom right hand corner but within 60 seconds it was all square again as striker Enda Ferris connected with Sludden’s left-wing cross at the near post to finish across Cadden.

The stage was set for a thrilling conclusion and with just six minutes remaining Wallace must have thought he had hammered the final nail in Tummery’s coffin when he took the ball in his stride, in the wake of excellent approach play by Hanna and Beckett, to rifle low inside Colgan’s right post.

Athletic though refused to throw in the towel  and when they were awarded a free kick in the final minute Sludden stepped up to strike the ball majestically inside the left post of a flailing Cadden.

In extra-time Colgan thwarted Crawford following a corner kick and then safely gathered at the second attempt after saving a Clarke header from a beautifully-flighted cross by 16-year-old substitute Ciaran Brough.

The best opportunity though fell to Athletic midfielder Gerard McCullagh who in the dying seconds watched in disbelief as Tummon hoofed his stabbed effort through a crowded goalmouth off the line.

It had been a breathtaking encounter and the drama continued as successful penalties by Cadden Dunbar and Tummon had been cancelled out by McKernan, McCusker and Ferris.

Beckett then made it 4-3 for Town, before Cadden denied Molloy, to leave Clarke having the last word.


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