Avondale United 1 Crumlin United 0
MARK O'Sullivan's first-half wonder strike inspired Avondale United to a record eighth FAI Intermediate Cup crown against a gallant Crumlin United outfit at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Maynooth University Town and Liffey Wanderers had won the previous two renewals of this prestigious competition, but in the previous 11 years, with the exception of Rockmount’s victory in 2008, Saturday’s two cup final specialists had shared the other 10 titles between them.
Avondale United had won four Cups in a row between 2011 and 2014, but this was the first occasion that they appeared in the season’s showpiece at the Aviva Stadium, as it was not moved permanently to the Lansdowne Road venue until 2015 when Crumlin became the first team to win there.
The first dangerous moment of the game arrived in the third minute and saw a timely sliding interception from Avondale skipper David Kiely in his own six-yard box, after a dangerous low cross from Crumlin’s right winger Craig Walsh, with Alan McGreal waiting behind Kiely to tap in.
Crumlin actually had a goal disallowed in the 19th minute as central midfielder John Sullivan was guilty of a 1950s style shoulder barge of impressive Avondale keeper Sean Barron from a dangerously in-swinging corner, which referee Keith Callanan was always going to rule out.
Crumlin were edging the possession stakes at this juncture, with James Lee going close in the 23rd minute with a dipping left-foot shot from the edge of the area that just about cleared Barron’s crossbar.
Avondale seemed to be intentionally isolating their front pair of Mark O’Sullivan and Jack Walsh and the strategy almost paid dividends in the 28th minute.
However, O’Sullivan was left holding his head in his hand as he missed a gilt-edged opportunity from close to the penalty spot after being put through by some intricate one-touch football by Kiely and Walsh, with his shot being far too close to Crumlin netminder Michael Quinn, who gratefully parried away.
The former Cork City striker’s frustration lasted only nine minutes, however, as he scored a wonderful goal with his right foot from all of 25 yards in the 37th minute. He had collected the ball out near the left touchline, and initially there looked little danger for Crumlin, but when he skipped between two Crumlin players and made a beeline towards the penalty area, the Crumlin defence began backpedalling furiously.
That gave him the time and space to unleash a crisp low shot that completely deceived Quinn, on his right-hand side, and settled in the back of the net to give Avondale the lead.
One minute into the second half Crumlin had a great opportunity to equalise after Jake Donnelly was sent clear by a long throw down the left. Donnelly raced clear and got his shot away, but impressive central defender Mark Horgan did just enough to put him off, and Donnelly’s shot cleared the crossbar.
In the 50th minute, Donnelly had another great chance, only to see his flicked header go just wide of the post after a cross from McGreal on the right-hand side of the penalty area, and soon after at the other end Jack Walsh saw a similar effort also fall the wrong side of the post.
In the 55th minute the Crumlin crowd were full sure they had scored, but what they had actually witnessed was a superb save from Barron, as he had turned Donnelly’s left-footed drive into the side netting at his near post.
The chances were coming thick and fast now, with Walsh again going close with a header from a corner, with his effort marginally too high, and at the other end, Donnelly had his fourth attempt in 12 minutes brilliantly blocked away by Kiely for another corner.
Crumlin’s hopes took a huge blow in the 74th minute when their main dangerman, Donnelly, had to be stretchered off after a crunching tackle in the centre circle.
Avondale had a big let off in the 76th minute when Hughie O’Donovan sliced the ball wildly over his own crossbar with Barron sitting on the turf, and Ryan Hogan had his own anxious moment when his attempted back pass deceived Barron but rolled wide in the 82nd minute.
The lively Craig Walsh had an audacious outside of the foot effort drift just over in the first minute of the seven minutes of injury-time, and when captain Thomas Hyland nodded wide from yet another Crumlin corner, the Dublin side saw their last chance go a-begging.
AVONDALE UNITED: Sean Barron, Danny O’Connell, David Shovlin, David Kiely (c), Mark Horgan, Eoghan Lougheed, David O’Leary, Hughie O’Donovan, Jack Walsh, Mark O’Sullivan, Brian Murphy
Subs: Ryan Hogan for Shovlin (35), Karl Caulfield for O’Leary (64), Vinnie O’Brien for Horgan (79), Cathal O’Neill for Murphy (90).
CRUMLIN UNITED: Michael Quinn, Sean Harding, Garreth Brady, David Fagan, Thomas Hyland (c), John Sullivan, Craig Walsh, James Lee, Jake Donnelly, Conor Murphy, Alan McGreal
Subs: Liam Brady for Donnelly (74), Sam Burgess for Murphy (90).
Referee: Keith Callanan.