Championship race wide open as Glenanne win

 

Playing unflinchingly and with admirable pace, Glenanne emerged with a 2-1 win at St Mark's yesterday to crunch Pembroke Wanderers' unblemished record in the Leinster Senior League to open up the championship race. Meanwhile, Corinthians swept to a rich 5-4 defeat of Three Rock Rovers at Whitechurch Park to remain abreast of Glenanne in joint second place, three points behind the leaders. Fresher Corinthians, with four flamboyant goals from Colin Stewart and a penalty from Paul Armitage, led 2-0 at half-time and then 4-0 and 5-3 in an extravagant game in which Gordon Elliott and Liam Canning each struck twice for Rovers.

There is even the possibility of Glenanne and Corinthians drawing level with Pembroke at the top of the table next weekend due to the postponement of Pembroke's match against Avoca, who will be travelling to Garryduff for their Irish Senior Cup replay against Cork C of I. Perhaps this is just as well for Wanderers, for although Mary Dundon had got Duncan McKeen back into shape, both Devin Donnelly and Alan Kershaw have now shipped injuries which will need nursing.

Glenanne were the crisper side due to the robustness of their central defence and the tearaway thrusts of their front runners, Graham Shaw and John Goulding. The most significant moments came close to each other at the end of each half.

In the 20th minute, Paul Fitzpatrick halted Donnelly to incur a penalty stroke which Paudie Carley sent glancing off the outside of the post. This was a double setback for Pembroke as Donnelly had to retire with a wounded ankle and, before the interval, Glenanne seized the lead when even though a short corner operation had broken down, the opportunity fell for Goulding to whisk the ball into the net.

Glenanne continued as the more assertive side in the second period, but Pembroke, who had been engaged against St Brendan's/Phoenix Park in a cup tie on Saturday, summoned up every ounce of energy to secure an equaliser through Stephen Stewart with a dragged flick. With seven minutes remaining, however, Stephen Butler - though twice foiled earlier by international goalkeeper Nigel Henderson - showed his remarkable set-piece marksmanship to deliver his 17th goal in nine matches.

Glenanne may well feel pretty buoyant after this victory and can envisage the league title going right to the wire in their return match at Serpentine Avenue at the end of March. Their prospects in the Irish Senior Cup, though, must be temperate, as they face Raphoe on the Co Donegal side's grit surface in the second round on January 10th.

Raphoe, in beating UCC 4-0 at The Mardyke, figured among the many teams who were relatively untested in the opening round, whereas either Cork C of I or Avoca will have the frustration of being out of the running. The scoreless tie at Rathdown on Saturday, watched by new national coach John Clarke, was probably more satisfying for the Munstermen.