Clonmullion can count themselves very fortunate to have claimed all three points in Micheal O'Neill Park in Athy on Sunday afternoon against a Castle Villa side that are finally starting to meet their potential. A 95th-minute winner from a Cody Mulhall free-kick was the difference between the sides, and that free-kick left a bitter taste in the Castledermot men's mouths with the Villa players and management incensed with what they saw as a perfectly fair contest for the ball. However, that was only one highlight of what was 90 minutes full of excitement and skill, passion and pain, and ultimately joy and heartbreak. The first real chance of the game fell to Clonmullion's Corey Lammon, but he completely missed his header from 6 yards out when it seemed certain he would score. And after 15 minutes, Clonmullion's Michael Lawless showed why he's regarded as one of the league's best when he brilliantly parried Keith Leigh's goal-bound effort, and son afterwards Shane Foley had to be at his best to intercept a Paul Huntingdon through ball which was bound for an onrushing Jordan Harmon. Those interventions were to be doubly important on 20 minutes when the home sides Murt Brennan picked up a bobbling ball 35 yards out, and instinctively unleashed a cracker of a dipping volley towards the Villa goal. Keeper Killian Deere was helpless to prevent the ball from hitting the net, and Clonmullion were one-nil up! Stevie Donovan will feel he should have done better when he shot over two minutes later after dispossessing Stephen McDonald, and Lee Day had a volley comfortably saved on 28 minutes. Lawless again showed his worth to the Athy side on 36 minutes when he saved well after good Keith Leigh play saw him shoot again on target. The big Villa man was causing Foley and Lammon all sorts of trouble with a real bustling performance, and at the other end the Villa centre back partnership of Kevin Anthony and young Jack Kirwan were really performing well to keep the ever-threatening Cody Mulhall in check. Like so many times before though, the second half of this local derby provided the majority of the talking points. Clonmullion lost attacker Stevie Donovan to injury on 55 minutes, but that loss was not felt, as 3 minutes later, Mulhall outpaced the Villa defence and beat keeper Deere to the ball to put his side 2 up. Villa will certainly be disappointed with the manner of that second goal. Three changes for Villa saw Joe Keatley, Eric O'Shea and Sam McCabe introduced before the 70th-minute award of a penalty to Clonmullion in a collision that saw keeper Killian Deere injured and replaced by Jordan Hickey. Mulhall stepped up and slotted the spot-kick home, but the referee adjudged that an indirect fee kick be awarded to Villa, much to the consternation of the home team. Three nil would have seen the game safe, but there were a few more twists in this game yet. Roy Byrne got on the end of a through ball on 75 minutes, played it around centre back Foley and expertly finished past Lawless and Villa were back in the game. Villa threw caution to the wind in search of an equaliser and after Jack Kirwan and Roy Byrne both had headers over, and Kevin Anthony saw one blocked, the clock ticked past 93 minutes as Villa were awarded their 7th corner of the second half. Paul Huntingdon swung in a beauty, and Kevin Anthony rose highest to power home a header. Villa were ecstatic, having fought valiantly to regain parity, and there was no one more deserving than Anthony, who yet again was immense for Villa. Football can be a cruel game though and Villa were to suffer that 95th-minute sucker punch, as Mulhall was adjudged to have been fouled in a challenge with Byrne and Anthony. The boys in blue were not happy with the award, but that man Mulhall stepped up and showed why he's amongst the league's top players with a drilled finish to the bottom of replacement keeper Hickey's net. Villa had barely time to kick-off, and the home side celebrated what will surely be a valuable three points. Brennan, Mulhall, Lawless and Foley were best for the victors, and Villa were well served by Leigh, Harmon, Huntingdon, and their centre back pairing of Kirwan and man of the match Kevin Anthony.
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