The inaugural Tom Hand memorial cup was played today between winners of the FAI Junior Cup, Sheriff YC and the FAI Intermediate cup, Avondale United.
With both sides only preparing for the start of the coming season, a lack of match sharpness could have been forgiven but there was little sign of it in an box to box first half.
Sheriff started the game looking more composed and in the tenth minute Stephen Murphy made one of many penetrating runs up the right wing to whip the ball into the box for Joseph O'Neill who strained but couldn't connect in the air.
Six minutes later, it was Avondale's turn, awarded a free kick from 30 yards out. It was floated across the box by Michael Mulcronry and picked up by Conor Meade who shot low but just right of the target from ten yards out.
Four minutes later Sheriff were on the counter attack and it was Sheriff No 10, John Rock's turn to go close with a volley from ten yards out in front of goal, sent flying over the bar.
The match became scrappy from the 20th minute with a series of clumsy challenges forcing referee Richie Glynn to give Declan Cahill of Avondale a yellow card for his foul on Keith Dunne. Just three minutes later, more foul play resulted in another yellow card, this time for Sheriff's Keith Dunne after his clumsy tackle on Avondale's Mulcronry.
Sheriff began to dominate at the end of the second half. In the 40th minute Sean Murphy had a shot denied by Avondale keeper Dave O'Keefe just outside the six yard box but the half was to end 1-0 to Sheriff after a fine run saw Darren Dunne play the ball in to space for Keith Dunne who took it round the goalkeeper to tap it into an open goal.
The second half saw Avondale emerge looking hungrier for the ball. In the opening minutes Avondale's Conor Meade headed the ball down into the bottom left corner from ten yards out only to be denied by the post. Five minutes later, Avondale's Brian Muprhy was played through, one on one with the keeper, took it to his right but found himself isolated and could only manage a weak cross which was cleared easily by Sheriff's Gavin McDermott.
In the 65th Avondale played a ball deep into the left corner which was floated in dangerously high across the goal line. Sheriff's goalkeeper Ian Dunbell was forced to parry it over his head for a corner from the right. Avondale's Mark Horgan whipped the ball in to the feet of Dave Spratt who clipped it easily into the back of the net from just three yards.
Smelling blood, Avondale pushed up and were rewarded with the winner five minutes later when their no 12, Roy Long drove the ball hard and low into the left corner.
The final minutes saw Avondale United remain on top to enjoy a hard fought but deserved victory over 2012 FAI Junior Cup winners Sheriff YC in the inaugural Tom Hand Memorial Cup final. Man of the Match was Avondale's Karl Caulfield in a fitting contest to honour the memory of Tom Hand, a great servant of Irish Football.
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