THIS column may have taken a break for the summer but the Combined Counties Football League certainly did not.
Even before returning to top-flight action in the middle of August, the league continued with the always keenly contested Over 35 football tournament.
Initially the competition is played on a league basis with the participating teams split into groups, a phase which is followed by Cup and Shield contests.
The Cup boiled down to a final between Clara Town and Mullingar Town and it was former Offaly footballer Padraig Moran, now a resident of Tullamore, who clinched the trophy for Clara with a very late deflected goal.
Moran, who played in a minor All-Ireland final back in 1989, ensured that last year's runners-up Clara were not going to be denied the Over 35 Cup on this occasion.
But they had to do it the hard way, taking the lead and then coming from behind against a Mullingar Town side which shrugged off the early withdrawal of captain Gerry Tarleton who had sustained a nose injury.
A Shane Coyne free-kick put Clara ahead but Mullingar levelled when Enda Lambden finished to the net after Derek Handy had parried an Alan Graham shot.
Lambden netted with another close range effort to put Mullingar 2-1 in front and then before the break both sides had a man sent off.
Mullingar were reduced to nine men after the restart and the game finally began to swing in Clara's favour. John Devine made it 2-2 and just when extra-time looked certain Moran popped up to help the ball home from a Clara corner.
The Shield final brought together the Over 35s of Clonaslee and Gallen United and this one went the distance, with Ferbane side Gallen winning 5-4 on penalties after extra-time.
Gallen keeper Adrian Lynam was the hero as he beat his opposite number Jimmy Breen with the clinching penalty kick.
Kieran Galvin and Fergal McGuire - the latter's effort was stopped by a super headed clearance off the line - nearly made the breakthrough for Gallen and Dermot Kelly and Brian Flannery shot on sight for Clonaslee.
Still, the first half was goalless and the second half ended the same way, though Sean Flynn released Joe Conroy who shot wide and Clonaslee's Flynn also went close with a header.
Clonaslee keeper Breen made three tremendous saves to send the final to extra-time and in the first period Flannery at last broke the deadlock with a long range effort.
With three minutes of the second period left Joe Sheeran latched onto a McGuire cross and levelled the match, setting up the spot-kick drama and the glory moment for Shield winners' keeper Lynam.
Marathon man Martin clocking up the miles
IF there is a fitter referee than Adrian Martin in the Midlands then we would like to know who he is.
Offaly Branch member Martin, who is well known on the marathon circuit, having completed 26-mile courses all over the world, recently chalked up his first triathlon.
The Caroline Kearney Memorial Triathlon takes place in and around the shores of Lough Ennel at Lilliput, just up the road from Ballinagore and comprises a 1,500 metre swim, a 40 kilometre cycle and 10 kilometre run. In old money, that nearly a mile in the lake, 24 miles on the bike and over six miles running on the road.
Martin did the swim in less than half an hour, the cycle in an hour and a quarter and the run in 44 minutes and 28 seconds. Beat that!
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