Evergreen A 2
Freebooters A 2
A QUICK ONE-TWO did the trick as Evergreen A picked up the first title in the men’s junior soccer season.
Having endured a first half where they were second best at times, the Kells Road club delivered a pair of swift jabs inside 18 minutes to wrestle the Maher Shield from the grasp of holders Freebooters A at Derdimus on Sunday.
Young midfielder Declan McQuillan hit the first blow with a neat finish, before Joe Mulcahy added the knockout shot just after the hour to settle the dispute.
It was hard luck on a Freebooters side who had fought their way into contention, even after losing a man early on in the game. The Blues, who were searching for their third successive Shield title, were left to play with 10 men after James Kelly was given his marching orders after just 18 minutes.
That said, ’Booters could have been a goal to the good by the time their defender was red-carded for what appeared to be a late and dangerous challenge on David Grincell. In a move started by Damien Raggett, Dessie Hayes left his marker for dead when he sped off towards goal in the 11th minute before releasing Ger Hayes down the right. Hayes stepped into the box and let fly with a close range shot, but Evergreen netminder Pierce Dargan made a good stop with his feet at his near post.
Play swung from to end to end in the opening half, with Evergreen next to threaten. Matthew Wong almost made the breakthrough in the aftermath of the Kelly dismissal, as he capitalised on some Booters uncertainty to steal in at the back post and connect with Jamie Owens’s free, but Donal Brennan made a fantastic reaction save to keep his side in the game.
Dessie Hayes was a lively threat throughout for Freebooters and almost got his name on the scoresheet on 32 minutes. Having found room in the box Hayes delivered a cheeky chip which looked to be on its way inside the far post, but Dargan reached back to somehow push the lob over his crossbar.
The goalkeepers were kept busy in the first half, with Brennan called into action again eight minutes from the interval. It looked like disaster had struck when Michael Falsey misplaced a pass straight to Jamie Owens on the edge of the six-yard box, but Brennan stayed big to make the vital save and spare his captain’s blushes.
The Blues number one didn’t have time to dwell on that save as he was needed again just a few minutes later. Once more Owens was the threat, given time to advance on goal and get a shot away, but Brennan got down smartly to get his hands behind the effort - which bounced up just in front of him - before holding the ball at the second attempt.
Despite playing with 10 men Freebooters had been very impressive in the opening half and almost capped a fine performance with a goal inside the dying seconds of normal time. Michael Falsey’s header looked to have goal written all over it but Pierce Dargan made a super save, diving full stretch to his left to tip the ball over. There was drama still from the resulting corner, as Dessie Hayes’s half-volley was blocked on the line by Robbie Quan, but Freebooters’ appeals for a handball were waved away.
Hit top gear
Having played second fiddle for much of the first half, Evergreen took little over 120 seconds to hit top gear after the restart. David Grincell was the architect, dropping deep before curling a delightful pass out to the right flank. Declan McQuillan was on it in a flash, speeding past Greg Morton before clipping the ball over the advancing Donal Brennan from inside the box.
That goal winded Freebooters a little. They were lucky not to concede again when Grincell found room to get his head to McQuillan’s 58th minute cross, but he couldn’t get enough power on the ball to find the net. However, their title quest took on an uphill task when their cross-city rivals bagged a second on 66 minutes.
Using the extra man to their advantage, Evergreen began to squeeze Freebooters out of the game. Surrounding any player in blue who had possession, they got a break when Michael Comerford’s back-pass fell straight to Joe Mulcahy. The striker needed just a second to pounce, drawing Brennan from his line before tucking a low shot past the ’keeper into the bottom right corner.
That was the killer blow. Even with half an hour left to play, a tiring ’Booters side knew time was against them.
Evergreen A: Pierce Dargan, Robbie Quan, Vinny O’Brien (Chris Whearty, 50 mins), Matthew Wong, Oisin Corr, Brian Jordan (Jack Poyntz, 67 mins), Declan McQuillan, Niall Andrews, Joe Mulcahy, Jamie Owens, David Grincell (Andrew Hickey, 86 mins).
Freebooters A: Donal Brennan, Ger Hayes, James Kelly, Michael Falsey, Derek Brennan (Eddie Clifford, 76 mins), Neil Murtagh, Greg Morton (John Hayes, 61 mins), Michael Comerford, Dessie Hayes, Damien Raggett, Paul O’Brien.
Referee: Ollie Falsey. Linesmen: Tristan Eardley, Larry Buggy.