Shane Hanley was the man of the moment as Evergreen made a successful defence of their Buckley Youths’ Cup title.
Two goals from the teenager, one in either half, proved vital as the city side withstood a late rally to see off Callan United at a damp Derdimus on Saturday.
The result gives Richard Lowry’s side the perfect platform as they aim for more success - they face Stella Maris in the Leinster Youths’ Cup final in Newbridge this Saturday.
Hanley made sure his side would go into the provincial game with a spring in their step, netting what proved to be the winner with 75 minutes on the clock.
In a move which showed his great awareness to a threat - and pace - Hanley watched as Darragh Simpson’s long kick-out came off a Callan head and bounced his way.
Pouncing on the edge of the box, he waited for Dylan Roche to leave his line and then coolly lofted the ball over the advancing netminder, wheeling away in celebration as it bounced into the net.
The goal was a hammer blow for a Callan side who had started well, but just couldn’t make their bright play and enthusiasm count for anything.
United flew out of the traps, driving forward with Dylan Dunphy and Eoin Scriven leading the charge, but they took their time turning that midfield control into concrete chances. Scriven almost conjured up something with a weighted ball over the top for Brion Kirwan to chase, but Darragh Simpson raced off his line to smother the danger in time.
Callan kept their cool, but should have made an even better opportunity count for something in the 21st minute. Sparked by some dominant play from Matthew Lowth and Dylan Dunphy, it looked like they were in when Robert Kerwick picked up possession on the edge of the box.
He got a bit of luck when a defensive deflection only served to set the ball up in an even better position, but he hammered his shot over the bar when left with just Simpson to beat.
Two Bites at goal
Evergreen might have been quiet in attacking terms - Hanley had two early bites at goal, but made neither count - but they were far from out of the game. Led by Darby Fwamba and Gaby Lapuste (the latter was a driving force in midfield), Evergreen began to pose more of a threat. Fwamba almost created the opener, floating in a great ball from the right wing that fell at Hanley’s feet, but his 24th minute shot was deflected for a corner.
It was a disappointing end to that move, but the breakthrough was just 60 seconds away. Callan thought they had survived when Ben Hickey’s teasing corner flashed across goal, but Bill Whelan did well to hook the ball back into play beyond the back post.
The ball was worked back to Hickey, who managed to drive it back in for Hanley to get up and head home the opener.
The goal gave Evergreen some added spark, something they used as they tried to double their lead. Lapuste, Fwamba and Hanley carved out a great chance when some slick passing ended with a well-placed ball to Hickey, but his long range snapshot flew over.
Hanley and Hickey were involved in another chance four minutes before half-time. Hanley skipped away down the left before steering the ball on to Hickey. Matthew Lowth’s challenge knocked the ball loose, and seemingly towards the incoming Bill Whelan, but Dylan Roche made a fine save at the midfielder’s feet.
Evergreen were quick off the mark in the second half, pushing hard in search of that second goal to strengthen their lead. Hanley had a chance within seconds of the restart, getting on the end of a Lapuste flick, but Dylan Roche reacted well to stop his stabbed shot.
They had an even better chance to grab that second goal just a few minutes later. Callan failed to deal with a long Darragh Simpson kickout, and looked like paying a hefty price when the ball broke to Hanley on the right side of the box, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
The city side kept up a strong pace in the second half, keeping Callan on the back-foot, but they couldn’t make the pressure count. Darby Fwamba should have hit the target when Ben Hickey’s 57th minute corner fell into his path but he scuffed his shot, then clattered his second effort into the side netting.
They went closer to that second goal after the hour. Niall Brennan cut Callan open with a surging run from midfield but his powerful shot, which arrowed towards the top right corner, was brilliantly pushed to safety by Dylan Roche.
When Hanley’s second goal did come that seemed certain to settle the game, but Callan were determined not to let their rivals coast to the finish line.
The introduction of Bassong Eyong changed all that. The Callan attack had a new charge, something that paid off within seconds as Brion Kirwan rammed the ball home after Dylan Dunphy flicked Dylan Roche’s long kickout into his path.
The goal gave Callan a renewed vigour, driving them on in search of another. It made for an interesting finale but Evergreen shut up shop, holding firm until the final whistle.
Evergreen: Darragh Simpson, Chris Aylward (Christian Lapuste, 71 mins), Robbie Hennessy, Chris Keane, Nathan Cody, Niall Brennan (Ormonde Morrissey, 71 mins), Bill Whelan, Gaby Lapuste, Darby Fwamba (Dylan Jordan, 63 mins), Shane Hanley, Ben Hickey.
Callan United: Dylan Roche, Matthew Lowth, Dylan Kavanagh, Darren Audoire (Philly Cahill, 51 mins), Kevin Fitzpatrick, Dylan Dunphy, Lee Doheny (Bassong Eyong, 81 mins), Luke Komar (Keith Fitzpatrick, 60 mins), Robert Kerwick, Eoin Scriven, Brion Kirwan.
Referee: Pat Walsh. Linesmen: Lee Kill, Mitch Corrigan.