Penalty agony for brave young Evergreen

Evergreen ..............1

Evergreen ..............1

St Francis ..............1

AET – St Francis won 6-5 on pens

THERE was agony for Evergreen’s under-16s as a place in the semi-finals of the Barry Cup was ripped from their grasp in the cruellest of fashions.

The Kilkenny side were knocked out of the national competition as Dubliners St Francis showed ice-cool nerves to come out on top in a tense penalty shoot-out.

With both teams converting their first five kicks, Francis were given a huge boost when Evergreen’s Jack McCarthy saw his thunderous kick crash off the Saints crossbar. Adam Hennessy stepped up and rammed home the 12th penalty to leave the hosts broken-hearted.

Given the start Evergreen made, penalties seemed anything but possible. The hosts – who were left kicking their heels for close to two hours after St Francis mixed up kick-off times – flew out of the traps and created plenty of chances.

Anchored by Mark Lyons in midfield, Evergreen used the good running of Adam Farrell, Sean Maguire and Aaron Molloy to peg St Francis back in their own half.

Sent tumbling

Evergreen could, and should have taken the lead on 29 minutes when Farrell was sent tumbling in the box by Hardy Sharpe, but Lyons drilled his spot-kick to the left of goal.

St Francis offered little up front in the opening half but bared their teeth in the second half. A quickly-taken corner allowed Sodig Jinoh to roll the ball into Robbie Ward’s path, but his low 45th minute shot was well held by Jason Mahony.

His opposite number was also impressive; Gary Kane made two fine saves in the 46th minute to keep Evergreen at bay. First he stayed up long enough to push out Aaron Molloy’s shot, then got up smartly to deny Sean Maguire from the rebound.

St Francis had their own chances to take control of the game in the second half. Jordan Gardiner thought he had given his side the lead when he curled a 52nd minute free round the Evergreen wall, but his shot cannoned off the underside of the bar and bounced out. Gardiner tried again 11 minutes later, when Robbie Slater rolled a free into his path, but the ’Green wall stayed firm to block it.

Sweet move

The hosts hit back, and took the lead with a sweet move up the left. Sparked by James Bradfield’s run from full-back, the ball was held up along the end-line by Sean Maguire, who fired in a low cross. Adam Farrell was first to it, but although his shot was blocked he stretched far enough to poke home the rebound.

Evergreen looked good for their lead, but the joy was shortlived. Within four minutes St Francis were level, as Dean Ebbe fired home a long range cracker after the hosts failed to clear the lines.

There was still time for some twists and turns – St Francis hit the goal frame again through Sodig Jinoh before, in extra-time, they were reduced to ten men after Jay Ormond got his second yellow card.

Forced into penalties, the sides showed no nerves in the opening ten kicks – but McCarthy’s miss was punished as St Francis moved into the semi-finals. Evergreen: Jason Mahony, Sean Henebry (David Burke, 56 mins), James Bradfield, Killian Cantwell, Jack McCarthy, Mark Lyons, Eamonn O’Reilly (Ray Hickey, 69 mins; Colm Varian for Hickey, 99 mins), Adam Farrell, Sean Maguire, Andy Hickey, Aaron Molloy.

St Francis: Gary Kane, Adam Hennessy, Jay Ormond, Mark McGuinness, Paul Clifford, Jordan Gardiner, Sodig Jinoh, Robbie Slater, Robbie Ward (Colin Byrne, 69 mins), Dean Ebbe, Hardy Sharpe.

Referee: Eoin Walsh.