A STRONG finish saw Evergreen grab some local bragging rights and national pride.
Strength, spirit and a large helping of a sparkling youth brigade proved vital as they came from a goal down to see off Freebooters and move into the fourth round of the FAI Junior Cup.
Three goals in the final quarter did the trick for the ’Green, who saw their incredible spell of second half pressure pay off in handsome fashion at the Fair Green on Sunday morning.
In the end it was three goals from the younger members of the team that proved to be the difference. Vinny O’Brien and Declan McQuillan hit the net in quick succession to turn the game on its head before Joe Mulcahy added the final flourish in the dying seconds.
It could have been so different for the hosts, who almost took the lead inside the opening 60 seconds. Right from the kick-off Freebooters went on the attack, with Damien Raggett and Dessie Hayes carving Evergreen open with a swift one-two.
Taking the return pass Raggett sped through on the right, but his shot flashed across goal and just outside the far post.
The sides settled into the game after that, with neither really threatening in front of goal – that is, until ’Booters took the lead before the half hour.
The goal, when it came, was something out of the blue. Awarded a free out on the right, Paul O’Brien came across to take the kick. The tactic proved spot on, as he whipped in a left foot curler which Eddie Clifford gleefully glanced home.
O’Brien moved back out to the left flank after that and was at the heart of his side’s next great chance on 29 minutes. Driving towards the corner, the winger beat Tommy Earls and then fired in a low cross. Dessie Hayes was quickest to react, but the ball flashed millimetres beyond his outstretched foot.
Evergreen had been out of sorts in the opening half, finding little joy in a congested midfield or up top, but they were a different prospect after the restart.
On the offensive from the resumption, they showed some early signs of a changed attacking mood. Jack Poyntz was denied a clean strike at goal by a telling interception from Paul O’Brien before Joe Mulcahy had Evergreen’s clearest chance on 51 minutes when he drilled a low shot past Graham Doyle, but the ball struck a post and came back out.
Evergreen had been getting closer, and looked more dangerous once Brian Jordan came into the fray, but for all their attacking they almost fell two goals behind on 57 minutes.
Freebooters put the frighteners on them with a series of menacing Paul O’Brien corners which were whipped in around the target. Goalkeeper Philip Johnston did well to turn one over the bar, but was left thanking the frame of his goal as a second O’Brien delivery struck the back post.
Quick to turn defence into attack, that scare almost provided an outlet for the equaliser.
Breaking from the back Evergreen went on the counter-attack, with Brian Jordan launching a long ball towards Mulcahy. With Graham Doyle racing from his line Mulcahy clipped the ball past the advancing ’keeper, but his shot whistled past the netminder’s right hand post.
Doyle was called into action again just a few minutes later. Cutting out a kick-out in midfield Declan McQuillan chested the ball into the path of Jamie Owens, who set off for goal. Again Doyle came out to narrow the angle, but stayed big until Owens took his shot. The ’keeper won the battle, as the ball came off his studs and slowed down, allowing Michael Falsey to get back and mop up the danger.
With the number of chances mounting it seemed more if rather than when Evergreen would get an equaliser. Their patience paid off as, on 68 minutes, they found one.
Freebooters – who minutes earlier had seen Dessie Hayes flash a shot just wide of the target – were undone when Jamie Owens floated in a corner. The hosts failed to pick up Vinny O’Brien, who stole in and headed home from the corner of the six-yard box.
Three minutes later, they had another strike to celebrate, although it too owed something to some defensive hesitancy. Chris Whearty floated in a free which the Blues allowed to bounce in a congested box.
The ball dropped in front of McQuillan, who saw his chance and took it, cushioning a waist-height half-volley into the far side of the net.
Freebooters came back to life after that second goal, but couldn’t find a leveller of their own. Paul O’Brien tormented Evergreen with a series of corners, the last of which picked out Eddie Clifford at the back post, but he couldn’t keep his 84th minute header on target.
The final blow came when Evergreen made sure of their place in the fourth round in the dying seconds of normal time. Awarded a free after he was fouled on the left side of the D Mulcahy dusted himself down and scored a peach of a goal, curling an unstoppable effort into the top left corner.
It was a goal good enough to win any game – but it was the dagger to Freebooters’ hearts.
Freebooters: Graham Doyle, Jack Deegan (Conor Keane, 73 mins), Anthony Hanney, Michael Falsey, Derek Brennan, Michael Comerford, Greg Morton (Aaron Molloy, 82 mins), Eddie Clifford, Dessie Hayes, Damien Raggett, Paul O’Brien.
Evergreen: Philip Johnston, Sammy Johnston, Jack Poyntz (Seamie Cummins, 80 mins), Tommy Earls, Robbie Quan, Declan McQuillan, Vinny O’Brien, Oisin Corr (Brian Jordan, 56 mins), Joe Mulcahy, Jamie Owens (Dylan Whearty, 89 mins), Chris Whearty.
Referee: Patrick O’Connor. Linesmen: Nicky Marnell, Eugene Coyne.