CLUB bragging rights were secured as Evergreen A maintained their 100% record in the Premier Division - but they had a real battle on their hands to get that victory Evergreen B were in no mood to play second fiddle to their ‘bigger brother’ and did their best to upset the odds. However, that little bit of edge and experience counted in a telling final third.
The big moment, as far as the A team were concerned, had as much steel as silk involved when it arrived in the 63rd minute. Full-back Craig Eardley was heavily involved, winning a crunching tackle in midfield to send the ball spinning towards the Evergreen B danger zone. Chris Whearty stepped on to it, pausing only to drill a well-aimed low shot to the far side of Philip Johnston’s net.
Up to that stage, the game had been anybody’s, something many would not have expected before kick-off. However, Evergreen B have been a tough nut to crack all term, something they have demonstrated by reaching the semi-finals of the Maher Shield.
They proved to be equally as solid for long spells at the Kells Road on Sunday morning, frustrating Evergreen A with an impressive display in many areas.
Much of the hard work came through a defence well-led by Mark Cashin. A long-time stalwart of the A team, Cashin has brought some tactical nous to the B squad, helping to stifle an A team which had been using the flanks to great effect this season.
Thorn in side
Cashin was a thorn in Evergreen A’s side for most of the first half. Time and again he used his experience to cut short their attacks down the line - he also had a knack of knowing where their throw-ins would go and was frequently there to head the ball to safety.
With fellow defensive colleagues Gary Owens and Ger Galvin also helping to keep things tight at the back (and Ronan Holohan mopping up midfield) they ensured that most of Evergreen A’s time on the ball came in middle third.
Proof of that lay in how the ‘home’ team were limited to half-chances in front of goal. They had to rely on frees to get the ball in, Tommy Earls whipping a free in that Oisin Corr failed to meet properly on the left, scuffing his 19th minute effort.
The B team had to wait a little longer for their opening chance, which again came via a set-piece. Conor Barry moved out to the right to curl in a free that fell to Niall O’Callaghan at the back post, but his 32nd minute header was blocked by two defenders and scrambled clear.
With Brian Jordan moving into a central midfield role Evergreen A began to find a little more space after the half hour. They created two chances in little more than 60 seconds, Niall Andrews and Vinny O’Brien both going for goal with headers, but Philip Johnston was well-placed to make a pair of saves.
The game was still in the melting pot, but Evergreen B made everyone sit up and take notice when they drew first blood eight minutes from half-time. Holohan created the opening, sending the ball looping towards the left corner of the pitch.
Pierce Dargan raced from his line to try and cut out the danger, but was beaten to the ball by Seamie Cummins, who flicked it across for Mark Owens to steal in between two defenders and prod home.
Evergreen A were stunned by that strike, but quickly regained their composure. Corr let fly with a thumping half-volley after Earls’ 42nd minute free was half-cleared, but netminder Johnston made a fine reaction save to push the ball out for a corner.
Stepping on the gas for the final minutes of the half paid off for Evergreen A, who levelled matters in the dying seconds of normal time. Chris Whearty drove at the B defence, getting down the left and whipping a cross (although Vinny O’Brien may have helped by blocking off a defender close to the byline) for Andrews to head home.
It took Eddie McEvoy’s side just three second half minutes to hit the net again. Whearty was involved in the pick of their goals, cleverly dinking the ball out to Jordan on the right, who continued the free-flowing move with a cross that Ciaran Snype cushioned past Johnston.
They could, and should, have doubled their lead in the 53rd minute. More great work saw Jordan shrug off two challenges before releasing Andrews on the right, but although he beat the offside trap he couldn’t get the better of Johnston.
That missed chance looked costly when Evergreen B equalised just two minutes later. Ronan Holohan was given plenty of room to push through the middle and did so, working the ball out to Conor Barry on the left. When the striker dragged his shot across goal the chance looked to be gone, but Mark Owens showed great awareness to follow up and slide in at the back stick to get a vital touch.
The game was rapidly turning into a battle of who would blink first. It proved to be Evergreen B, as Whearty’s goal pushed them behind again, but they almost nabbed a speedy riposte. Seconds after going behind they nearly had a way back to parity after Owens looked set to pounce on a stray Vinny O’Brien back-pass, but Pierce Dargan raced from his line to clear the danger.
That was as near as Evergreen B would come to getting a share of the spoils. Evergreen A began to close the game out, finally putting the seal on the points 11 minutes from time when O’Brien stooped to nod in after Andrews cleverly headed a free from sub Jamie Owens back across the six-yard box into his path.
Evergreen A: Pierce Dargan, Tommy Earls, Craig Eardley, Jack Poyntz, Dylan Whearty, Oisin Corr (Robbie Quan, 72 mins), Ciaran Snype (Jamie Owens, 72 mins), Niall Andrews, Brian Jordan, Vinny O’Brien, Chris Whearty (Cian Morton, 89 mins).
Evergreen B: Philip Johnston, Mark Cashin, Conor O’Neill (Tim Brennan, 24 mins), Gary Owens, Ger Galvin, Niall O’Callaghan (Danny O’Connell, 80 mins), Ronan Holohan, Martin Dunphy, Conor Barry, Mark Owens, Seamie Cummins (Mikey McDonald, 80 mins).
Referee: Eoin Walsh.