(AET – Booters won 4-3 on pens)
THE KIT was a different colour, but everything was still all white on the night as Freebooters retained the Maher Shield.
Dessie Hayes was the hero of the night for Sean Doyle’s side, wrapping up the first title of the season when he steered his spot-kick low to the left corner of the Lions net.
As for the Lions, they must be sick of penalty shoot-outs.
For the second time in seven days the Durrow men saw hopes of victory ended by the dreaded spot kicks. Having gone out of the McCalmont Cup on Sunday morning, the Shield slipped through their grasp at Derdimus on Saturday evening.
There may be a division between the teams, but the Lions were anything but overawed by ’Booters. They pressed forward from the off, using the twin threat of Michael Dooley and Aiden Keenan to keep Freebooters on their toes.
The tactic almost paid off within 14 minutes. Darren Lynch was the provider, arrowing in a dangerous corner which found Keenan’s head. Connecting with a powerful header, it looked as if the ball was destined for the net, but a deflection off Murt Clancy denied the Laois side a certain lead.
Playing with three at the back Freebooters were content to pick their attacks, waiting for gaps to show before striking. They thought they had found one on the half hour when Greg Morton charged down Kevin Shortall’s clearance and turned into a shot, but his effort was turned out for a corner by Seamus Clancy.
The danger wasn’t over, however. Paul O’Brien’s corner was headed back across goal by Eddie Clifford towards Michael Falsey, but the Blues captain saw his shot from the tightest of angles clip the bottom of the post before the Lions scrambled the ball clear.
That more or less told the tale of the first half, as both defences remained on top. That said, Freebooters went within a whisker of snatching the lead in first half stoppage time.
Latching on to a Falsey clearance John Hayes found enough room to thread a low pass through to Damien Raggett. With the Lions defence holding off, Raggett advanced to the edge of the box before letting fly.
Goalkeeper Paul Shortall seemed to have the shot covered, but panic spread in the Durrow ranks when the ball escaped from Shortall’s grasp. The Lions froze as the ball spun towards the left corner, but you could hear the sigh of relief when it hit the post and stayed out.
Freebooters started the second half just as they had closed out the first, going close with another good chance. Greg Morton was in the right place to get on the end of Dessie Hayes’s good 52nd minute cross, but somehow Morton headed wide when unmarked on the corner of the six yard box.
The Lions heeded that scare and quickly went back on the attack. Using the pace of Michael Dooley and Lee Campion they found joy down the flanks, gradually turning that pressure into opportunities.
Turning up the intensity, they had ’Booters on the rack on the hour. Murt Clancy did well to hold up play following a long Paul Shortall kick-out, then release Aiden Keenan. Dashing through the centre, Keenan held off the challenging Michael Falsey before working the ball out to Darren Lynch on his right but Graham Doyle made a fine stop, racing off his line to preserve his clean sheet.
The danger wasn’t fully over, as Lynch whipped in another dangerous corner. Kevin Shortall came up from the back and timed his run to perfection, glancing the ball towards the inside of the far post, but James Kelly was there to clear it off the line.
Spurred on by that chance, the Lions went on the prowl again. Once more they found joy through set-pieces, as Lynch fired in another corner on 69 minutes. Racing towards the near post Lee Campion applied a deft flick, but the goal never came as the ball hit the post.
The last real chance of the 90 minutes came at the other end – and almost ended with a winner. Freebooters must have thought they’d nicked the Shield when Damien Raggett’s shot took a deflection into the path of Dessie Hayes. The goal opened up as Hayes curled a shot towards the bottom right corner of the net but Paul Shortall made a super save, pushing the ball away to safety to rescue his side.
There was little in the way of incident during extra-time. Freebooters had some half-chances via their front two Raggett and Hayes, but finished the game with ten men after sub William Flood was dismissed for picking up two quick yellow cards.
Moving to the lottery of penalties, it looked like the Lions were done for when they failed to convert their opening two kicks. Seamus Clancy put the first high and to the right, while Graham Doyle guessed right to beat out Kevin Shortall’s effort.
Although David Freeman lashed the third kick past Doyle, when James Kelly followed colleagues John Hayes and Greg Morton by scoring that left the Lions facing a 3-1 deficit.
Their hopes were raised when Aiden Keenan coolly converted his kick, and then even more so when Shortall made a good stop to deny Damien Raggett.
Michael Dooley left the game on tenterhooks when drilling home the fifth Lions penalty, but when Hayes hit the net that was the sign for Freebooters to start the celebrations. Freebooters A: Graham Doyle, Ger Hayes, James Kelly, Michael Falsey, Greg Morton, John Hayes, Eamon Lyster, Eddie Clifford, Dessie Hayes, Damien Raggett, Paul O’Brien (William Flood, 55 mins).
Lions: Paul Shortall, Danny Lennon, Shane McCann, David Freeman, Kevin Shortall, Seamus Clancy, Darren Lynch (Niall Brophy, 82 mins), Murt Clancy (Cormac McCann, 82 mins), Aiden Keenan, Michael Dooley, Lee Campion.
Referee: Pat O’Connor. Linesmen: Pat Conroy, Packie Geoghegan.