A LAST GASP goal kept Freebooters A on track to win the Maher Shield for the third year in a row, but even the Blues will admit that a huge slice of luck sent them on their way to this season’s final.
Locked at 0-0 away to Newpark United, a last minute attack down the left from Aaron Molloy led to an unlikely winner. Attempting to shut down the cross Ger Wall got his foot to the ball, which looped into the box. The ball bounced in front of goalkeeper Bobby Maher, but disaster struck when a wicked bounce sent the ball away from the Newpark Number One and into the net.
“It was a tough game in which we found it hard to get going,” said Freebooters manager Sean Doyle. “We created the best chances, but didn’t take them.”
Despite starting without Derek Brennan, Eddie Clifford and Neil Murtagh, Freebooters had chances to take the lead early on. Greg Morton spurned a back-post header, while Damien Raggett also had two good chances to get on the scoresheet, while Bobby Maher also made some good saves for the hosts.
Newpark continued to take the game to their visitors and looked to be on their way to extra-time when they conceded that freak late goal.
The result may not have been the most impressive, but Doyle was relived to get over a tricky hurdle in the penultimate round of the competition.
“Semi-finals are always the tough game,” he said. “We went down to Stoneyford United and won 1-0 last year, so we knew this was going to be another tricky game. We knew Newpark would battle hard, but the match was still played in a good spirit.”
They’re already in the middle of a league battle with them, but Freebooters will take on Evergreen A in the Shield final after their win against another Division One outfit.
The Premier Division champions travelled to Rathdowney to take on Clover United, a side in contention for another league title, and made sure their trip was a worthwhile one.
Eddie McEvoy’s side made light work of a tight pitch and a strong wind as they took control of the game in the opening half.
Although Clover played with five across midfield they couldn’t keep the visitors at bay. Joe Mulcahy scored the opener, netting from the spot after Vinny O’Brien’s surge down the right was ended illegally in the box.
The city side doubled their lead just before half-time. Clover looked to have survived when they beat the ball away from danger, but Niall Andrews connected sweetly with a volley to make it 2-0.
A miserable morning got even worse for Clover, who had two men dismissed in the second half, while Evergreen comfortably held on to what they had as they ran time down.
The result saw Evergreen go one better than last season when they lost 5-0 away to the Lions in the final four, a result which pleased the visitors no end.
“We were happy with that performance and to come out of the semi-final with a win,” said McEvoy. “It’s great to have a final to look forward to.”
Freebooters will take on Evergreen in the final on March 18.