Talk about using your head! Sean Barcoe did just that as Evergreen A won the Kells Road derby and headed into the Maher Shield final.
Pressed up top in an attacking role, Barcoe was the man of the moment, grabbing a hat-trick of headers to nod his team into the Derdimus decider.
A quick Barcoe brace did the real damage, as he struck twice in three second half minutes to all but settle the game.
His second goal was a gem. Putting the pressure on, Evergreen A were rewarded when Barcoe connected with Conor English’s dangerous 65th minute corner. Racing to meet the ball, Barcoe got a cushioned flick on the powerful delivery, giving the ball just enough direction to guide it inside the far post.
Barcoe completed his hat-trick, all but making it game over, soon after.
There seemed to be little on when Chris Whearty picked up play on the left touchline inside his own half, but that was about to change.
Spotting Barcoe’s run, he pinged a deep cross which was inch-perfect for the incoming striker to nod home at the back post.
The meeting of the champions - the B team won the Shield in 2013, before their A counterparts kept the spoils in the club a year later - started in cagey fashion at a chilly Kells Road, but it was Packie Holden’s Green team who threatened most.
Once they got to grips with the game - never an easy thing with club pride at stake - Evergreen A began to carve out chances. Barcoe had the best of these, doing well to control Damian Kelly’s lofted 22nd minute pass, but Philip Johnston dashed from his line to make a sliding block.
Johnston was back in action again on the half hour. Breaking down the right Conor English - a constant menace all game - whipped in a great ball which Daragh Walshe did well to control in the tricky conditions. Walshe poked the ball goalwards, but couldn’t beat Johnston with the shot.
Chased stray pass
Evergreen B had been quiet in attack, but had a great chance to get back into the game soon after when Mikey McDonald chased after a stray backpass to Packie Holden.
With the sticky pitch holding the ball up McDonald sped through, taking play past the outrushing Holden, but Niall Andrews saved his side with a last-ditch tackle, forcing the ball out for a corner.
The B team were left to rue that spurned chance when Evergreen A took the lead nine minutes from half-time. Although Johnston did well to tip Chris Whearty’s long range strike over - and stop Dylan Whearty’s strike from the resulting corner - he could do little to prevent Barcoe from heading home the bouncing rebound.
The game was still in the balance in the second half, but Barcoe’s quick double put paid to Evergreen B’s hopes. If that wasn’t enough, they found themselves 4-0 down when Conor English netted a 71st minute penalty, drilling home after he was upended in the box.
Evergreen B were out, but they didn’t give up. With Sammy Johnston and Graham Gohery continuing the fight in midfield they kept pushing on. They got their reward in stoppage time, Johnston racing on to Cormac Hogan’s defence-splitting pass and tucking it past Holden, but it didn’t stop Evergreen A’s route to the final.
Evergreen B: Philip Johnston, Mikey McDonald, Ivor O’Brien, Gary Owens, Ger Galvin, Mark Cashin (Cormac Hogan, 77 mins), Sammy Johnston, Graham Gohery, Adrian Kealy, John Brett (Craig Eardley, 60 mins), Seamie Cummins (Robbie Hennessy, 77 mins).
Evergreen A: Pat Holden, Tommy Earls, Brian Jordan, Dylan Whearty, Niall Andrews, Jamie Owens, Conor English, Damian Kelly (Ciaran Snype, 73 mins), Daragh Walshe, Sean Barcoe (Ben Hickey, 68 mins), Chris Whearty.
Referee: Pat O’Connor.
Semi-final on ice
Evergreen A will have to wait and see who they’ll face in the Maher Shield final after the second semi-final was called off.
Stoneyford United and Thomastown United were due to square off on Sunday morning, but a frozen pitch put paid to their game. The conditions also saw the Division One game between Brookville and Fort Rangers, and the Division Three game between leaders Highview Athletic and Callan United B fall by the wayside.
Of the games that did go ahead Newpark A made full use of their 90 minutes, beating Lions A 3-0 to go top of the Premier Division.
Strikes from Ben Ryan and Henry O’Neill gave the city side a 2-0 first half lead. Although they were pressed hard by the Lions, who currently sit third in the table, a late goal from David Grincell - that’s two in two for his new club - secured the spoils.
The win means Newpark have moved two points clear of Thomastown United A, but having played four games more than their rivals Newpark aren’t celebrating yet.
“Some earlier results means it’s out of our hands now,” said Newpark manager Mark Ryan, “but we’ll keep the pressure on.”
Two games were played in Division Three, where Ballacolla beat Brookville B 6-2, while Freshford Town B beat Clover United B 2-0 in Rathdowney.
There were mixed fortunes for local teams who were involved in outside competitions over the weekend. Freebooters saw their quest to win another Leinster Junior Cup come to an end at the last 32 stage as River Valley Rangers won 1-0, a John O’Donoghue strike settling matters in Swords.
There was agony also for Evergreen’s Youths, who bowed out of the FAI Youths’ Cup. Despite two goals from Peter Henebry, the city side exited the competition when they lost to Waterford’s Villa by the odd goal in five.
There was better news for the Freebooters Youths, who advanced in the Leinster Cup thanks to a big win over Clane. Two goals from the prolific Cian Loy and one from Sam Watkins, saw the Blues go through with a 3-1 win at the Fair Green.