O’Neill’s LFA Youths Cup Semi – Final – 01/04/17.
Nurney Villa AFC 3-2 St Kevin’s Boys FC.
Nurney entertained the famous St Kevin’s Boys from the DDSL in this provincial semi-final in McGrath Park in Bagenalstown, in front of a large crowd, on an overcast, warm day, but with a blustery wind blowing straight down the pitch and St Kevin’s took advantage of the wind in the first half.
It was a tentative, nervous start from both teams as they both struggled to master the conditions and it was St Kevin’s who were first to show, with their striker Sean Cummins taking free kicks and corners with great accuracy and from one of these the ‘giant’ Craig Connelly headed over.
A good run and cross by St Kevin’s full – back Stephen Blake was cleared by Nurney’s Padraig Hynes as St Kevin’s continued to pressurise the Nurney defence.
It was a real battle in mid-field to get possession, with, as expected, both teams in determined mood and free-kicks coming ‘thick and fast’ and an early Yellow Card for a Nurney defender seemed to settle things down for a while.
Another good run and cross by Stephen Blake was put out for a corner and subsequently cleared and a lightning attack by Nurney’s speedy Strikers – Sean Smithers and Cormac Lomax, but they were crowded out by the St Kevin’s defence.
St Kevin’s were playing some delightful football as they dominated this part of the game and this pressure paid off on 22 minutes as Adam Campbell crossed from wide left and it was headed home by Levi Boardman for that vital first goal.
St Kevin’s were still pressurising Nurney and Sean Cummins shot just over from the edge of the penalty box and just after that, on 31 minutes, a good bout of inter-passing in midfield, left Cummins free to feed a diagonal ball into winger Mark O’Connor to drive the ball into the far corner for a 0-2 advantage to St Kevin’s and at this stage they were cruising.
Nurney were stung into action and they pulled a goal back on 34 minutes, following a free – kick taken by Michael Murphy which dropped into St Kevin’s goal area, where Cormac Lomax latched on to the loose ball and lofted it into the roof of the net for a 1-2 scoreline.
The ‘battle for the ball raged on’ in midfield and after St Kevin’s won a free-kick, taken by Levi Boardman, which took a huge deflection and Nurney’s Michael Murphy headed it on to the bar and out for another corner, which was subsequently cleared.
St Kevin’s won a series of corners but Nurney’s defence were defending sternly and strongly to keep out a rampant St Kevin’s team as half-time beckoned.
Just before the interval, Nurney won a free-kick taken by Neil Martin and it was only half cleared by Stephen Blake and Nurney’s Sean Taylor volleyed it in and it hit a defender and then the post for a corner and a header from Padraig Hynes was stopped on the line and grabbed by a grateful keeper.
The interval came with a 1-2 advantage to St Kevin’s Boys.
St Kevin’s started the second-half well and from a good cross Mark O’Connor shot over and in this first period St Kevin’s were having plenty of possession and their distribution was excellent, however, a long, through ball from Nurney’s David Lillis found Cormac Lomax and his shot was well saved by keeper Mark Byrne, as Nurney came more into the game.
The game moved into a phase where it was ‘end to end’ and Nurney’s dangerous striker Sean Smithers who had been well marshalled by the St Kevin’s defenders was starting to come into his own as he put their defenders under pressure with some unselfish and ‘lung bursting runs’.
There were a number of near misses at both ends as both attacks strove for the crucial next goal, but a loose ball in midfield, was ‘picked up’ by substitute Jack Tracey, who put through a through ball to Sean Smithers, who out-paced the St Kevin’s defenders and drilled a fierce shot past Mark Byrne in goal for the equaliser at 2-2.
Sean Smithers and Cormac Lomax were working hard to get things and their pace was stretching the St Kevins defenders, but they were ‘up to the task’ and they were ‘camped’ in the Nurney half and they forced a series of corners, but there were no clear-cut chances.
Cormac Lomax got through the St Kevin’s defence following a ball from Padraig Hynes and his shot was pushed on to the bar and out for a corner by Mark Byrne and the subsequent corner was cleared off the line by their defence.
With about five minutes to go Levi Boardman got free in the Nurney area and made a smart turn and seemed certain to score but Jack Hughes Nurney’s keeper made the save of the match as he cleared with his legs and Neil Martin completed the clearance.
Sean Smithers latched on to this long ball and outstripped the St Kevin’s defenders and coolly struck his shot into the corner of the net for the whole Nurney team and supporters to convulse in raptures, as they took the lead 3-2 for the first time in the match.
St Kevin’s threw on a number of Substitutes in an effort to grab an equaliser , as it was ‘desperation stakes’ for them and the last few minutes did get a little bit ‘tetchy’ which was understandable bearing in mind the importance of the game to all these young men.
The Referee blew the final whistle, on this pulsating game and Nurney were through to the final, being the first Carlow team to have reached a LFA Youths Cup Final and it was a well deserved and battling win, with commiserations to St Kevin’s Boys.