Sheriff YC 4
Kilbarrack United 3
By Tom Rooney
Sheriff YC made history at the AUL Complex on Sunday morning by beating Kilbarrack United in the Liddy Cup Final to become the first Dublin-based junior soccer side to win five trophies in a season. But how they were made work for it. As a spectacle, it could hardly have been scripted better. It ebbed and flowed in a manner that only a neutral could enjoy; both sides surrendered what had looked to be insurmountable leads and, it was contested by bitter rivals, all too familiar with each other. Until John Rock’s headed winner in the final minute of ordinary time, all in concert were resolved to the further agony of extra-time and perhaps penalties.
In some regards, it might be said that Sheriff owes Kilbarrack a debt of gratitude for forcing them to find their best time and time again. This was their sixth meeting of the season, with Sheriff, including today, winning five. Alan Reilly’s charges won on penalties in the FAI Junior Cup final and the Nivea Cup semi-final, the Leinster Junior Cup final by 2-1, with the spoils being shared in the league. How they must be sick of each other.
Perhaps it was the result of a contrary breeze but, for long stretches Sheriff did not play with their usual structure or guile and relied largely on Lee Murphy’s booming kick- outs as their main offensive weapon. Kilbarrack too, must be given some credit for this; with Keith Kirwan and Aaron Humphries tracking playmaker-in-chief John Lester, throughout and largely nullifying his influence. Still, right on cue, the newly-crowned AUL Premier A champions were in front, Stephen Murphy latched onto a loose clearance, rifling home from twenty yards after twelve minutes.
Kilbarrack, through Mark Townley, with the aid of Mark Nolan and Sean Beresford stretched the three man Sheriff defence out wide, yet the final ball continued to elude them. Just after the half hour mark Alan McCabe forced an acrobatic finger- tip save from Nicholas Kantounas. Minutes before the break Sheriff doubled the lead with their best move of the game; Kevin Lynch surged through midfield and after a quick exchange of passes with John Rock, he found Alan McCabe, and his side-footed effort trickled into the bottom corner despite Kantounas’ best efforts.
Within five minutes of the restart Kilbarrack were level. Aaron Humphries, in the right place at the right time, headed home after Lee Murphy parried David Jackson’s looping cross. Mark Townley then got on the end of John Meleady’s over-head ball, after Mark Dunne launched a counter attack down the left-hand side.
Kilbarrack were unlucky not to take the lead when Meleady’s thumping half-volley forced a spectacular save from Murphy. Aaron Humphries grabbed his second when another hanging ball by Jackson, helped by the wind, caused mayhem in the Sheriff defence. Sheriff, playing their third game in five days began to fatigue and it looked to be tilting in Kilbarrack’s favour with ten minutes left on the clock. But winning is a habit, and champions find a way.
Mark Mooney pulled down Alan McCabe inside the box and John Rock coolly slotted home the subsequent spot kick; an additional half hour of drama was again on the cards. Sheriff came again, John Lester’s shot struck the post and Rock was on hand to nod the rebound past the outstanding Kantounas.
Man of the Match: Mark Townley