Carrick Rovers 17’s rounded of their season in style on Wednesday evening when they defeated League Champions Newtown in a thrilling NECSL HSE Cup Final played in Kells / Blackwater’s ground at The Grange. Rovers got out of the blocks from the kick-off and had Newtown in trouble down the wings with the pace of Aaron Jones and Cian Matthews causing the fullbacks all sorts of problems and after 6 minutes this was where the 1st goal came from. David Wilson, playing centre-half, won possession in defense and picked out Patrick Larney in midfield. The clever midfielder looked up and sprayed a ball out to the left wing to Matthews, who’d found a few yards of space on the edge of the Newtown area. Taking control he drove a ball across the Newtown area that struck the defenders arm. The Referee had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick for what looked a harsh decision. Larney dispatched the placed ball low into the bottom corner giving the keeper no chance. Rovers where flying now and could have extended their lead 5 minutes later. This time Padraig Marron broke up a Newtown attack in midfield and laid the ball back to Wilson who this time picked out Jones on the right wing. Jones took the ball in his stride before putting his head down and breezing past his marker and advanced deep into Newtown territory he got to within 15 yards of the byline before floating a delightful ball to the back post where Matthews had ghosted in unmarked. The winger did everything right with his header, getting good contact and keeping it low but his effort came back of the upright and was cleared from danger. Again Rovers took the game to the opposition and had efforts from Larney, Marron and Stephen Cunningham dealt with by the keeper. Newtown introduced a couple of substitutes and this seemed to bring them back into the game and they began to dominate possession. Ryan Carolan and Ronan O’Callaghan in the left and right back roles had their work cut out for them as Newtown now pressed Rovers back into their own half. In the 24th minute Mark Kieran in the Rovers goal had to be on his toes to turn a shot around his post. From the corner kick Thomas Finnegan had to rise high to head the ball away from his own 6 yard area. The Rovers midfield of Larney, Marron and unsung hero Rob Berg had to make tackle after tackle to stem the tide of Newtown attacks. On 35 minutes Newtown carved Carrick open on the right and from the resulting cross the Newtown striker had a free header but couldn’t keep this effort down. It was all Newtown at this stage with Rovers limited to brief spells of possession and occasional attacks. Rovers defense were holding strong and repelling any attacks into the Carrick half. Ian Martin replaced Ronan O’Callaghan at left back and slotted into his role straight away making some vital tackles. Kieran was called into action again on 41 minutes when from a cross from a corner saw the ball bounce around the Rovers area and it feel to a Newtown player only 5 yards out but Kieran flung himself low to smother the shot and hold onto the ball.
Half Time Carrick Rovers 1-0 Newtown
The 2nd half saw Newtown continue where they had left off the 1st with the momentum with them and again Kieran had to be alert to palm a saw over the crossbar at his near post. Eventually the pressure told and Newtown equalized with a piece of footballing magic. Their striker took possession of the ball inside his own half before putting his head down and striding past 4 Rovers players before reaching the corner of the Rovers area where he opened his body and placed his shot beyond Kieran’s reach and into the far corner. This lifted Newtown and they came at Rovers again looking to add to their score. Wilson and Finnegan made some superb last ditch tackles with Berg running himself into the ground. Again Kieran stood solid from a shot from distance and another effort just flew over the crossbar. It was a matter of when not if Newtown scored next and it came in the 64th minute. A loose pass out of defense was intercepted by a Newtown player and although Finnegan and Carolan tried to shepherd him away from goal he broke in behind both and before Kieran could set himself the ball flashed into the opposite side of the goals. Rovers shape was all over the place now but the kept battling and hassling the Newtown players in possession. The next goal was going to be crucial and it looked more likely to come Newtown’s way. In the 73rd minute they put together a flowing move that cut Rovers open. The ball fell to an unmarked Newtown player inside the area and his shot beat Kieran but came back of the upright but came straight back to him to have a second strike. This time Kieran stretched himself to get a vital touch on the ball that took it back onto the same upright and away. Rovers were riding their luck at this time but with only 1 goal in it the game was still there to be played for. With 14 minutes remaining Daniel McDonald replaced Cunningham who’d worked his socks off as usual and they changed their shape going 4-4-2 from a 4-3-3 formation. This seemed to confuse the Newtown defense and almost straight away Rovers began to gain more possession of the ball and started to ask more questions of Newtown. On 79 minutes they carved an opening with Berg winning a thunderous tackle before finding Larney who picked out McDonalds run with a terrific through ball and as he raced clear to be 1-v-1 with the keeper he pulled the trigger only for a last ditch block came in from a defender to clear for a corner. 3 minutes later with Newtown trying to get out of their half, Marron gained possession and slide McDonald in again after making a great run down the channel. This time the striker coolly lifted the ball over the advancing keeper and the ball looked to be dropping in before a defender got a touch to help it on its way to the back of the net. Newtown kicked off and went looking for the goal to prevent the possibility of extra-time and again with minutes on the clock, Man of the Match, Kieran produced not 1 but 2 moments of magic when he dived low to his right to stop a goal bound shot and then reacted to quickly get to his feet to again block the rebound. The game had become stretched at this stage and Rovers had gone with 3 up top looking to finish it in normal time and this paid off 3 minutes into injury time when Carolan combined with Jones to put Larney away on the right. Larney held the ball up with 2 defenders around him but brilliantly drop his shoulder and strode towards goal where his run was stopped by a Newtown player inside the area. The drama wasn’t finished as the game was held up with Newtown protesting the decision. The usual reliable Larney stood over the ball again and as the keeper went to his left, he placed his shot to the right only to see it strike the base of the upright and squirt across the goal towards the laid out Keepers reach but he could only palm the ball skywards where Larney had followed his 1st effort and he made no mistake to volley home. With the game deep into injury time Newtown again came looking to respond but Rovers weathered the storm and saw of the threat of a last gasp corner kick. The Referee blow the final whistle to scenes of joy and relief and Rovers had retained the Trophy that has been in Carrickmacross for the last 3 season’s.
Full Time Carrick Rovers 3-2 Newtown
Team: Mark Kieran, Ryan Carolan, David Wilson, Thomas Finnegan, Ronan O’Callaghan, Aaron Jones, Patrick Larney, Rob Berg, Padraig Marron, Cian Matthews, Stephen Cunningham, Ian Martin, Daniel McDonald, Andrew Butler, Kevin Quinn, Steven Lynagh, Jack Corr, Michael Monahan and Liam McGeough.
A thrilling Final and a dramatic ending but fully deserved for all the hard work over not only this year but the last 6 years together. The future looks good.