North End de­liver, but Wex­ford let a great chance slip

Gorey Guardian - - SPORT - With Alan Aherne

FOR ANY­ONE in­volved in am­a­teur sport, ei­ther as a player or a men­tor, there’s no bet­ter feel­ing than the 60 sec­onds in the im­me­di­ate aftermath of an All-Ire­land tri­umph. Sheer ec­stasy is the only way to de­scribe it, and it’s the ex­act same upon wak­ing up the fol­low­ing morn­ing; that’s if you man­aged to get to sleep in the first place.

Ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with North End United will know ex­actly what I mean af­ter their thrilling tri­umph in the Aviva Sta­dium on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Thanks to a live stream, I was able to watch the drama un­fold on my phone from the press-box in In­no­vate Wex­ford Park, and the penalty shoot-out con­ve­niently ended just as the Un­der-17 hurl­ing game be­gan.

Fair play to the six men in­volved in that dra­matic con­clu­sion, the five goalscor­ers plus net­min­der Lee Walker.

It took a team and full squad ef­fort to bring the ti­tle home, but that sex­tet re­ally stepped up when the pres­sure was at its great­est.

There must no bet­ter way to win an All-Ire­land ti­tle than with the last suc­cess­ful kick at the end of a marathon strug­gle, and Gary De­laney was cool­ness per­son­i­fied as he tucked it home.

I hope John God­kin and his tal­ented crew en­joy ev­ery sec­ond of be­ing the best Ju­nior soc­cer team in the Repub­lic of Ire­land.

No­body will ever be able to take that achieve­ment away from this group, re­gard­less of where their sport­ing paths will take them in the years to come.

They are su­perb am­bas­sadors for club, town and county, and they did us all proud.

And at half-time in the Le­in­ster Se­nior foot­ball cham­pi­onship game later that evening, it looked like an un­fan­cied Wex­ford were go­ing to cap a mem­o­rable day for sport in the county, given that Tadhg Fur­long had also brought a Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup medal home with Le­in­ster.

I reckon I’m part of a tiny mi­nor­ity, hav­ing watched ev­ery sec­ond of com­pet­i­tive foot­ball played by this team since their O’Byrne Cup opener against Of­faly in Tul­lam­ore on De­cem­ber 30.

I’ve fol­lowed them to En­niskillen, Sligo, Derry and Long­ford among other venues, and I must con­fess that I didn’t think they were ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing the type of first-half dis­play that ev­ery­one wit­nessed on Satur­day.

And yet, there has to be a lin­ger­ing sense of frus­tra­tion at their in­abil­ity to get the job done.

The tag of gal­lant losers shouldn’t rest eas­ily on the shoul­ders of an in­ter-county foot­ball team, and the praise they re­ceived for that first 35 min­utes can­not mask the fact that let­ting a ten-point lead slip rep­re­sents a spec­tac­u­lar turn­around in for­tunes.

Wex­ford lacked the cute­ness to see the game out, both on and off the field in my opin­ion.

It was ob­vi­ous from an early stage in the sec­ond-half that the route one ball to big Donie Kingston was go­ing to be the num­ber one ploy from Laois, and we were very slow to re­spond to the dan­ger.

And then, af­ter Donal Shan­ley pointed that late penalty, some­body on the Wex­ford team needed to step up and take a black card to pre­serve the lead.

At that level of sport, be­ing nice will get you nowhere, and the most suc­cess­ful teams are the ones who adopt a win at all costs ap­proach.

Whether we like it or not, that’s the way it is, and I for one would have been de­lighted to see a Wex­ford player wrestling an op­po­nent to the ground to sti­fle that last Laois at­tack.

It could be ar­gued, of course, that no­body was able to get close enough to an op­po­nent to do the deed, be­cause the play­ers ap­peared to be out on their feet at that stage.

Clearly it had taken a her­culean ef­fort to es­tab­lish that ten-point in­ter­val lead, but it was wor­ry­ing that we didn’t seem to have the nec­es­sary phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing to last the full 70 min­utes and longer.

It was a golden op­por­tu­nity wasted, and now it re­mains to be seen where the qual­i­fier draw will take us. Hope­fully the harsh lessons of Satur­day will be taken on board for the next out­ing.

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