N END WIN 5-4 ON PENS

Gorey Guardian - - SPORT -

HIS­TORIC OC­CA­SION, nerve-jan­gling ten­sion, un­bri­dled joy; the play­ers, coaches and sup­port­ers of North End United wouldn’t have it any other way. This is how you want to be­come the first-ever Wex­ford win­ner of the FAI New Bal­ance Ju­nior Cup.

That’s how a ten-round com­pe­ti­tion should end. North End could have pushed on af­ter half-time and won hand­ier, but the kiss of the cup lingers longer like this, and that first re­fresh­ing, cel­e­bra­tory drink hits the spot that bit quicker.

In the end it took penal­ties, and it’s a lot­tery, you know. Ex­cept it didn’t look like that. North End hit five per­fect penal­ties, and Pike ‘keeper Gary Neville came close to none of them. What did John God­kin’s side do in their last ses­sion be­fore this game? They prac­ticed penal­ties.

Yes, of course, nerve, bot­tle and men­tal­ity come into a penalty shoot-out. Five kicks, Paul ‘Spot’ Mur­phy, Paul Mur­phy, Kyle Dempsey, Adam Beary and fi­nally Gary De­laney - the five big­gest mo­ments of their sport­ing lives.

Ev­ery penalty was as good as the one be­fore, as good as the one that came af­ter. Maybe em­brac­ing des­tiny brings a seren­ity that fed into the North End psy­che, as not one of the five looked like miss­ing, not one of them seemed any­thing other than steely fo­cused.

And what about Lee Walker? Peo­ple talk of it be­ing a free run for goal­keep­ers, that they have noth­ing to lose, that they aren’t re­ally ex­pected to save a penalty so it’s so much eas­ier for them.

Don’t tell the goal­keeper he shouldn’t ex­pect to save one. This is the mo­ment these lads live for, on a hid­ing to noth­ing as the last line of de­fence, and you can bet Walker ex­pected to save a spot-kick and save Colin Daly’s he did.

The Pike at­tacker went low to his left, Walker’s right. He guessed the cor­rect way - which he did on two of the five kicks and made the stop. It was the only chance ei­ther ‘keeper had of mak­ing a save and Walker pulled it off.

At that stage, with the two Paul Mur­phys al­ready suc­cess­ful, it was 2-2. Kyle Dempsey went low to his right, send­ing Gary Neville the wrong way.

Shane Walsh made it 3-3 but Adam Beary’s ef­fort proved too pow­er­ful for the Pike stop­per to get any­where near mo­ments later.

Pa­trick Mullins blasted it high down the cen­tre to put all the pres­sure on the fi­nal North End kicker. Or­di­nar­ily, the re­spon­si­bil­ity would have fallen to Jay Mur­phy to take the fifth but, with the striker off the field, new­est re­cruit Gary De­laney stepped up to the plate.

The for­mer Wex­ford Youths and Water­ford F.C. club­man was cool­ness per­son­i­fied. He fired it low to his left to set off rau­cous cel­e­bra­tions on the field, on the side­line and amongst the bois­ter­ous trav­el­ling Sky Blues sup­port.

The win was the cul­mi­na­tion of years of work from hun­dreds of peo­ple, but at the end of the day it came down to 15 play­ers who took to the field. Ev­ery sin­gle one of them con­trib­uted and one would be fool­hardy to ar­gue with the choice of cap­tain Paul Mur­phy as man of the match.

How­ever, the back four of North End was mag­nif­i­cent. The aber­ra­tion of al­low­ing Colin Daly to run at them un­touched for the equaliser aside - and the mid­field could take the bulk of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for that - they didn’t put a foot wrong.

You know what you get from De­laney and Decky Downes at this stage, but maybe the best of the quar­tet was Dale Flynn. He was solid at left-back but mag­nif­i­cent when he was switched to the cen­tre af­ter Downes’ in­jury.

The first-half was near per­fect for North End. They con­trolled the game com­pletely, played it at their pace and had the lion’s share of the ball. They didn’t cre­ate a string of clearcut chances but they had more than enough op­por­tu­ni­ties to war­rant an in­ter­val lead.

It was a game of inches early on as both Paul Mur­phy and Robin Dempsey missed vi­tal touches that might have pro­duced an opener. Jay Mur­phy then got brother ‘Spot’ away on the right but the at­tempted

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