THE Muirhevnamor derby on Friday night produced a pulsating encounter with a real sting in the tail as the Youths took a 2-0 lead before conceding a last-gasp Mickey O'Kane (pictured) winner.
The Youths entered the game unbeaten and leading the table and they rode their luck in the opening 20 minutes. Mickey O'Kane and striking partner Sean Conlon each squandered two glorious scoring opportunities to establish a healthy lead.
Youths goalkeeper Michael Cooney saved with his feet in unorthodox fashion from O'Kane. after which Conlon went past the goalkeeper in the penalty area but couldn't direct his shot into the empty net. The stocky striker then fired just wide from 12 yards after a brilliant piece of control and turn to match, before the unmarked O'Kane could only steer Gary Clarke's cross from the right over the bar at the far post.
The Youths then rocked the champions, scoring twice in as many minutes. As the game entered the second quarter Ryan Duffy's cracking shot from the edge of the box nestled in the bottom corner of the net before Michael Cooney had a chance to move. That was after the Youths' Brendan Hughes turned Daniel Berry's low cross towards goal and the ball squirmed across the line despite Cooney's best efforts to keep it out - 2-0 to the Youths.
The champions certainly were rattled, but Adrian Rafferty with a diving header was denied by a goal-line clearance from reducing the deficit just before the half-hour, before it required a good save by Michael Cooney to prevent Padraig Smith from extending the Youths' lead.
At the other end minutes later Thomas McShane burst clear inside the Youths box and ballooned his shot over the bar.
Despite the presence of several sets of brothers playing against each other there was no love lost between the teams and just before the break a general
melee broke out involving nearly every player on the pitch.
Tempers had flared after a high blocking tackle by Stefan McKevitt on Padraig Smith and when things calmed down the referee dismissed McKevitt and also the Youths scorer Brendan Hughes and showed a yellow card to their goalkeeper David Cooney who had raced from his penalty box into the other half of the field to fling himself into the melee.
The Youths seemed more disconcerted by the loss of Hughes as the champions assumed command and only another goal-line clearance by Craig Dixon prevented O'Kane from reducing the deficit. However, Muirhevnamor only had to wait 10 minutes into the second half for that to happen as Adrian Rafferty soared highest in the Youths penalty box to power his partner Conor Mulvenna's free kick into the roof of the net.
It wasn't Thomas McShane's night as he failed to capitalise on a free header and then was booked, and he threaded a thin line with a couple of other tackles that could have earned him a second yellow and a dismissal.
In a rare shot on the champions' goal Michael Cooney was relieved to see Michael Gray's snap effort bounce wide, but Sean Conlon then wriggled his way between two defenders and cut into the box and his low cross was turned into the net by a Youths man under pressure from O'Kane and Gary Clarke.
Then, with time almost up, a poor clearance by Youths was seized upon by the champions as Brian Begley raced into wide open space and crossed to the far post where O'Kane applied a trademark finish.
Muirhevnamor: Michael Cooney, Stefan McKevitt, Adrian Rafferty (Conor Murphy), Conor Mulvenna, Paul Mallon, Philip Duffy, Thomas McShane, Brian Begley, Mickey O'Kane, Sean Conlon. Subs not used: Thomas Woods, Martin Gill.
Muirhevnamor Youths! David Cooney, Craig Dixon, Andy Gray( Damien Bailey 85), Paddy McShane, Kyio McKay, Thomas Conway, Padraig Smith (Ciaran Boland 45), Brendan Hughes, Michael Gray, Daniel Berry (Joseph Bellew 93). Subs not used: Dean Gray, Stephen McGuinness, Fergal Donnelly, Anthony Hughes, Sean Murphy.