A NEVER say die Blarney United capped their season after coming back to beat premier division champions Rockmount in the O'Connell Cup final at a balmy Camden on Saturday last.
And they needed a never say die attitude when it looked in the first half like the league champions were going to run riot.
This game began in a, not unexpectedly, cautious manner, with play concentrated in the middle and any sign of danger resolutely hooked away by both defences. However, as the half progressed Rockmount gradually exerted dominance and looked ever more dangerous.
On 20 minutes Rockmount switched a move down the left over to the right and the subsequent cross was met by Ross O'Callaghan's head. Keeper Eamonn Breen could only fumble the attempt but Alan King's follow up effort was somehow deflected wide.
This heralded a period of sustained pressure that ultimately saw Rockmount take the lead in the 27th minute, with the Blarney defence quaking. Another well constructed move down the right left Darren Riordan with two free men to aim at in the centre. Having alrady come close, this time Christopher Butt's free header crashed into the far corner, with Blarney all at sea.
Now came an onslaught that threatened to completely swamp Blarney as they could only scramble away on target efforts from Alan King and Christopher Butt.
Still, Blarney came forward but a long range effort from Cathal O'Neill was all they could muster and by half time they looked out of ideas. Meanwhile, at the other end they'd lost influential defender Pat Keane to injury and, overall, things were not looking up.
That changed in the 52nd minute when, after a spirited restart, Blarney found themselves level thanks to an OG. When Alan Weldon floated in a free from half way Coleman flicked it on to find Dave McSweeney free on the edge of the box. He crossed back in to the waiting Coleman only for a defending boot to play it back into the net.
From here the entertainment value of an already engaging encounter increased steadily as Blarney took the initiative — while and increasingly unco-ordinated Rockmount still showed plenty of desire to carve out a winner.
With tempers heating up — like the sunny day it was — the ref doled out five yellows as Blarney grew in confidence. David Aherne had a header on target while, 24 minutes in, Richard O'Brien headed over from five yards.
As the half wore on a second Blarney goal looked inevitable. On 31 minutes both Robbie Butler and Butt failed from three yards as Rockmont literally threw bodies across the line to keep the ball out and O'Neill saw the ball taken off the line minutes later.
Rockmont didn't get even a corner until the 30th minute of the half but did eventually put together a period of pressure before full time in an effort to snatch it.
They continued the pressure into extra time but a superb robbery at midfield by Mark Clifford turned the tables again and O'Brien saw his 10th minute effort rebound off the cross bar as Blarney came again.
Ultimately, penalties were the only thing to separate two very hardworking sides who really gave their all. Here, Blarney keeper Eamon Breen was the hero, stopping no less than three to claim the cup.
BLARNEY UTD: Eamonn Breen, Dave McSweeney, Alan Leahy, Pat Keane, Alan Weldon, Robbie Butler, Liam O'Connor, Mark Clifford, Richard O'Brien, Kenny Coleman, Cathal O'Neill. Sub: Stephen Jennings for P Keane.
ROCKMOUNT: Sebastian Krawiel, Gearoid O'Leary, David Aherne, Steven Montgomery, Philip Cunningham, Edwin Buckley, Alan King, John Gaffney, Darren Riordan, Ross O'Callaghan, Christopher Butt. Subs: Ray Leahy for G O'Leary, David Welch for S Montgomery, and Danny Kiely for C Butt.
REFEREE: Pat Buckley