THIS was the most eagerly awaited final of the season and it did not disappoint and a great second half performance by Annascaul wrote themselves in the sporting history books when they were crowned Division 2B Champions after an impressive win over Na Fianna in their very first season in the Kerry District League.
Denny Division 2B Final
Annascaul FC 3
Na Fianna 0
It was ironic that Na Fianna are a side that have scored a lot of goals from set pieces, but on this occasion it was set pieces from the opposition that led to their downfall.
Na Fianna were off the blocks like a greyhound to a hare and were completely on top for the opening 20 minutes.
They were moving the ball about very quickly and putting the Annascaul defence under a lot of pressure.
However, their usually deadly free taker Chris Lyons was out of sorts and he was unable to get past the Annascaul defensive wall with four decent looking free kicks.
Their best chance of a score came in the 15 minute when Tom Perryman made a great run down the right wing and cut in goal wards and his shot from just inside the box was only inches away.
Gradually Annascaul began to exert pressure and Jason Hickson fired over the top after being set up by Gareth O'Donnell. Then Na Fianna got a free kick on the verge of the box and on this occasion Damian Murphy tried his hand, but he could not get past the defensive wall.
Annascaul almost took the lead on the half hour mark when Gareth O'Donnell swept in a free kick from the side-line Eamon Lenihan had a free header at the far post but nodded his effort wide. Just before half time Annascaul had a let off when a back header in the box by Eamon Lenihan was taken off the line by Jason Hickson. Going in at half-time Na Fianna can't have been too happy with themselves as they enjoyed a lot of possession had some good chances but still had not registered a score.
Kevin Murphy had a couple of efforts early in the second half but he was unable to force the Annascaul goalie to make a save. Now Annascaul upped the tempo of their game and they went ahead in the 54th minute. A defensive clearance was flicked on at midfield by Gareth O'Donnell to Shane Foley and he controlled it beautifully ran past stranded defenders and found the bottom corner. Na Fianna persisted in driving high balls into the Annascaul box and all of them were dealt with very competently by a rock solid rear-guard.
Annascaul put themselves in the driving seat in the 78th minute when Jason Hickson floated in a free kick from the sideline. Na Fianna goalie John Toomey did not get to the ball and Eamon Hickson was lurking at the far post and found the net from close range. They put the game to bed in the 84th minute when the Na Fianna defence could not deal with a Gareth O'Donnell free kick and Shane Foley headed in with the aid of the post.
Annascaul were very worthy winners at the end as they soaked up the pressure when it was on in the first half and took their chances superbly in the second half.
Noel Flahive and Eamon Lenihan were superb at the heart of the defence Gareth O'Donnell was the playmaker at midfield while the Hickson brothers Jason and Eamon as well as Shane Foley were outstanding.
While it was disappointment for Na Fianna they still have the Tommy Healy Cup with a fascinating semi-final tie against Shanakill Athletic.
Annascaul FC: Tommy Pierse, John Bowler, Adam Newstead, Noel Flahive, Eamon Lenihan, James Sayers, Jason Hickson, Gareth O'Donnell, Eamon Hickson, Shane Foley, Paul Whelehan Subs: Sean O'Shea for James Sayers, Declan Lyndsey for Adam Newstead and Colin Sayers for Paul Whelehan
Na Fianna: John Toomey, Tom McCarthy, Joe Mc Elligott, Eric O'Connor, Ben Landy, Tarik Barry, Tom Perryman, Damian Murphy, Kevin Murphy, Chris Lyons. Subs: Barrack Osas Menlegel for Ben Landy, David Murphy for Christopher Breen
Referee: Brian Healy