KEANES JEWELLERS MUNSTER CHAMPIONS TROPHY
Tramore AFC 3 St Brendans Park 3 (Park won 3-2 on pens)
THE Park covered themsleves in glory in Waterford on Sunday when they defeated Tramore AFC in most dramatic circumstances in the Keane Jewellers Munster Champions Trophy semi-final. It was a remarkable achievement as they lost 4-0 to the same opposition last year in the last 16 of the Munster Junior Cup. They had to come from behind twice to stay in the hunt and they showed tremendous spirit and character to take the game to extra time and then win in a lottery at the end.
Park were forced to make a change before kick off when Aidan Quirke was unable to play and was replaced by David Courtney who went on to have a great game, opened brightly with Con Barrett heading over from a Fergal Maunsell corner in the first minute. However Tramore took over and controlled the game for the next ten minutes and forced a number of corners but The Park were defending stoutly.
Indeed they could have gone one up in the 12th minute when Mark O'Sullivan's run set up David Courtney who lobbed the keeper but his effort was just a little weak and Lee Russell was able to clear it off the line. But six minutes later The Park were behind. Tramore attacked with speed and just when it looked like The Park has snuffed out the danger Philip Drohan swiveled onto the ball and his low shot from outside box beat Jamie Kelly.
However, within two minutes The Park were level when following a good move, involving David Courtney and Anthony Murphy, Mike Conway drilled the ball low across the keeper to level matters. It got even better for The Park in the 34th minute when they went ahead. McCarthy's cross was deflected onto the Tramore crossbar and when it fell back into play Fergal Maunsell was quickest to react and couldn't miss from six yards.
As expected Tramore started the second half very brightly but The Park were excellent in defence with David McGee, Con Barrett and Ryan Downey particularly impressive. Then came two minutes that would have broken the hearts of a lesser team. Tramore were level in the 64th minute when a Chris Grace shot deflected of Con Barrett's back and looped over the unlucky Kelly.
Two minutes later it got worse when a Tramore free kick from the right wing came back into play from the angle of the bar and crossbar and Philip Quilty was waiting to prod the ball home. The Park looked in hope to the referee's assistant but no flag came. They were back to parity inside six minutes when another flowing move involving Maunsell, Murphy and McCarthy ended up with the latter producing a wonderful finish. At the back Shane Brosnan was excellent, getting in some vital blocks and touches while Conway and Courtney were excellent in midfield.
This game was played at a frantic pace and The Park did tire but worked tirelessly and the scoreline remained deadlocked at the end of normal time. Both sides had half chances in extra time but history was destined to repeat itself as this game went to penalties, mirroring the three ties that Killarney Celtic won last season on their way to lifting the title. Tramore went first and scored but Mark O'Sullivan replied for The Park. Both sides then missed before Tramore went ahead again and when Geoff Kelly saved The Park's third it looked ominous with the score at 2-1 to the home side after three penalties each.
However, The Park's Jamie Kelly had other ideas. He saved Tramore's fourth leaving Pa McCarthy with the opportunity to level matters which he did. Jamie then made himself a Park hero saving Tramore's last penalty. It was then up to Paudie Bailey and he showed nerves of steal to hit a cracking penalty to the net to spark scenes of joy for The Park's players, management and travelling support.
The Park certainly deserve their place in the final and while they may have rode their luck a little they produced a great all round performance to get past a very good Tramore side. Tommy Naughton and Tadgh Healy know they will have to get at least the same work rate and committment from their players if they want to become the second Kerry side in a row to lift the Keane's Munster Champions Trophy.
They will now meet Pike Rovers of Limerick in the final at Turners Cross on the weekend of December 1/2. Pike defeated St Michael's Tipperary 1-0 in the other semi – final on Sunday. The Park are now just one step away from emulating the feat of Killarney Celtic who won the inaugural event last year. The Park: James Kelly, David McGee, Ryan Downey, Shane Brosnan, David Courtney, Fergal Maunsel, Mike Conway, Pa McCarthy, Anthony Murphy, Mark O'Sullivan, Con Barrett. Subs Paudie Bailey, Fiachra Dunne and David McLoughlin, Stephen O'Sullivan, Wayne Guthrie and Adrian Quirke