'They won't be forgetting Boyle' insists 'heartbroken' boss Hurd
Boyle Celtic 1 Evergreen 1* (*Evergreen won 4-2 on penalties)
Penalties, they say, are a lottery. Form goes out the window when it comes to the penalty shoot-out, a cruel way to lose a crucial game.
And Boyle Celtic will feel as though this was the game that got away. Manager Darren Hurd feels it should never have come to penalties, as his side lost out 4-2 to Evergreen in the FAI Junior Cup semi-final at The Showgrounds.
Despite a slow start, Boyle were the better team for large periods of the game.
Taking the lead through man of the match Danny Browne after 12 minutes from a spot-kick, Celtic were well worth their lead.
Dessie Carlos, outstanding on the day, was taken down in the box by Evergreen 'keeper Packie Holden.
Browne made no mistake from the spot, giving Boyle a valuable lead.
Evergreen were almost back in the game on 42 minutes. Lee Delaney's ball was headed goalwards by Dean Barcoe, but an excellent save from Kyle Suffin snuffed out the danger.
Just as Boyle remained in control of proceedings, they were dealt a suckerpunch as the visitors levelled proceedings.
A long throw into the Boyle box was not dealt with, falling to former Aston Villa striker Mikey Drennan, who hit the back of the net.
The sides could not be separated in extra-time, and so came the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Kyle Suffin, the hero from the quarter-final penalty shoot-out, had Boyle fans dreaming as he saved Evergreen's first penalty from Mikey Drennan.
But it mattered little as Danny Browne hit the crossbar with Boyle's first penalty.
Tom Earls beat Suffin next, while Boyle's Gerry McDermottroe missed his spot-kick. Daragh Walshe made no mistake with his penalty beating Suffin to make it 2-0 to Evergreen.
Boyle finally got off the mark thanks to Aaron Murren's penalty, Conor English made it 3-1 to Evergreen before Niall Brennan pegged one back for Boyle.
Neil Andrews' penalty, which hit the back of the net, sealed the fate of both Boyle Celtic and Evergreen, the former seeing their dream end.
Hurd, although beaming with pride, felt that the better team lost out on the day.
"We had it in the bag at 1-0 up. We played them off the park," he said afterwards.
"I'm very disappointed. I thought we were the better team. We've just got to take it on the chin and re-start and re-group," he added.
"It was a fairytale, but the fairytale has been broken. I don't know what to say really. It's been hard on the lads. They've worked so hard. They haven't been drinking, they've been training really well. The brand of football they play is fantastic. The crowd of over two thousand here could see it. No disrespect to Evergreen, they've come down from Kilkenny. They've come down to the North-West and beaten us on penalties. I knew they were going to be dangerous on set plays, we worked on that on the training ground. They got one from a long throw. It wasn't meant to be I'm afraid," Hurd stated.
Boyle Celtic have not only represented the town of Boyle in the competition, but the county of Roscommon, the Sligo Leitrim and District League, Connacht, and indeed the North-West.
"I'm proud of them, I'm proud of everyone. I'm proud of the supporters, I'm proud of the town, Sligo, everyone. It's heartbreaking but to think at the beginning of the season that we were going to get into the semi-final of the FAI Junior Cup, I would've said 'no'. But the better team lost. Words can't say what I feel about that bunch of lads in there. They're very good. I'm very proud of them. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. We will re-group and we will start again. We'll go for it next year. We have a big game on Sunday against Carbury," he said.
Boyle were visibly the fitter side on the day, As extra-time loomed, Evergreen's men dropped to the ground, physios were kept busy for the quick break.
"Loads of work has been put in. You can see it yourself. The Evergreen players were dropping. The first period of extra-time we took over. Penalties is a cruel way to go. But look, they had a player up front who's played for Aston VIlla, Shamrock Rovers, Portsmouth. He wasn't even in the game," said Hurd.
Hurd is adamant that they best team on the day lost. Even the Evergreen manager agreed, he claims.
"He saved two penalties didn't he. He's the manager, he's come into our changing room and wished us well. Even he said the better team lost. They have players who are 6ft 4 and 6ft 5. I think our tallest player is 5ft 11. It's hard to play against that. It is hard. Fair play to them, I don't think they deserve it though. They bought us to the game in the first ten minutes. They were the best side in the first ten minutes. They have a better pedigree. They have a better set-up, they have more money, their set-up is almost professional."
Hurd is unsure as to whether or not his future lies with Boyle Celtic. But what a journey this has been regardless.
"We're just a club from a small town in Roscommon. It all depends what I do next year, whether I stay or whether I go. But whoever takes over, if I don't stay, they have a great bunch of lads to work with.
"I don't feel sorry for myself. They can be proud of themselves. The hype will go after a couple of days. It's just now it hurts. It hurts everyone. They'll be getting on that bus home, they'll be happy, but they know they didn't deserve it."
Hurd fired a warning for next year, that Boyle Celtic will be back and this time they will be stronger.
"This has been the biggest crowd at The Showgrounds all year. It's not me that's done it, it's those players. I just pick the team and coach them. As I've always said, once they cross that white line it's up to them and they gave it everything.
"We were representing the North-West. They won't be forgetting Boyle and they will come back stronger. We have three players already coming in next year."