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Murphy's magic moment!

Leinster Junior Cup Final: North End United 1 Oliver Bond Celtic 0


Kyle Dempsey, Adam Beary, Alan Rhodes, John Lester, Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney and Noel Heffernan with the cup

Kyle Dempsey, Adam Beary, Alan Rhodes, John Lester, Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney and Noel Heffernan with the cup

North End United celebrate after winning the Leinster Junior Cup final

North End United celebrate after winning the Leinster Junior Cup final


Kyle Dempsey, Adam Beary, Alan Rhodes, John Lester, Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney and Noel Heffernan with the cup

Not for the first time and almost certainly not for the last, Paul Murphy was the North End hero on Sunday afternoon as his 89th-minute winner propelled the Hollygrove side to Leinster Junior Cup glory for the first time in their history.

The experienced striker latched on to Niall Connolly's flick from John Lester's through ball on the right side of the area and sent a composed finish across goal to the bottom corner of the net, giving the Dublin club very little time to respond.

It was a richly-deserved winner for a North End side that had created the better chances in the 90 minutes and defended with great assurance when they had a spell on the back foot at the start of the second-half.

The victory completes the set of Junior titles for the club, going proudly with everything North End have won in Wexford, plus the memorable FAI Junior Cup success back in 2018, when they beat Pike Rovers.

While they couldn't have friends and family in attendance for this contest, like they did for the national final two years ago, this group are a family in itself.

With lads hovering around the forties all the way down to younger guys like Noel Heffernan and Niall Connolly, they all row in together in good times and bad.

There haven't been too many bad times since the lockdown was lifted as North End got back on the pitch and blazed a trail to league and Leinster glory.

They didn't have this all their own way and would never have expected anything other than a fair, sporting battle, and that's what it proved to be.

The Dublin city club are new and improving and will have bigger days ahead, but there was always a sense that this was going to be North End's day, and they burst out of the blocks on a warm afternoon in Home Farm's headquarters intent on proving it.

Setting up in a 4-3-3, the non-stop Lee Wadding-Byrne got the call from the start, and with John Lester and Alan Rhodes they defied their numerical disadvantage to instigate some excellent attacking moves.

It's an area of the field that probably doesn't get much attention for this side, given that their attack is so dynamic and they have a group of defenders that trumps anything in the country at Junior level, but they do Trojan work in there and this outing was no different.

However, Oliver Bond clearly had a few extra eyes on Paul Murphy, given his prowess, and it took less than two minutes for them to take him down. He stepped up to the free-kick himself, but the wall did a fine job repelling his right-foot rocket.

At the other end, Patrick Cannon dribbled a shot wide in the ninth minute but it was a rare Celtic chance in a frantic first quarter.

The tempo was through the roof but the pace of the game was favouring North End, and they almost took the lead when Murphy slipped Adam Beary in and he forced goalkeeper Jake Carey into a sharp save.

A rehearsed corner routine almost produced a goal moments later as Rhodes' ball was flicked on by Lester. Murphy connected with venom but Carey got a vital tip on the shot and it cannoned down off the bar and away.

A last-ditch Adam Mitchell tackle stopped Kyle Dempsey from pulling the trigger when he was released by Lester, while the United striker did get a shot away in the 20th minute but Jake Carey made an excellent save with one hand.

Mitchell cracked a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area at the other end as the game moved into the second quarter, and later Cannon flashed a volley over Noel Heffernan's crossbar.

Murphy didn't catch a volley of his own sweetly a minute later, allowing Carey to make a routine stop, while the excellent Heffernan was quick off his line to deny James McHugh at the striker's feet as half-time approached.

North End did have one more good chance before the interval, and the front three were all involved. Murphy spread play wide to the left for Beary who fed across the face of goal, and Dempsey flashed his shot inches wide of the post.

Half-time breaks usually have an impact on a game but this time it was stark. From an end-to-end tussle, things slowed down. Oliver Bond were on the front foot but found it difficult to create clear chances.

Their best probably came in the 53rd minute when Heffernan got down low to save well from Cannon.

North End were dealt a sickening blow when Robin Dempsey sustained what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the 62nd minute.

James McHugh saw his volley saved comfortably by Heffernan in the 74th minute, but it was around this time that the pattern of the game started to change. After putting a lot into the previous 30 minutes, the Dublin side appeared to tire and North End sensed blood.

They were controlling the tempo and their squad depth started to shine through; with so much quality on the bench it is hardly surprising.

Wadding-Byrne saw his blasted effort blocked in the 78th minute, and Gary Delaney nodded the resulting corner at Jake Carey.

While the game seemed to be under North End's control, they had yet to create a clearcut chance in the half. But there was most definitely a sense that one was just around the corner; the question was, would they take it?

And who else but Murphy to produced the goods? Strangely, maybe Oliver Bond got distracted a little by the instruction Gary Dempsey was giving to Lester in midfield, wanting him to drift further right before he gave him the ball.

When Lester did take over he quickly fired a low pass forward. Connolly flicked it to Murphy breaking inside the box and the finish was cool and calm, past the onrushing Jake Carey.

While there was still 90 seconds plus five added minutes to survive, North End defended superbly. Oliver Bond threw men forward but it was all in vain as they couldn't create a decent chance, and North End held on to complete a memorable league and Leinster double.

North End United: Noel Heffernan; Craig McCabe, Gary Delaney, Robin Dempsey, Dale Flynn; Lee Wadding-Byrne, John Lester, Alan Rhodes; Paul Murphy (capt.), Kyle Dempsey, Adam Beary. Subs. - Shane Dempsey for R. Dempsey, inj. (62), Niall Connolly for Beary (66), Gary Dempsey for Wadding (85), also Decky Downes, Warren Broaders, Paul Murphy (Kilmore), Evan Roche.

Oliver Bond Celtic: Jake Carey; Seán Gannon, Adam Mitchell, Carl Bateman, Aaron Fagan; William McAdams, Seán McManus, Michael Malone, Troy Carey; Patrick Cannon, James McHugh (capt.). Subs. - Luke Johnston for Cannon (66), also Michael Early, Dillon Quinn, Seán English, Adam Stanley, Philip Salmon, Graham Murphy.

Referee: Daryl Carolan (Louth).

Wexford People