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walker's the hero

North End Utd..................... 1

Moyne Rangers ....................1

(aET North End win 5-4 pens)

WHO stole whose thunder? One is not so sure. After a thriller-type Wexford Cup final, both sides had their chances of victory in normal time, with the twists and turns continuing in the penalty shoot-out before Lee Walker turned hero to give North End their ninth cup overcoming a gallant Moyne Rangers outfit at the excellent Gorey Rangers pitch yesterday.

Losing is never easy, especially for a young side like Moyne Rangers who were seeking their first ever cup success, but it was glory for North End with the victory putting them at the top of the cup pile with nine victories, having already joined New Ross Celtic on eight.

For Moyne Rangers the hammer blow came in the 55th minute when leading 1-0 at the time.

It was a delightful ball through the centre that was missed by advancing 'keeper Lee Walker, as centre-forward Daithi O'Mahoney closed in. A belated call from the linesman for offside incensed the sideline, with the goal being ruled out owing to a claim that O'Mahoney was interfering with play coming from an offside position.

A goal at that juncture would have sealed the destination of the cup, but following this let off it was North End who forced an equalising goal, bringing the game to extra time, before eventually it took penalties to separate the sides.

From the start of what was to develop into one of the most exciting cup finals for many seasons, Moyne Rangers knew how to extract the best from their players, especially up front as their opponents were struggling at the back being continually drawn out of position.

Moyne were pulling their opponents apart in midfield and at the back so it was no surprise that they took the lead as early as 11th minute. It was Mark Kirwan, who cut down the left, who pulled an excellent low ball to the near post where the inrushing Ricky Dwyer got in front of the recovering Stuart Lawlor to flick the ball into the corner of the net from a few meters making it 1-0.

And the North End front players never got a real chance through the opening 45 minutes with their best efforts being long range attempts from Paul Murphy and Jason Murphy that were superbly dealt with by 'keeper Pa Doyle. But with Moyne unable to capitalise on their control of midfield where Mark Kirwan and Pa O'Rourke were ruling the game they had to be content with a 1-0 interval lead.

The quality was to continue through the opening stages of the second half. North End stepped up the tempo of their game as they sought out an equaliser.

This was two teams really battling for the trophy and then came the Moyne let off when they thought they had a second goal only for the linesman to intervene.

One minute after they should have made it two when Pa O'Rourke beat the offside trap but with only 'keeper Walker to beat he pulled his shot just wide.

Both threw some chances away however, before the pattern of the game changed in a seven-minute spell. After 58 minutes, Keith Kearney took a quick throw that caught Moyne off guard, leaving Adam Beary with the space to cut in from the wing before powering a superb shot past 'keeper Doyle at his near post making it 1-1.

Seven minutes later a flare-up involving a number of players resulted in Jason Murphy being red-carded, while both Paul Murphy and Sean Miller received yellow cards. But it was after being reduced to 10 players that North End went on to play some of their best football, controlling the closing 15 minutes and it was only superb saves from Doyle, denying Paul Murphy and Stuart Lawlor that eventually forced extra-time.

Neither side looked like snatching a winner in extra-time as two tired sides seemed more content on protecting their goal looming the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

Paul Murphy was first up to make it 1-0, while Mark Kirwan had his effort saved by Walker. Shane Dempsey goaled the second, with Ryan Mahon pulling one back. Adam Beary and Alan Tobin goaled, before Ciaran Kelly pulled his attempt wide, with Keelan Morrissey making it 3-3.

Lee Walker was wide his attempt while Moyne 'keeper Pa Doyle blazed over the top missing a chance to put his side in front. Keith Kearney and Rory O'Connor exchanged goals to keep it at 4-4. Lee Aust made it 5-4 but Walker turned from villain to hero saving John Peare's attempt giving his side a 5-4 penalty shoot-out and the cup.

North End Utd: Lee Walker, Warren Broaders, Stuart Lalor, Gareth McCurtain, Keith Kearney, Kyle Dempsey, Shane Dempsey, John Fenlon, Adam Beary, Paul Murphy, Jason Murphy. Subs: Andy Moore for Kyle Dempsey; Kieran Kelly for Lalor; Lee Aust for Fenlon. Also: Cormac O'Brien, Pa Beary, Alan Murphy.

Moyne Rangers: Pa Doyle, Rory O'Connor, James O'Leary, Sean Miller, Ryan Mahon, Rickey Dwyer, Mark Kirwan, Pa O'Rourke, John Peare, Alan Tobin, Daithin O'Mahoney. Subs: Brian Newe for O'Rourke; Peter O'Rourke for Dwyer; Kenelm Morrissey for O'Mahoney.

Referee: Nicky Boland.