Penalty joy for Ferns United
Soccer, Neil O'Sullivan Cup Final: Ferns United 1 Cloughbawn AFC1 (aet, Ferns won 5-3 on pens)
Player-manager Martin Redmond held his nerve to slot home the winning penalty for Ferns United as they edged out Cloughbawn in a riveting Neil O'Sullivan Cup final in a sunny Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.
After goalkeeper Martin O'Connor had saved from Páidí Cullen, Redmond stepped forward and he made no mistake to kick-start the Ferns celebrations.
It was tough on Cullen, who lit up the game in the first-half and had drawn Cloughbawn level shortly before the interval, after Jonny Dwyer fired Ferns in front on the half hour mark.
Cloughbawn began brightly enough, with Páidí Cullen pulling the strings, but Ferns began to turn the screw. They threatened in the 13th minute when Tommy Dwyer and Robert Vickers combined to find Connor Jordan, but he couldn't get a good connection on the shot.
Ferns came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock with 16 minutes on the clock when Robert Vickers turned beautifully before passing to Tommy Dwyer, who made space for himself before striking the butt of the post with a fine effort from outside the box.
Jonny Dwyer was next to try his luck, firing wide from the edge of the area after being found by man of the match Keith Breen.
Páidí Cullen treated the crowd to another glimpse of his ability in the 26th minute when he went on a mazy run before trying to play in Colm Kehoe, but the hard-working target man couldn't control the pass.
However, Ferns hit the front in the 31st minute. Robert Vickers did well to find Keith Breen on the left, and Jonny Dwyer met his cross at the far post and applied a neat finish.
Both sides enjoyed periods of supremacy and Cloughbawn had the better of it for the remainder of the first-half as they tried to respond quickly.
Willie Murphy put Páidí Cullen in the clear with a clever short free-kick in the 34th minute, but his shot was always rising over the bar, while Tomás 'Ducker' Hawkins did well to block a Colm Kehoe effort moments later.
Cloughbawn's persistence paid off though, and they got their reward three minutes before the break when Páidí Kehoe floated a free-kick into the danger zone.The unmarked Cullen ghosted in to steer a header out of the reach of the goalkeeper, for the midfielder's 18th goal of a fruitful season, which saw him selected as the Division 1 Player of the Year.
They continued their purple patch after the change of ends, with Cullen blazing off target after another weaving run, and Colm Kehoe having a sight of goal after good work from Gavin Murphy.
Murphy got on the end of a Martin Kehoe pass in the 67th minute, but hit a powerful shot over the bar, when maybe a more subtle touch would have been better.
Ferns played their way back into the contest, with substitute James Tonks having a calming effect, with Jonny Dwyer spurning a difficult opportunity to grab the winner when he headed a Tommy Dwyer corner over at the back post.
Cloughbawn came even closer to netting a priceless goal early in the second period of extra-time, when a Páidí Kehoe free-kick fell to the impressive Martin Kehoe, but his shot was bravely blocked by substitute John Breen, who performed brilliantly after his introduction.
Ferns pushed forward for the winning goal late in extra-time but penalties were needed to separate the sides, with Martin Redmond having the honour of firing home the winning spot-kick after Jonny Dwyer, Keith Breen, John Breen and James Tonks had all obliged from twelve yards.
Ferns United: Martin O'Connor, Patrick Skelton, Tomás Hawkins, Michael Andrews, Keith Breen, Robert Vickers, Derek Thorpe, Tommy Dwyer (capt.), Ivan Meegan, Jonny Dwyer, Connor Jordan. Subs. - John Breen for Andrews (55), James Tonks for Thorpe (60), Martin Redmond for Meegan (77), Shane Breen for Jordan (85), also Benny Jordan, Anthony Dwyer.
Cloughbawn AFC: Tomás Kehoe, Johnny Cullen (capt.), Martin Kehoe, Kevin Murphy, Páidí Kehoe, Gavin Murphy, Páidí Cullen, Cillian Doyle, Gareth Murphy, Willie Murphy, Colm Kehoe. Subs. - Callen Morrissey for G. Murphy (HT), Barry Carton for C. Kehoe (76), James Dempsey for Doyle (85), Kyle Murphy for W. Murphy (96), also David Murphy, Daire Rochford, Billy Dunne.
Referee: Barry Hennessy.
New Ross Standard