Forth Celtic 2
Moyne Rangers 1
A sweet strike from substitute Mark Hennessy earned Forth Celtic the MMI Group Youth Division 1 title as they came out on top in a dramatic play-off match in Hollygrove on Saturday.
The Murrintown side had to fight back from a goal down after Killian Tierney gave Moyne Rangers an earlier advantage, and they did just that, with Eoin Doyle equalising before half-time and Hennessy popping up with the winner.
It was a high-tempo tie from the first whistle to the last, and the Enniscorthy side had much the better of the early exchanges.
They imposed themselves on the game from the off and Forth goalkeeper Nathan Roche was called into action to make a decent save from a powerfully-struck Dylan Browne free-kick in the fifth minute.
Moyne made the breakthrough just four minutes later, when Killian Tierney whipped in the ball from the left wing and it sailed into the far corner of the net.
Rangers looked like they were going to run riot early on as Riley Doran tigerishly won back possession and was thwarted by Roche, while Jamie Pepper played in Stephen Fortune moments later, but he lifted his shot too high.
They continued to press forward, with the energetic Dylan Browne slipping the ball through to Riley Doran, but his effort was off target.
Forth Celtic took a while to find their feet, but they grew into the contest in the latter stages of the first-half, with Alfie Jeffares seeing plenty of the ball on the left wing.
They had their first effort of note with 31 minutes on the clock, when Jack Mullan showed great persistence to make space for a shot, but his effort lacked the power to trouble Jack Morris in the Moyne goal.
Nathan Roche was then called into action at the other end, knocking a Dylan Browne free-kick out for a corner, and they soon threatened again, with Riley Doran hitting the side-netting.
However, the complexion of the contest changed completely in the 40th minute when Liam Burke whipped in an inviting cross following a short corner, and Eoin Doyle rose highest to head to the net.
The timing of the goal was everything, giving Forth Celtic the impetus going into the second-half, and it could have been even better.
Three minutes after restoring parity, Jake Gilshinan fired in a tantalising cross from the left, but the inrushing Oisín Kavanagh couldn’t stretch quite enough to make a telling contact.
The frenetic pace continued after the interval, with Alfie Jeffares of Forth Celtic firing an early effort wide and Moyne’s Bartek Jurkiewicz forcing a good save out of Roche.
The chances continued to come and Forth substitute Justin McMahon was next to have a sight of goal, when he turned well but shot wide.
Understandably the fizz briefly went out of the game after a lengthy delay due to Forth Celtic’s Calum McCleane suffering a bad ankle injury, but the intensity wasn’t long about returning as the league title was in reach for both sides.
Moyne came close to getting their noses in front in the 73rd minute when Billy Redmond fed Killian Tierney inside the box. His shot took a wicked deflection, but Roche adjusted his feet brilliantly to make the save.
It was end-to-end stuff as the clock ticked down, with Jamie Pepper shooting straight at the netminder at one end, and Alfie Jeffares doing likewise at the other, and neither side could grab a late winner.
Forth Celtic hit the ground running in extra-time, however, taking the lead inside two minutes. Jeffares played a perfectly-weighted pass into the box for Mark Hennessy to run on to, and he produced a sublime finish to match the pass, sending a superb half-volley to the net.
Moyne pressed hard for the equaliser, with Liam Kenny fizzing the ball across the face of goal shortly before the end of the first-half of extra-time, while Killian Tiernan, Dylan Browne and Billy Redmond all had shots blocked in a goalmouth scramble deep into injury time just before the final whistle sounded.
However, Forth Celtic survived the late scare and the title celebrations could begin.
Forth Celtic: Nathan Roche, Aodhán Collins (capt.), Eoin Doyle, Tommy Connick, Jake Gilshinan, Alfie Jeffares, Conor Mullan, Liam Burke, Oisín Kavanagh. Subs. - Calum McCleane for Kavanagh (HT), Justin McMahon for C. Mullan, inj. (47), Mark Hennessy for McCleane, inj. (62), James Hegarty for Collins, inj. (88), Aaron O’Brien for Burke, inj. (103), also Sam Day.
Moyne Rangers: Jack Morris, Billy Redmond, Ryan McCarthy, Kyle Delaney, Bartek Jurkiewicz, Dylan Browne (capt.), Liam Kenny, Jamie Pepper, Killian Tierney, Riley Doran, Stephen Fortune. Subs. - Rick Morrissey for Fortune, inj. (HT), Brennan O’Neill for Doran (89), Jamie Breen for Jurkiewicz (110+1), also Leo Morris, Alan Creane, Jack Whitely, Jordan Browne.
Referee: Niall Whelan.