Albion U-16 kings
Cup winners’ double hopes denied
Wexford Albion were pushed to their limits by Gorey Rangers but still claimed the Wexford and District Schoolboys Soccer Under-16 Division 1 title in Coolcotts Lane on Tuesday.
Wexford Albion 2 Gorey Rangers 2
The hosts edged ahead against the run of play in a high intensity first-half and were left hanging on as Rangers came roaring back to level in added time. The runners-up took the Under-16 Cup just three days earlier but needed a victory in this game to keep their league hopes alive.
Albion came into the game with the objective of avoiding defeat but started a little shakily. Rangers looked dangerous going forward, particularly down the right wing, and they went close to opening the scoring after 26 seconds when Keith Crosbie got away and flashed a cross-cum-shot narrowly wide.
After Shane Hall fired a free-kick just over the bar in the sixth minute, Crosbie had two further chances to give the visitors the lead, the second of which clattered into the side-netting of Adam Dempsey's goal.
T.J. Cousins reacted quickest to latch on to Darragh Brookes' punch clear but his shot flew wide in the 22nd minute. Gorey went even closer at the other end four minutes later when Eoghan O'Neill curled a free-kick inches wide of the left post.
Almost from nowhere Albion broke from a quick free kick in the 36th minute. Sam O'Neill split the Rangers defence with the perfect pass to twin Luke.
The attacker cut in from the right, shot low across Darragh Brookes and while the 'keeper got a hand on the shot it wasn't enough to keep it out.
The counter-attack was used to perfection for a second time four minutes later when T.J. Cousins broke from midfield, played a one-two with Sam O'Neill and smacked his shot into the bottom left corner of the visitors netting for 2-0.
Weaker teams might have given up at half-time but this Rangers side is made of stronger stuff. They went close when O'Neill's poked effort was saved by Adam Dempsey but did pull one back when Eoin Cullen headed in Cillian Gilligan's corner moments later.
Albion almost wrapped up the title 17 minutes from time when Luke O'Neill's cross was headed just past the post by Cousins. Gorey completely dominated the last 15 minutes and would have been level had Dempsey not made a stunning full-length save from Crosbie.
There was nothing the hosts' goalkeeper could do to prevent Cullen nodding in the equaliser six minutes into added time, but the clock ran out on the most dramatic of endings and Wexford Albion held on to Division 1 honours.
Star man - Jack O'Leary (Wexford Albion): the powerful defender's tackling was outstanding but his positioning was even more impressive. Kept a potent attack pretty quiet.
Wexford Albion: Adam Dempsey; Dion Murphy, Peter Doyle, Jack O'Leary, Ben Butler; Paddy O'Reilly (capt.), Shane Hall; Luke O'Neill, Sam O'Neill, T.J. Cousins; Cathal Kirwan. Subs. - Jamie Thomas for Kirwan (47), Luke Dowdall for Cousins (73), John Murphy for O'Neill (80+3), also Terry Whitty, Dylan O'Regan.
Gorey Rangers: Darragh Brookes; Niall Murphy, Eoin Cullen, Michael Molloy, Rory Heffernan; Keith Crosbie, Ciarán Murphy, Vincent Quinlan, Eoghan O'Neill (capt.); Yaw Aboagye, Cillian Gilligan. Subs. - Ethan Vickers for Murphy, inj. (40+2), also Seán Delaney.
Referee: Ger Morris.