Newpark United 3 Shelburne 2
It was far from easy but Newpark moved one step closer to taking the Wexford and District Schoolboys Soccer Under-11 Division 3 title with victory against Shelburne in Ballycarney on Saturday.
The hosts came into the game on a nine-match winning run which included a pair of vital 5-4 victories over nearest challengers New Ross Town B.
They knew that taking the points in this game could give them a chance of wrapping up the league, depending on other results, in midweek.
So it was no surprise that they played with the intensity of champions right from the kick-off. What they might not have expected was the calibre of performance from their gutsy, unyielding opponents Shelburne.
The Ballywilliam boys lost the return game 5-3 earlier in the season but came out with the intention of taking the points off their high-flying opponents. They were truly magnificent, particularly in the second-half, when they had more than enough chances to take the points themselves.
There were few signs of that kind of parity when Newpark burst out of the blocks. Finn Ryan had to be at his best to deny Cormac Casey and Brian Ivors early on, but there was nothing he could do in the seventh minute when Colin Ivors slipped his brother Brian away and the composed Newpark striker finished calmly to the net.
Michael O'Rourke and Conor Rochford both tested Killian Walsh in the hosts' goal as Shelburne settled into the task. At the other end Casey saw 'keeper Ryan tip his shot onto the crossbar before Bryan Roban hooked overhead onto the woodwork.
Newpark were probably worthy of a second goal and it came on the stroke of half-time. Roban was creator, rounding defenders at will before firing across goal for Brian Ivors to poke home his second from close range.
The game changed completely when the teams switched to ten-a-side after the interval. Shelburne absolutely battered the home goal but, to their credit, the Newpark defence was absolutely exceptional.
The swarms of attacks were bound to tell at some point and the underdogs finally got their reward ten minutes after the resumption when Josh Kavanagh turned on a sixpence and slotted calmly to the Newpark net.
An equaliser looked like a foregone conclusion at that stage but somehow Newpark summoned the will to break. Dylan Byrne did all the work in the build-up and saw his initial shot saved. He was calm enough to square to Jack Jordan and the lively substitute forced the ball over the line for 3-1.
Again Shelburne came back in the energy-sapping sun and they pulled within one again when Ronan Byrne's clearance cannoned off a defender and rebounded into the goal.
The travelling side continued to press for the equaliser but it never materialised and Newpark were able to maintain their one hundred per cent record.
Newpark United: Killian Walsh; Mikey Quigley, Jay Kavanagh, Cormac Casey (capt.); Bryan Roban, Colin Ivors; Brian Ivors. Subs. (rolling) - Ronan Byrne, Dylan Byrne, Jack Jordan, Cathal Power, Issac Kearney, Blaise Kearney, Codi Nolan, Harry Greenwood, Eoin Kennedy.
Shelburne: Finn Ryan; Daniel Cowman, Jack O'Neill; Michael O'Rourke, Seán Fitzharris, Seán Lynch (capt.); Conor Rochford. Subs. (rolling) - Mark O'Shea, Josh Kavanagh, Adam Kelly.
Referee: Micheál Franklin.