Friday 24 May 2019

North End triumph in Dublin

Lee Wadding, Lee Walker, Andy Moore and Decky Downes
Lee Wadding, Lee Walker, Andy Moore and Decky Downes
Kyle Dempsey, Gary Byrne, Robin Dempsey and Lee Walker
North End United players stand for the team picture ahead of the FAI New Balance Junior Cup Final match between Pike Rovers and North End United at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile

History-makers North End United are continuing their celebrations this week, after winning the FAI New Balance Junior Cup at the weekend.

The Sky Blues became the first Wexford team to triumph in the competition, beating Limerick outfit Pike Rovers 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out at the Aviva Stadium. The competition is the biggest amateur sporting event in Europe with 650 teams battling it out over the past few months.

North End, under the management of club stalwart John Godkin, played seven games to win the title.

Club chairman Sean Dempsey said it was an incredible achievement for the club, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in two years' time. While he was on photographer duty on the day, he said the atmosphere in the stadium was electric, remarking that the ratio of North End to Pike fans was about five to one.

Supporters and former club members had, he pointed out, travelled from far and near to be part of the occasion. The club ran five buses to the Aviva, while three carriages of the train filled up, resulting in two more running for the day. Many others drove up themselves while various clubs and organisations ran their own buses to Dublin.

While the match was a tight affair, the bookmakers had North End tipped as favourites and Sean said they were confident of their players' abilities.

'I've been with the club forever - I was actually the first man to ever wear a North End jersey. We've managed the lads since they were eight years old and we knew what they could do.'

He said that goalkeeper Lee Walker, who made a vital save in the shoot-out, could always be relied on to make one or two big saves when it came to penalties.

'When Gary Delaney stepped up and scored the winning penalty, the place exploded.'

The team brought their celebrations to the Talbot Stillorgan on their way home where they were joined by a huge crowd of fans. They continued the festivities in Jim McGee's bar on Saturday night, and went to Browne's Bar, Sinnott's and the Bugler Doyle's on Sunday.

They will visit local schools in the coming weeks with the cup.

Two men who, unfortunately, were not present for the game were Sean's son, Shane Dempsey and Lee Smith, two vital members of the squad who were on peacekeeping duties with the Defence Forces in Syria.

Despite the men's best attempts, their requests to travel home for the game were refused.

Sean said: 'They've been talking to the team over the weekend and they even got to watch the match in Syria on Herald Striker's live stream.'

He explained that the two soldiers had some time off and managed to get a good WiFi connection in order to watch the game.

'We tried every channel we could to get them home for the game but the logistics were extremely difficult and it just couldn't be done.'

Sean paid further tribute to team manager John Godkin who, he said, managed not only the men's senior team but also did huge work in the club's underage structure as well, saying he was one of the core members of the club.

'John has been driving the club towards this for a long time. He's been managing for nearly 25 years and we often say that if we could petition for an eight-day week, it would mean he'd get a day off!'

Sean expressed his gratitude to all of the club's sponsors, especially Brian Hogan and the Faythe Pharmacy who are the main sponsors.

He added that the club would be commemorating the momentous occasion with a special souvenir programme that would be compiled and available in the near future.

Wexford People

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