North End seal deal
North End United 5 Courtown Hibs 2
North End United survived a few scares along the way, before eventually sealing the deal with two late goals to capture the Premier Division crown in a blustery Hollygrove on Sunday.
John Godkin's side lost out to Shamrock Rovers in the title race last term, and from the get-go this season they were determined to put things right.
With just one league game to play, against nearest rivals Moyne Rangers, the Sky Blues are unbeaten and have led the way pretty much from pillar to post.
An impressive run of results from the ever-improving Moyne ensured the title was hard-earned, and now the Belvedere Road boys will have the double in the sights when they take on the Enniscorthy side in the Wexford Cup final next weekend.
Midweek wins over New Ross Celtic and Shamrock Rovers put North End in a position where three points on Sunday would wrap up the title. and the heavy schedule looked like it was taking its toll as they found it difficult to find their stride early on.
Courtown needed to take something from the game for entirely different reasons as they battled to stave off any lingering threat of relegation.
As it turned out Rosslare Rangers' loss against Moyne meant the south county men will have to face Tombrack in a play-off to try to retain their place in the top flight, but Hibs were never going to sit back and rely on favours from elsewhere.
They certainly gave as good as they got for long periods, with Leighton Gleeson firing them in front in the 20th minute. And moments later they had a strong penalty claim waved away, which could have really put them in the driving seat and would have piled the pressure on the hosts.
North End began the game sluggishly, struggling to find their rhythm and coughing up possession too easily, although Kyle Dempsey had a sight of goal when he pounced on a defensive error in the 15th minute, but goalkeeper Gavin Nugent was quickly off his line to smother the ball at the attacker's feet.
Four minutes later Courtown were in front.
Ian Travers whipped in a corner from the left which was cleared to Leighton Gleeson on the edge of the box and he unleashed an unstoppable shot to the left-hand corner of the net.
Within a minute Courtown were vehemently shouting for a spot-kick when Eddie Podols went over in the area, but the appeals fell on deaf ears and the North End faithful breathed a sigh of relief.
The home side made the most of the let-off when Jason Murphy teed up hot-shot striker Adam Beary, and he steered the ball past Gavin Nugent in the 24th minute.
Three minutes later Beary was at it again, this time curling a fabulous free-kick from just outside the area into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Hibs immediately threatened at the other end, but Colum Kinsella couldn't adjust his feet quickly enough to get a strike away after being found by Ian Travers.
North End stretched their lead on 36 minutes when Adam Beary beat the offside trap and ran on to an inch-perfect through ball from Dale Flynn.
Beary squared the ball across goal, leaving Jason Murphy with the simple task of tapping into the net.
North End had the chance to go further ahead in the 67th minute when substitute Paul Murphy (Kilmore) was put clear by Kyle Dempsey, but he tried to round the goalkeeper when it might have been more prudent to play in his namesake and the chance was lost.
Moments later Gary Byrne headed a Jason Murphy cross over the bar, but in the 70th minute Courtown were handed an opportunity to get right back in the game when goalkeeper Lee Walker brought down Glen Hughes and the referee pointed to the spot.
Walker got down well to deny Leighton Gleeson, but the Hibs stalwart quickly made amends with a stunning strike.
Conor Fortune swung in a cross from the left wing and Gleeson caught it sweetly on the half volley and arrowed the ball into the net, registering his second classy goal of the game.
Courtown suddenly had a renewed spring in their step and the North End nerves were jangling. In the 80th minute substitute Cian Hayden found Glen Hughes, but his effort lacked the power to trouble Walker.
North End got the insurance goal they needed with five minutes remaining when Paul 'Spot' Murphy found his brother Jason, who skipped around goalkeeper Nugent and was brought down, with 'Spot' calmly stroking the penalty into the right-hand corner of the net.
The champagne corks were ready to pop two minutes later when Paul Murphy (Kilmore) rolled a pass to fellow substitute Danny Fitzpatrick and he beat Nugent at the second attempt.
North End went close to finishing with a flourish, but Decky Downes' injury time header was cleared off the line, while Dale Flynn burst through and curled a shot wide of the right post, although it mattered little as Damien Donovan's final whistle kick-started the title celebrations.
North End United: Lee Walker, Dale Flynn, Lee Aust, Declan Downes, Stuart Lawlor, John Fenlon, Kyle Dempsey, Lee Wadding, Jason Murphy, Adam Beary, Gary Byrne. Subs. - Paul Murphy for Wadding, Paul 'Spot' Murphy for Beary, Danny Fitzpatrick for Byrne, also Warren Broaders, Lee Smith.
Courtown HIBS: Gavin Nugent, Chris Beasant, Conor Fortune, Colum Kinsella, Steven Fortune, Conor Berney, Leighton Gleeson, Ian Travers, Michael Kinsella, Glen Hughes, Edmond Podols. Sub. - Cian Hayden for Travers.
Referee: Damien Donovan.