Super Sky Blues overcome tough test to win the title
Soccer, Wexford Football League Premier Division: North End United 3 Corach Ramblers 2
North End United earned the victory they needed to retain their Premier Division crown, but they were made to fight all the way by a doughty Corach Ramblers outfit at Curracloe last Wednesday evening.
They fell behind to a Niall Harney free-kick that was right out of the top drawer, and although they fought back to get themselves in front by the 41st minute with goals from brothers Paul and Jason Murphy, the were hit with a further sucker-punch when defender Decky Downes was shown a red card just before the interval.
However, they showed their spirit and tactical nous to find a way, and Jason Murphy nodded in his second of the game on the hour mark to give them a 3-1 advantage.
Corach Ramblers weren't prepared to roll over though, and the influential Gareth McCurtin pulled a goal back on 68 minutes to set up a nervy finish for the Belvedere Road men.
All that mattered in the end though was that North End managed to get over the line to put the icing on the cake of a fabulous season, retaining their Premier Division crown to add to their historic FAI Junior Cup win.
The Sky Blues didn't begin Wednesday night's game with their customary swagger and were lethargic in the early stages, struggling to find any sort of rhythm.
That said, they did threaten as early as the fifth minute when Kyle Dempsey muscled his way through but goalkeeper Darren Carthy was smartly off his line to make a block at the attacker's feet.
With 13 minutes on the clock the champions-elect were given a real wake-up call when Niall Harney curled in a stunning left-footed free-kick from 25 yards to the top right-hand corner of the net, giving goalkeeper Dylan Owens no chance.
The setback sparked North End into life, and Adam Diskin and Gareth McCurtin both had to be alert to turn Jason Murphy free-kicks out for corners as they began to turn the screw.
In the 23rd minute Paul 'Spot' Murphy picked out Kyle Dempsey with a peach of a pass and his attempted cross was deflected on to the bar, and within a minute they were handed a gilt-edged opportunity to equalise when referee Mick Farrell adjudged that Paul Murphy (Kilmore) had been manhandled in the area and pointed to the spot.
The responsibility fell to Paul 'Spot' Murphy and he never looked liked missing, calmly slotting the ball to the left-hand corner of the net.
Five minutes before the break North End were in front when Paul Murphy (Kilmore) played a nice through ball to Jason Murphy and he showed deadly accuracy to beat Carthy from an acute angle.
Things quickly took a turn for the worse for the Wexford town outfit though, as Decky Downes was given his marching orders in the 44th minute after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession.
The pain could have been even more acute seconds later, but Owens scrambled well to make a save after Mark Sinnott's touch sent Gareth McCurtin's free-kick goalwards.
North End manager John Godkin was forced to shuffle his pack for the start of the second-half, bringing in Tony Crosbie at right-back, which saw Warren Broaders switch wings and Dale Flynn slot in alongside Gary Delaney.
The Hollygrove side looked to be coping well with having to play with ten men, and the excellent Kyle Dempsey whipped a dangerous ball across the face of goal two minutes after the turnaround that was just out of the reach of the inrushing Jason Murphy.
Corach Ramblers, who secured their Premier Division status for next season in recent weeks, weren't there to make up the numbers though, and Mark Sinnott forced a fine save out of Owens with a well-struck snapshot from 25 yards.
In the 53rd minute Darren Carthy had to tip a Warren Broaders cross over the bar, but on the hour mark the goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net for a third time.
Kyle Dempsey fed a short corner to Paul Murphy and 'Spot' whipped in a great cross, with his brother Jason gleefully accepting the gift, nodding in at the far post.
It looked as if the title celebrations could begin, but Corach had other ideas and when Gareth McCurtin stooped to head in a Niall Harney's corner from six yards out in the 69th minute, the contest was right back in the melting pot.
Substitute Adam Beary almost plundered the insurance goal in the 80th minute when he picked goalkeeper Darren Carthy's pocket, but saw his 30-yard effort trickle agonisingly wide of the right post.
They had one more opportunity to seal the deal in style, but Gary Delaney headed Kyle Dempsey's corner over the crossbar.
In the end it mattered little as referee Mick Farrell's final whistle kick-started the title celebrations to further enhance a season that will be long remembered by the Belvedere Road club faithful.
North End United: Dylan Owens, Warren Broaders, Decky Downes, Gary Delaney, Dale Flynn, Kyle Dempsey, John Fenlon, Paul 'Spot' Murphy, Gary Byrne, Jason Murphy, Paul Murphy (Kilmore). Subs. - Tony Crosbie for Paul Murphy (Kilmore, HT), Lee Wadding-Byrne for Byrne (65), Adam Beary for Fenlon, inj., (67), Danny Fitzpatrick for J. Murphy (84), Andy Moore for Dempsey (88).
Corach Ramblers: Darren Carthy, Adam Diskin, Aaron Diskin, Rob Farrell, David White, Gareth McCurtin (capt.), Niall Harney, Tadhg Cahill, Mark Sinnott, Jon Reville, John Staples.
Referee: Mick Farrell.