Finn Harps captain Daniel Cunningham lifts the cup
Finn Harps U-14s are celebrating a brilliant EA SPORTS National League of Ireland Cup victory following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over 10-man Wexford FC in Athlone on Saturday afternoon.
Finn Harps . . . 1
Wexford FC . . . 1
(Harps win 4-2 on pens)
In a closely fought contest, Harps had gone in front thanks to a Carragher Friel first half penalty following an incident where a Wexford player was shown red for handling on the line.
Credit to Wexford, they got back on level terms in the second half. However, when the game went to the dreaded penalty kicks, it was Kevin McHugh's Harps who held their nerve on the big occasion to win out.
Substitute goalkeeper Ronan Callaghan came of the bench for Harps and saved two penalties on a memorable day for him.
In the first of two EA SPORTS National Underage League of Ireland cup finals in Athlone on Saturday - Harps and Cork City met in the U-15 final - Wexford seemed to have the better of Finn Harps during the opening period of the contest, but it was the latter who were the first to threaten with a chance. Colm O’Dochartaigh was played in and had a fantastic chance to open the scoring having been left one-on-one with the ‘keeper, but Haydon McCarthy produced a fantastic save to keep the game scoreless.
Wexford had a penalty shout shortly after the chance at around the 15th minute, but the referee gave a goal kick following a collision between the Harps’ ‘keeper and Ronan Shannon. Wexford may have felt hard done by as there appeared to be contact.
While Wexford had been denied a penalty at one end, Harps were awarded one at the other end just minutes later. Oscar Ramsey handled the ball on the line following a Finn Harps effort which gave the referee no choice but to show the red card. Carragher Friel then converted coolly from the spot in the 21st minute to give Finn Harps the lead.
Wexford may have been reduced to ten men, but that didn’t seem to discourage them too much. They won a number of free kicks following the sending off, one of which very nearly resulted in a goal.
They were awarded one about 30 yards from goal which Kaylum Harnett stepped up to take. Although he was quite far out, he struck a fantastic effort which was heading towards the bottom left corner. Finn Harps had Padraig McBride to thank as he produced a fingertip save and put it behind for a corner.
Wexford continued to attack and were very nearly rewarded for their perseverance in the 37th minute. It took a fantastic goal saving block from Turlough Carr to help his side in maintaining their lead following an effort from Richie Goff.
It was becoming an attacking affair now and chances followed in quick succession for both sides towards the end of the half. Finn Harps were first up but they had their effort saved, Wexford then went on the counter attack but their chance was superbly saved by Padraig McBride.
Despite Wexford battling hard for an equaliser, Finn Harps took their lead into the break. A highly entertaining first half of action.
In the second half, Wexford continued playing how they had ended the first with some fantastic football despite being at a numerical disadvantage.
Troy Sinnott went close in the 47th minute. He decided to strike from range and it was a very good effort, just narrowly skimming past the post.
Finn Harps started to get back into the game after that but didn’t manage to create any chances of real note in the following minutes.
That would eventually come back to bite them as Wexford grabbed a deserved equaliser in the 57th minute. Kaylum Harnett got on the end of a brilliant ball into the box from a free kick and directed it into the net.
Troy Sinnott very nearly added a second for Wexford just minutes later with an effort from outside the box, but it sailed narrowly over the bar. Momentum was now with Wexford.
Wexford had a fantastic chance, or chances, to add another goal in the 70th minute. Following a bit of a hesitation in the box, they eventually got the shot off but it was a tame effort in the end and came to nothing.
Both teams were really going for it towards the end of the match and it very nearly paid off for Wexford. Brian Maher, who had been causing problems all game, got a shot off after some good play but it was fairly comfortable in the end for Padraig McBride.
Full-time sounded and the teams were level at 1-1. The contest went to extra time with two halves of ten minutes to be played.
The game had been played at a frantic pace and extra time was no different.
While there was no real chances of note in the first half, both teams were playing with great intensity.
Much like the opening half of extra time, the second was a tightly contested affair and chances were hard to come by.
It finished level after the period of extra time meaning the game went to penalties.
The first four penalties were converted but Wexford missed two penalties in a row to leave it to Conner Alex to slot home the winning penalty to secure the cup for the Donegal side.
It was a fantastic final and in truth nobody deserved to lose, especially on penalties, but it was Finn Harps who came out on top in the end after a great performance.
Finn Harps: Padraig McBride, Thomas McDevitt, Turlough Carr, Daniel Cunningham, Oisin McHugh, Conor McGranaghan, Seaghan McCormick, Ruairi Connaghan, Carragher Friel, Fenton Hasson, Colm O’Dochartaigh.
Substitutes: Conner Alex, Connor Gibson, Fergal McCliffenly, Shaun McGinley, Ronan Callaghan.
Wexford: Haydon McCarthy, Richie Goff, Keane Howick, Oscar Ramsey, Ronan Shannon, Darren Rossiter, Charlie Conway, Brian Maher, Ben Harpur, Kaylum Harnett, Tony Doyle.
Substitutes: Callum Gibson, Troy Sinnott, Conor Burke, Cormac Kinsella, Emmet Ralph, Jan Wozniak, Jamie Gibson.
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