KDFL League Shield Final
(By Wayne Doyle)
Suncroft AFC 2 Old Fort Celtic FC 6
Clane again graciously provides the venue for the Shield final in a cold, overcast, dreary autumn day. With Old Fort Celtic Premier Division high flyers taking on Senior side Suncroft Afc.
Old Fort Celtic showing their intent right from the opening kick-off when Lee Carroll Talbot intercepted a loose Suncroft pass and got a shot off from distance that needed to be pushed around the post by John Doran. From the resulting corner, Conor Dowling shaved the post with a glancing header a positive start from the Premier Division side. Suncroft have an abundance of big game experience players with Kieran Sheedy and Dylan Connolly looking to settle their side down after an unsteady start. A splendid passage of play between Daryl Ntumba who took the ball under pressure from Josh Lee before releasing Jamie Preston down the right flank, Preston accelerated up line and whipped in a pinpoint ball to the back post which Byron McGuirk finished emphatically with a brilliant volley from an acute angle to give Old Fort the lead after seven minutes played.
That was the wake-up call Suncroft needed and the machine kicked into gear. With Willie Hayes bombing up the left flank for the Croft before cutting in and getting a decent effort off that just whizzed past Dean Bland’s post. Again, Hayes was involved after dispossessing McGuirk he got a quick pass forward to Niall Flynn ,who laid a clever ball first time to Dylan Connolly he took a good touch before shooting just wide from a considerable distance. Two half chances in quick succession for Suncroft. Old Fort having good success in wide areas, with Darly Ntumba proving to be a real nuisance with his pace and skill. Stewart Brett did exceptionally well to control a long Dean Bland goal kick and picked out Conor Dowling, arriving just outside the box. The midfielder got his shot off but was harmless enough effort for Doran. Dean Bland’s quick and accurate kickouts were causing all kinds of havoc for the croft backline and again Byron McGuirk took one in his stride and was bearing in on goal but couldn't steer his effort pass Doran who made a vital save. From the resulting corner Eoin Carroll rose highest with an excellent goal bound header that was cleared away by Willie Hayes.
Suncroft slightly shaded the midfield battle with Sheedy, Connolly, and Josh Lee, all linking up well on multiple occasions but couldn't unlock a resilient Old Fort Defence. Suncroft were complacent at times at the back and were nearly caught napping after Shane Higgins was dispossessed in his own penalty area by Stewart Brett, but Brett couldn't direct his shot on goal. Suncroft nearly got themselves on level term after a great flowing move from the back when Cathal Mahon picked up the ball from Doran and played a raking cross field pass to Josh Lee the pacey wing got down the line and pulled it back for Flynn, he snatched at the effort and didn’t have control over the shot as it flew over the bar. Shane Lynch was really starting to make some exceptional runs through the middle for Old Fort, drawing a lot of fouls in the process. The half ending with just a goal between the sides and still all to play for.
The Croft men came out full of vigour in the second period and almost got back on level terms. Kieran Sheedy the instigator in midfield linking up with Eamon Doyle who threaded a neat ball to Niall Flynn, Flynn worked a yard of space for himself before bending a low drive just pass Dean Blands post and wide. It was Old Fort who doubled their advantage seven minutes into the second period. Daryl Ntumba’s powerful run and cross was cleared by Shane Higgins, David Costigan put the ball cleverly back over the Suncroft rearguard, and Conor Dowling looped a header just beyond Doran to double the advantage. Suncroft to their credit were unfazed by the deficit and continued to probe for openings. Cathal Mahon burst out from centre back and flew up the right wing before teasing a cross that Dylan Connolly headed goal bound but was a comfortable save for Bland in the end. Again, it was Connolly involved in the build-up move after he picked the ball up deep and clipped a perfect pass into the path of Willie Hayes, who could only find the side netting from twenty yards. The task at hand further increased for Suncroft after Shane Lynch was fouled forty yards out from goal he dusted himself off and stepped up to dispatch an unbelievable freekick that flew pass Doran straight into the top right hand corner to make it three nil on the hour mark. The game was really open now through midfield, with both sides creating good opportunities. Murt Brennan played a good pass through to Eamon Doyle who dug the ball out and pinged in an excellent cross that begged to be nodded home by a Suncroft body but Shane Lynch intercepted with an impeccably timed clearance to prevent a certain goal.
Old Fort should have really increased their lead further after Byron McGuirk did brilliantly down the line before zipping a tidy pass back to Stewart Brett whose shot was well saved by Doran the rebound fell to Daryl Ntumba who spun and shot and again the effort was saved by Doran.
Suncroft had a golden fifteen minute spell that had Old Fort pinned right back. With Dylan Connolly, Murt Brennan and Niall Flynn are all going extremely close in quick succession to try to get them on the scoreboard. That varied approach by Old Fort seemed to work a treat as they mixed up the play continuously between a quick long ball and steady build-up play. Old Fort got their fourth of the game a quick long kick by Dean Bland put Stewart Brett straight through on goal his shot was saved by Doran but Byron McGuirk was on hand to double his haul for the day with a simple tap in. The game seemingly beyond Suncroft at this point, but they never conceded, a testament to their club ethos. Things went from bad to worse though for the Croft when Shane Higgins looped a header over Doran’s head to further compound a miserable afternoon and make it five for Old Fort. They weren't done yet after Jamie Preston chased and harassed and eventually won the ball back for his team in midfield he immediately played it wide to Scott Coyle who had already starting a well timed run, Coyle kept his composure with a clinical finish past Doran to make six. Suncroft grabbed a well worked goal by Substitute Ben Kinsella after he made an excellent run and finished well after Bland saved the first attempt he made no mistake the second time round. Again, another Suncroft Substitute got on score sheet a decent move that involved Brennan and Flynn, and was finished magnificently by Kian McGowan at the final whistle. Suncroft certainly not at their best today and are a team in a transitional period this season.
Old Fort Celtic were a well organised side who worked extremely hard for the Ninety. They didn't waste much and were clinical when given the opportunity. It's definitely a team to watch.
Daniel Bland manager said.
"Extremely proud of his players today made a few adjustments at halftime, and that seemed to work really well for us . The lad's executed the game plan, and we're happy to pick up some silverware not just for us but the whole club. " Best for Suncroft Willie Hayes, Kieran Sheedy, Ben Kinsella, Shane Higgins. Best for Old Fort, David Costigan was immense at the back, Byron McGuirk, Jamie Preston, Daryl Ntumba, and Shane Lynch were outstanding.