Historic Down final win for St Paul's, Holywood as they edge out Aughlisnafin
ST PAUL'S captain and Man of the Match Daniel Eastwood dedicated the club's first ever championship title to the men who stuck with the club when they didn’t even possess a proper pitch.
Niall Grimley’s 84th minute goal gifted St Paul’s their first ever championship title in their 41-year history after seeing off Aughlisnafin in an enthralling battle.
Daniel Eastwood’s last-gasp free-kick had sent last night’s Down Junior Championship Final into extra-time with a score of Aughlisnafin 0-8 St Paul’s 1-5 after 60 minutes.
Adam Garland scored the only point of the first period of extra-time to give Aughlisnafin the lead as St Paul’s kicked a frustrating seven free-kicks wide but Liam Hogan levelled the score with 81 thrilling minutes played.
Then came Niall Grimley’s goal which he punched in after Tom Grimley’s delivery.
The Fin stayed in touch with Adam Garland’s free but the Holywood side held on for victory.
Man of the Match and captain Daniel Eastwood said he couldn’t be prouder of his team, but he didn’t forget the club’s volunteers.
“My team-mates were brilliant, and they battled to the end and the fans were great, they gave us a lift and they really helped,” said Eastwood.
“This is really special because it has taken us 41 years of tough going and we went through the dark days and this is for you and plus the underage coaches who have coached all these lads from Holywood, Bangor and Newtownards and I just want to thank them from the bottom my heart.”
It was a fine night for the final played in Pairc Esler with the gentlest breeze blowing below the dusk sky.
It was the perfect setting for something historic and the contest didn’t disappoint.
It was advantage St Paul’s, Holywood at the first water-break as they led 1-0 to 0-1.
It was Aughlisnafin who opened the scoring with full-back Shane McCann tapping over but St Paul’s reply on nine minutes was emphatic when Sean Tucker got on the end of Tom Grimley’s long searching pass to thump into the net.
As expected, St Paul’s made five changes from the team on the matchday programme with young Ryan Loughran coming in for Owen Loughran and Josh Gray, Gerard Walls, Tom Grimley and Sean Tucker replacing Patrick Falls, Liam Hogan, Thomas Brennan and Daire McGrattan respectively and they were given a massive boost as Patrick Eastwood started having won his appeal against suspension..
The white-haired and white-gloved Shea Croskery moved mountains for Aughlisnafin with some of his dazzling runs and his first point closed the scores on 20 minutes.
Oran Flanagan almost closed the gap but his free drifted narrowly wide shortly after the first water-break.
It was end-to-end stuff with St Paul’s taking the more direct route whereas the Fin played the running game but it was a touch of individual class from Daniel Eastwood that edged the Holywood side ahead.
Team-mates Niall Grimley and Tucker followed up with further points before an Adam Garland (free) replied for Aughlisnafin.
Half-time: Aughlisnafin 0-03 St Paul’s 1-3.
The Fin defenders Jack Matthews and Noel Travers made superb blocks, while Shea Haughey of St Paul’s did a fine marking job on Aughlisnafin’s talisman Shea Croskery.
St Paul’s Daniel Eastwood and Oisin O’Toole traded points early in the second half as the game continued at a rapid pace.
O’Toole displayed excellent composure as he stroked over his second point and there was a massive roar from the crowd when captain Donagh Steele squeezed over his tight-angled point.
The Fin started to play with swagger, and it was no surprise when Garland levelled the score with his second converted free and that man Shea Croskery steered Aughlisnafin into the lead with the last kick before the second water-break.
St Paul’s substitute Liam Hogan’s two shots dropped short and Tom Grimley’s two frees drifted wide as they pushed frantically for the equaliser.
The Fin defence worked tirelessly to keep the Holywood side at bay and with the hour played they still held their slender lead.
Christopher Shannon missed the chance to equalise when his 45 went wide only seconds after four additional minutes was announced but Daniel Eastwood made no mistake with his converted free in the last of the four additional minutes to send the game into extra-time.
St Paul’s were deserved winners at the end of a thrilling game but spare a thought for Aughlisnafin who have lost in two finals in successive years.
Aughlisnafin: M Croskery, J Matthews, S McCann (0-02, 1f), N Travers, O O’Toole, B McComiskey, T Noade, D Steele (0-01), O Flanagan, S Croskery (0-02), C Croskery (0-02), F Murphy, A Garland (0-03, 0-1free, 0-1 mark), R Croskery, C Matthews
Subs: B Ogle for T Noade (half-time). S Mooney for F Murphy, L Ward for J Matthews, C Doran for R Croskery (Second half), S Willoughby for N Travers (in ET)
St Paul’s: C McKenna, R Loughran, E Kelly, S Haughey, M Collins, J Gray, G Walls, T Grimley, P Eastwood, S Tucker (1-01), M Cox, C Shannon, D Rooney, D Eastwood (0-03, 0-1 free), N Grimley (1-01)
Subs: L Hogan (0-01) for Cox (39’), C McKenna for Walls (41’), Walls for J Gray (81’)
Referee: Gavin Finnegan (An Riocht)
Man of the match: Daniel Eastwood