BT Harps were crowned NT&DL Youths Champions Cup winners after an extra time win against a dogged and unlucky Holycross Fc side. Shane Stapleton grabbed a hattrick for Harps after Daniel Moloney and an Aaron Delaney injury time equalizer cancelled out a two nil Harps lead.
Harps had the better of the early exchanges and after just five minutes Dean Lawlor tested Gary Delaney but the keeperwas well up for the task. Holycross were almost handed the lead on seventeen minutes when a free kick proved too hot to handle for Kuba Beben and Daniel Moloney’s follow up missed the target when he should have scored.
Harps took the lead on the half hour mark when the impressive Eibhin Ward put Stapleton through and he calmly slotted the ball past the helpless Delaney in the goal. Holycross looked for an immediate reply and almost got it when William O’Donoghue’s chip over the defence found Aaron Delaney but his resulting shot went straight into the hands of the relieved hands of Beben.
Harps doubled their lead three minutes from half time when Martin Ryan collected the ball on the left and his high through ball found Stapleton and he easily rolled the ball past Delaney much to the joyous roar from the Harps fans and players alike.
Anyone would have forgiven Holycross of they had to give up atthis point but that didn’t happen and the came out for the second half like a new team. It did however take twenty minutes for them to create a good chance but it was well worth the wait when a long free kick evaded the Harps defence and Moloney got there ahead of Beben topoke the ball home and half his sides arrears.
The game ebbed and flowed after this and fifteen minutes from time Stapleton had two quick fire chances to end the game as a contest but Delaney was equal to the two goal bound efforts. Moments later a defensive mix up seen Eanna Ryan in space in the area but his shot was high and wide.
Just as the game looked to be over Holycross were awarded a free kick four minutes into injury time, Moloney’s effort eluded everyone but Aaron Delaney who was alert to the situation and tapped home to send the game into extra time.
The first half of extra time was very cagey until theninety sixth minute when Liam Ryan found himself bearing down on goal but the left backs effort was off target.
Holycross were dealt a huge blow early in the second half when Keeper Gary Delaney was forced off through injury and Mike Nally had to leave his midfield roll for between the sticks. With only a minute to go and the dreaded penalty shootout looming Cillian Coonan was upended in the area and Referee John Hayes correctly pointe to the spot. Stapleton stepped up and Nally saved brilliantly on for the talismatic front man to be alert enough to tap home the rebound and win the League for his club.
A fantastic game and a great spectacle for the NT&DL, the game could have went either way but all in all the better team probably won on the day. Mike Nally was in immense form for Holycross as were Aaron Delaney and Tom Ryan. Niall Quinlan and Eibhin Ward were immense for Harps but the stoppagetime.ie man of the match goes to Ben Stapleton, a constant threat throughout the game and scoring three goals in such a huge game really shows the calibre of the player.