Hearty show as Stars win Shield

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hearty show as Stars win Shield thumbnailWINDMILL skipper John Joe Maguire shoots. Orchardís Stephen Wylie is in the background. TB669

IT was the Paddy Hearty show as Windmill Stars defeated Orchard City on penalties in last Tuesday's Mid-Ulster Shield Final at Newry City Showgrounds.
The big Windmill keeper hit an astonishing late, late leveller when it seemed as though Clifford Sterritt's Orchard side, leading 1-0, must lift their first trophy outside the Carnbane League. Indeed three minutes of injury time had been played as a glum Windmill bench, looking resigned to defeat, gazed on, almost disinterested, as the referee William Aston awarded the Stars a free kick in their own half. Keeper Hearty ran from his goal-line to take the kick and moved the ball a few yards forward. But the official made him take it back.
But Hearty, spotting that the City keeper Joe Price was well off his line, organising his defence, hit a mighty kick that soared high into the clouds before dropping in under the crossbar as Price frantically and unsuccessfully back-peddled. It was arguably the most vital goal ever scored in the almost 130-year history of the competition and surely one of the best.
Yet that wasn't Hearty's only major contribution to the day. Just after the break the Stars' net-minder made the save of the match, somehow getting a big hand to a Decky Allister deflected shot that was curling in at the angle of post and crossbar.
Furthermore he saved a crucial sudden death Stephen Daly penalty kick and then to crown a truly memorable day, for himself and his Windmill team, he blasted home the winning penalty kick.
Scarcely surprising then that he won the Man of the Match award.
The keeper told the Democrat: "Today was my best day in football and I did mean that shot."
Stars manager Kieran McParland was a delighted and relieved man as that ball sailed into the Orchard net and he told the Democrat: "I thought it was all over. But it was really unbelievable - story-book stuff."
On that amazing goal, the Stars boss said: "Paddy just went for it but I don't think he could ever do it again - even without a keeper in."
“We maybe shaded the first half while they were better in the second. Somebody has to lose but it must have been heartbreaking for Orchard."
Compared with that amazing finish, the first half was a tame affair - although both teams had opportunities to score. Price saved confidently from Josh McKeown on six minutes while Conor Shields was too high with a full-blooded drive.
Meanwhile Paddy Farrell made a great saving tackle as Decky Carville raced clear on 15 minutes.
Still the best opportunity in the opening half came on 43 minutes when Price made a super full-length save from a vicious low Ruairi Cunningham 25-yard free-kick.
Orchard came out for the second half with all guns blazing and might have gone in front on 47 minutes but Hearty denied Allister with that top-corner stop.
Yet in a rare raid, Joe McLoughlin set up the rampaging McKeown on 53 minutes but the striker pulled his drive wide of the Orchard upright.
Meanwhile with Mickey Green in great form on the left wing and sending in a constant supply to his front line, City kept the pressure on and it was no real surprise when they surged in front on 57 minutes.
Stephen Daly, on the right flank played in Lee Feeney who cutely slipped past a Windmill defender before finding the bottom corner with an explosive 20-yard strike.
And Orchard could well have put the game beyond the Stars on 86 minutes but Cunningham did brilliantly to clear a Thomas McCann lob off the goal-line.
As time ticked away it seemed that Feeney goal would decide the winning of the Shield. But the Stars kept plugging away and in the final minutes created a couple of scoring chances. McKeown just failed to get a touch when a goal was on while Peter Markey superbly headed a John Joe Maguire off the City goal-line.
Then came that sensational Hearty equaliser to bring the match into 10 minutes each way of extra time. In that 20-minutes period Orchard had the best chances. Hearty almost boobed as he dropped a Green shot but recovered to deny McCann. Green also clipped the Windmill crossbar while Daly just failed to get a toe to a teasing Green left-wing cross.
However, then it was down to spot-kicks. Both teams netted with their first two kicks, Green and Stephen Wylie for Orchard and Gareth White and McKeown for Windmill.
But then came a couple of misses. Feeney fired his kick over the bar while Price blocked a thumping Damian O'Hare drive.
The tension was mounting. Markey and Allister scored for Orchard as did Cunningham and McLoughlin for the Stars.
Sudden death. And here Hearty was again a major influence. He dropped to save from Stephen Daly and then fired home the winning penalty kick that thundered under Price and into the back of the net. It was Windmill's day and they celebrated joyously. Incidentally it's Windmill's third time winning the Shield and the third time they have won on penalties. Also their previous two successful Finals ended in 1-1 draws after extra time.
The Stars are also the first Carnbane league team to win the big trophy three times although several teams have won it twice, including Newry Shamrocks, Newry Celtic and Bessbrook United.
Meanwhile Orchard were in bits after the game that seemed to be in their grasp, only to have it cruelly snatched away at the death. Their manager Clifford Sterritt told the Democrat: "Without a doubt I'm gutted but I think that over the 110 minutes we were the far superior team. We were far more organised, looked the better unit and finished the game far stronger.
“They went five up front and still couldn't break us down and it took a freak goal to do it for them. And when it goes to penalties it's a lottery. But fair play to Windmill, they kept at it. And like ourselves they were short in numbers."
Windmill Stars: Paddy Hearty, Paddy Farrell, Ciaran O'Neill, Ruairi Cunningham, Conor McKeown, Patrick Quinn, John Joe Maguire, Joe McLoughlin, Josh McKeown, Conor Shields and Gareth White. Subs: Kris McNeill (for Quinn 58 mins), Gavin Quinn (for Shields 75 mins), and Damian O'Hare (for Farrell 87 mins), Barry Quinn and Kevin Thompson.
Orchard City: Joe Price, Peter Markey, Chris Havern, Decky Allister, Kevin Henry, Steven Wylie, Mickey Green, Lee Feeney, Stephen Daly, Declan Carville and Thomas McCann. Subs: Darren Hillen (for Carville 76 mins), Jason Niblock and Gavin Foy.
Referee: William Aston. Assistant referees: Paul Caldwell and Mark Craig.

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