Crumlin Star were triumphant in the final of this season's McComb's Coach Travel Intermediate Cup but they were made to battle all the way by St Oliver Plunkett.
The north Belfast side eventually edged past their west Belfast opponents in front of just over 2,300 spectators at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park on Tuesday night, winning the decider by three goals to two.
Star appeared to be cruising after going two up, however Plunkett showed great determination and desire to draw level before a second goal from man of the match Stephen Smyth was enough to get Star over the line.
Crumlin Star opened the scoring after just two minutes. Joe McNeill played the ball into the area and it was cleared by a Plunkett defender but only as far as Kevin Lynch. He calmly slotted it to Smyth – and he applied the finish.
The Amateur League Premier Division side pushed forward again immediately. Star captain Barry McKervey’s low shot was pushed out by Plunkett keeper Deaglan McMahon.
Plunkett, who operate two divisions below Star in Amateur League Division 1B, were two down after 11 minutes. McKervey whipped a free-kick into the danger zone and Lynch powerfully headed it into the net from four yards.
McMahon was lucky to escape a red card when he raced off his line and blocked off James Doyle outside the penalty area as Star threatened once again. Referee Stewart Long decided a yellow card was enough punishment for the goalie.
Lynch curled a shot past the post on 19 minutes as Star continued to dominate. And then McMahon palmed away a dangerous Lynch cross as Doyle was lurking inside the six-yard box ready to strike.
Plunkett enjoyed more possession as the half wore on. Midfielder Conall Duffy let fly from distance but his shot was blocked.
Sean Jackson and Padraig McParland combined well for Plunkett but McParland’s goal-bound effort was blocked and then Michael Mervyn fired a shot just over the top from an angle.
McParland whipped in a free-kick which was headed over the bar by Jackson before McParland jinked his way into the area and crossed to Mervyn at the back post, however he put the ball wide off his knee from five yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Plunkett, the lowest ranked team ever to appear in an Intermediate Cup final, started the second half where they left off in the first – on the front foot.
And they quickly pulled a goal back when an O’Neill block inside the area spun towards Plunkett skipper Michael Healy and he blasted the ball into the net.
Paul Trainor’s side responded by pushing forward. McKervey found Doyle in space inside the area, however his scuffed shot drifted wide of the post.
Healy’s superb tackle snuffed out Doyle’s clever flick before a swift counter attack by Plunkett saw Mervyn feed Jackson who slipped the ball to McParland, however his weak shot was comfortably gathered by Star keeper Ciaran McNeill.
Plunkett equalised on 68 minutes. A Jody Lynch corner was cleverly flicked on by McParland at the front post to Eugene Reid at the back post and he bundled the ball into the net.
A deflected shot from Breandan O’Neill looped onto the crossbar before Star took the lead again seven minutes later when substitute Conor McLaughlin squared the ball to Smyth inside the area and he took a touch before clipping the ball into the top corner from 16 yards. It was a neat finish and it turned out to be the winner.
McParland, already on a yellow card, was lucky to stay on the pitch after a rash tackle on Mark Lyons.
Plunkett kept pushing. Deep into added time Duffy found Healy in space, however the captain could only steer his cross wide of the target, and that was the final piece of action.
Crumlin Star: Ciaran McNeill, Breandan O’Neill, Aidan McNeill, Niall Hawkins, Mark Lyons, Joseph McNeill, Stephen Smyth, Kevin Trainor, Kevin Lynch, James Doyle, Barry McKervey (captain). Substitutes: Samuel McBurney, Conor McLaughlin, Pierce McConnell, Patrick McIlkenny, Finnbarr Brennan, Martin Coiley, Paul Fisher.
St Oliver Plunkett: Deaglan McMahon, Michael Mervyn, Michael Healy (captain), Eugene Reid, Jody Lynch, Conall Duffy, Sean Jackson, Padraig McParland, Conor Nolan, Michael McCusker, Stephen O’Neill. Substitutes: Ryan Sewell (GK), Martin Webb, Stephen Killyleagh, Gary Dunlop, Bailey Carroll, Mark Sloan, Deaglan Healy.