Kilkeel lifted the Kirk Cup for the first time in the club’s history when they defeated Mossley 3-2 on penalties after the sides had been locked together at 1-1 following a hugely entertaining final at Stormont on St Stephen’s Day, writes John Flack.
Mossley were bidding to claim the trophy for the first time since 1983 but their long wait continues after they had also been on the wrong end of the result in four previous finals.
The Newtownabbey side were able to field 231-times capped Irish international John Jackson in their side as he returned to the club where he learned his hockey.
However, Kilkeel’s famed never-say-attitude was again the fore when they trailed in the shoot-out, after they had come back from 2-0 down in their semi-final win over Instonians.
The Co Down side had scored twice in the last eight minutes in the semi but, yesterday, they went in front in the second half only to be pegged back within a minute.
In the semi-final, Kilkeel won the game on penalties and it was the same on Tuesday in front of a big holiday crowd, who were kept on tenterhooks throughout the 70 minutes and the subsequent shoot-out.
In the penalty-decider, Mossley had a chance to go 3-1 ahead and surely put the game to bed and end their long drought since they last won the famous trophy.
But Jackson missed his one-on-one with the keeper and, ultimately, it was left to Mark Stevenson to step up and score the winner after both teams had been unable to convert their fourth attempt.
It proved to be a double celebration for Stevenson, who had got engaged to his girlfriend and now fiancee, Alison, on Christmas Eve.
Both keepers stole the show in normal time as they produced a series of outstanding saves to keep the game scoreless until the final few minutes of the second-half.
However, Mossley’s Owen Doole was beaten in the first-half only to breathe a sigh of relief when John Finlay’s effort struck the post.
At the other end, it was a similar reaction from Kilkeel’s custodian, Sam Morris, with Aaron Boyd the unfortunate Mossley player to see his effort hit the upright.
Both keepers continued to perform heroics in the second-half as neither team was able to break the deadlock until late on just when it seemed that the game would go straight to penalties without a goal in the regulation 70 minutes.
However, with five minutes remaining and play continuing to swing from end to end, Ryan Cunningham broke the deadlock when he put Kilkeel ahead.
After running on to an overhead pass, his first shot was saved by Doole, but he was able to beat the Mossley keeper at the second attempt when he scored from the rebound.
However, just over a minute later, Mossley were back on level terms when they were awarded a penalty-stroke after Joel Cathcart’s shot had been stopped on the line a by a defender’s foot and Jordan Robinson converted from the spot for the equaliser.
Then it was down to penalties to decide the outcome and Kilkeel celebrating their first triumph in the competition’s long history following Stevenson’s cool-headed winner as Mossley’s 34-year wait continues.
KILKEEL: Sam Morris, Andrew Niblock, Gary Niblock, Richard Fraser, Gareth Russell, Neil Stevenson, Mark Stevenson, Jonathan Aiken, David Finlay, Eddie Agnew, David Rae, Ryan Cunningham, William Annett, Luke Russell, Andrew Johnston, Mark Henning, John Finlay, Chris McKee
MOSSLEY: Owen Doole, Harry Dow, Stephen Clarke, Matthew Anderson, Ross McIvor, Tim Moreland, Joel Cathcart, Phil Kane, Matthew Sullivan, Ryan Lyall, Jordan Robinson, Aaron Boyd, Mark Moreland, Will Aston, David Glenny, Simon Todd, Adam Monahan, John Jackson, Matthew Steele, Gordon McAllister
Umpires: Les Allen, Kieran McGoldrick