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Historic win in Kirk Cup campaign.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Historic win in Kirk Cup campaign. thumbnail Captain Gareth Russell lifts the Kirk Cup high into the night sky.

THE big day had arrived, history beckoned for the men from Mourne, as they faced Mossley in the Kirk Cup final on Boxing Day.

Mossley Men's Firsts...1
Kilkeel Men's Firsts...1

(Kilkeel win 3-2 on penalty runs).

It was a fantastic atmosphere, created by both sets of supporters who had travelled in their numbers to support their respective teams.

For many of the Kilkeel travelling support, John Charleton was in a lot of people's thoughts and how he would have loved to have seen his beloved side at this stage of a major competition.

The game began and unsurprisingly it was a cagey opening by both sides who were looking to just find some sort of rhythm and not concede early.

Mossley were looking the more composed in possession and created a few chances 10 minutes into the first half, but Sam Morris was there to thwart and deny the shots on goal and keep the score at 0-0.

Kilkeel were looking good going forward down the flanks with their pace, but no chances were being created from these runs.

Halfway through the first half Mossley came close once again as they hit the post and fired the rebound off target to really rattle the nerves of the Kilkeel supporters who were yet to see their side create a notable chance.

However, they didn't have to wait long as it was now the turn of Kilkeel to rattle the nerves of the Mossley supporters as Luke Russell found John Finlay in space whose shot rebounded off the post.

The game was end to end with both sets of teams looking to grab a goal before half time, but it was Kilkeel who finished the strongest as first, Gareth Russell went on a mazy run before finding Mark Stevenson who fired a great ball into the area that nobody could connect with.

Then another good run in the midfield, this time through David Rae created some space for David Finlay to receive the ball and cross for Edward Agnew, but he just couldn't connect and Mossley cleared, which was the final action of a pulsating first half.

Five minutes into the second half Kilkeel created their first clear opening of the half as David Rae played a lovely pass to Gareth Russell, who in turn found Mark Stevenson, but the 'keeper came out and tackled him illegally thus resulting in a penalty corner, which unfortunately brought nothing for Kilkeel.

Mossley hadn't started the second half that well, but anything good they did do going forward came through the returning John Jackson who was showing why he was signed for this final by his hometown club.

Kilkeel were coming closer to getting a goal as some good combination play from David Finaly, David Rae and finally William Annett who fired a teasing cross to Edward Agnew, but he just couldn't find the target.

It was an end to end game now as Mossley immediately went up the other end and won a penalty corner.

However Sam Morris was equal to John Jackson's low shot, saving excellently to keep the score 0-0.

Then Kilkeel went forward straight from this up the other and saw two rather harsh green cards fall their way for David Finlay and David Rae which left them down to 9 men for a short period of the game.

No damage came from the reduced number of players for Kilkeel and no longer was he back on than David Finlay almost scored, as he received the ball from Edward Agnew and fired a shot which was well saved by the Mossley 'keeper.

With 15 minutes to go, Kilkeel had missed several opportunities to get themselves in front and they unfortunately continued to do so, as first David Rae saw his shot blocked and then a penalty corner was wasted.

As the final whistle drew closer and closer the game was getting more hectic with both sides terrified of giving the other an opportunity to score what could prove to be a cupwinning goal.

With just four minutes left on the clock though the first goal was scored and it was Kilkeel who got it.

A long aerial ball from skipper Gareth Russell was picked up masterfully by Ryan Cunningham, who saw his initial shot saved by the 'keeper, but he was quick to the rebound to fire it past him and the defender on the line into the right hand corner for 1-0.

It looked like that would be that, but Mossley straight from the off caught Kilkeel players dreaming of the headlines and won themselves a penalty stroke as a rebounded shot was illegally blocked on the line, thus giving Mossley the chance to draw level with just minutes to spare.

It was converted with ice-cold confidence to level things up at 1-1, with Kilkeel only managing to lead for just under a minute.

The game finished 1-1 with Kilkeel kicking themselves for losing their concentration with only minutes to go, but now they had to gather themselves for the same scenario that they had to overcome in the semi-final - penalty runs.

Kilkeel were successful against Instonians in the semi-final on penalty runs so they were hoping this experience might help them this time round.

Mossley scored their first two, with Kilkeel scoring their first through Gareth Russell, but missing their second through David Rae.

John Jackson missed for Mossley and David Finlay held his nerve to score on the reverse to level things up at 2-2 after 3.

The fourth penalty run ins were both missed by both teams which meant it was down to the final set.

Mossley missed their final run in which meant it was down to Mark Stevenson, who scored the winner in the semi-final, to now win his side the Kirk Cup.

He was the coolest man on the pitch as he strode forward with conviction and purpose, making no mistake with a reverse finish into the back of the net to make history.

Kilkeel had once again done it the hard way, but their never say die attitude had once again pulled them through and they had made history winning the Kirk Cup for the very first time.

The crowd went wild with applause and emotion at what was an outstanding achievement for everybody involved with the club.

Gareth Russell lifted the trophy high into the cold night sky and the words of the late great John Charleton went through very many people's head.

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