Postal and CIE deliver another classic encounter at the Cross!

CIE Athletic 2 – 3 Postal Workers

CONGRATULATIONS to Postal Workers! Forced to defend for long periods early on against a talented CIE eleven who enjoyed the  backing of a noisy neutral  following, Postal found their resolve and dug in to carve out a hard-earned win in the final of all finals, writes Finbarr Buckley.

CIE’s Jackie Carroll and his backroom team had no intention of allowing Postal to settle into their accustomed stride. His lads pressed their illustrious opponents immediately, crowding them and avidly snapping into the tackle. The Workers looked rattled early on as Athletic’s full-backs Chris McCarthy and Jerry Sheehan pushed up forcing Postal’s midfield trio of captain Pat Lester, Derry Hartnett and John Browne to play deeper than they normally would have expected to play. Even the ultra-cool Jerry Browne seemed ill at ease.

Athletic’s twin strike force of John Deasy and Pat Downey threw themselves into the fray from the off. It didn’t take long for Deasy to impose himself, bumping and grinding, and boring into the heart of the Workers defence. Inside the box he jostled for space, heaving himself above Postal centre-backs to contest the high crosses. Referee Derry Barrett was quickly in to diffuse a flashpoint as early as the 6th minute when Chris McCarthy’s racking cross fell invitingly for Downey who was crudely taken down on the edge of the area by Tony Guest. Both players exchanged words as Downey limped to his feet to see the reassuring presence of Barrett standing beside him, calmingly diffusing the situation as he had done on so many occasions during his illustrious career.

CIE’s tearaway, speedy right-winger Donal O’Leary found he had the beating of his marker Denis O’Leary, forcing Browne to provide protective cover. Meanwhile, on the opposite flank, Dommie Murphy played a patient game, happily exchanging short passes with the inventive Henry O’Connor as he jockeyed for space.

With his colleagues using their guile and strength to pull the Workers’ defenders around, Downey revelled in the resulting freedom to home in on goal. Such was Athletic’s early domination that inventive full-backs McCarthy and Sheehan continually pushed up from their defensive berths, displaying an impressive range of elegant passes. In fact, McCarthy began the move which led to CIE’s opening 9th-minute goal. Postal managed to clear the ball but r McCarthy returned it, pumping the ball high into the box where Deasy won the aerial challenge to present Downey with an awkward shooting chance. The prolific scorer instantly killed the ball on his instep before drilling a low shot out of Tom Archer’s reach.

However, Athletic’s lead was short-lived. Within two minutes Jerry Browne disposed Donal O’Leary who had dwelt on the ball. Browne looped forward before releasing John Reid with an inch-perfect pass. Reid ran directly for goal, executing a sharp one-two with Tom Barry, before beating Peter Gregson with a left-footed cross-shot.

Lifted by the equalizer, Postal raised their game. Pat Hurley volleyed over from Tom Barry’s header before Derry Hartnett brought a terrific diving save from Gregson at the foot of his right-hand post. But with the bright sun beginning to pierce through, CIE began to recover. John McGrath’s desperate tackle deflected Noel Kent’s effort just over the top and then two neat wall passes put Deasy in, only for Archer to push away his goal-bound shot. O’Leary’s sizzling drive was unluckily blocked by Downey and Denis O’Leary put his body in the way of Donal O’Leary’s effort, much to the relief of Archer.

Although a fierce shot from Pat Lester stung Gregson’s left palm, it was CIE who deservedly regained the lead five minutes before half-time. O’Leary jinked this way and that on the left flank, finally finding enough space to send a lofted pass in the direction of the advancing Henry O’Connor. The striker shot immediately but the ball was deflected off Tony Guest for a corner. From the flag-kick, Dommie Murphy found John Deasy’s head. With both Archer and Guest slipping on the greasy surface, Deasy had all the time and space he needed to plant a simple header into the back of the net. The advantage was almost doubled moments later as Deasy, again, headed wide from Chris McCarthy’s centre.

Although Athletic pushed forward in numbers, O’Leary, O’Connor and Deasy were quick to help their defence when the ball was lost. Also, while O’Leary operated as an orthodox winger who looked to hit the goal line and cross, the right-footed O’Connor did not. He frequently wandered into central midfield, exchanging a series of short, tippy-tappy passes. During the first half, CIE played with two out and out strikers, Deasy and Downey, and three confirmed defenders, Sheehan, Desmond and Kelleher. The others including fast-paced full-back Chris McCarthy seemed to have flexible roles, exercising collective attacking and defensive duties. However, after the break, a more conservative approach was taken, Murphy stayed closer to centre-half Kelleher as Jackie Carroll attempted to protect his team’s slender advantage.

Because of the pressure that CIE applied, Postal seemed to be operating more of a 4-5-1 system. Tom Barry retreated, CIE’s Noel Kent helped Davie Desmond in defence, the Workers’ Pat Hurley was left to operate as a lone striker while Athletic’s Dommie Murphy, Donal O’Leary and Henry O’Connor made runs from deep, remaining ready to track back when possession was lost.

Certainly, Postal began the second period employing a higher defensive line, enabling them to press Athletic back into their own half. Centre-back Guest was also given licence to push up at set-pieces to provide greater aerial strength. This proved crucial. Just seven minutes into the second 45, the Workers won a corner on the right. Guest out-jumped Kelleher to head sub Andy Maher’s delivery goalwards. Reid instantly flicked the ball on with his head. The ball looped from Reid’s forehead onto the underside of the bar, whereupon it bounced down. Gregson made a spectacular backward dive but could only push the ball over the line.

Athletic brought in Ger Power, Tommie Murphy and Paddy Busteed to freshen things up and tried to restore their lead, through efforts from Downey, Kent and Busteed. However, Postal grasped the initiative. Hurley hesitated when put through on goal by another sub Ger Frahill, Reid narrowly failed to convert a sizzling low cross from Maher, and then John Browne’s powerful shot was brilliantly flicked around the post at full stretch by Gregson. Nevertheless, it was heartbreaking that CIE’s brave fight should be ended by John Reid’s injury-time header. John Brackett, who replaced the limping Denis O’Leary, exchanged passes with Pat Lester before driving down the left-wing. His deep cross to the far post drifted over the heads of John O’Regan and Ger Frahill. Reid met the cross by stooping low to beat Gregson despite the keeper’s almost miraculous effort to keep the ball out.

After the game, Jackie Carroll sportingly commented. ‘We don’t grumble. You can only do your best. I am pleased the lads put up one hell of a good show.’ Captain Davie Desmond couldn’t conceal his disappointment, though, saying, ‘It’s good to know you have played well in a match of such huge magnitude ….. we could have had a couple of more goals but that’s how it goes in football’. ‘Twice it looked very much like we’d see it out but, honestly, we were beaten by a great side, the like we’d probably never see again.’

Postal’s ecstatic manager Tony Daly said, ‘What a match!’ ‘ There was always very little between the teams when we met through the years and today was no different.’ ‘ In fact, CIE probably shaded it but I’ll be honest, our remarkable will to win got us over the line and I believe it’s what’s won us so many trophies over the years.’

Mick Mooney and Jackie O’Driscoll jointly presented the magnificent specially commissioned CBSL Champions Super Cup trophy to  a jubilant Pat Lester and with it the honour of the greatest club team in the history of the CBSL.

Referee Derry Barrett and his assistants Robbie Gregan and Paddy O’Mahony along with fourth official Kevin Coughlan were lavishly praised for their performances by Mr. Mooney and justified their appointments to decide the greatest team of all eras.

CIE Athletic (4-4-2): Peter Gregson: Chris McCarthy, Jerry Sheehan (Hugh Barriscale), Davie Desmond (capt.), Noel Kelleher (John O’Regan); Noel Kent, Dommie Murphy, Donal O’Leary (Ger Power), Henry O’Connor (Tommie Murphy) ; John Deasy (Paddy  Busteed), Pat Downey (Thomas Hawkins).

Postal Workers (4-3-3): Tom Archer: Denis O’Leary (John Brackett,) John McGrath; Jerry Browne, Tony Guest (Tim Donovan); Pat Lester (capt.), Derry Hartnett (Andy Maher), John Browne; Pat Hurley, Tom Barry (Ger Frahill), John Reid.

Referee: Derry Barrett.  Assistant Referees: Robbie Gregan and Paddy O’Mahony. Fourth Official: Kevin Coughlan