The St Stephens players (with goalscoring hero Joshua Aimiuhi far left) celebrate their win over St Declans at Ben Wadding Park.  Photos: Jim O’Sullivan

The St Stephens players (with goalscoring hero Joshua Aimiuhi far left) celebrate their win over St Declans at Ben Wadding Park. Photos: Jim O’Sullivan

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St Stephen’s 2; St Declan’s 1

St Stephen’s School were crowned Jack Kennedy Memorial Cup winners on Friday morning last in what was a thrilling game. St Declan’s won this trophy last season, beating St Stephen’s in the decider so this was a sweet victory for the team managed by Jim Keevers.

It was a fine contest between two evenly-matched outfits and perhaps the St Declan’s boys will feel a little hard done by as they played some great football during the course of the hour. Eamon O’Mahony, who is retiring from teaching at St Declan’s, took charge of his team for the last time and despite losing the final he was needless to say very proud of his young charges.

Joshua Aimiuhi scored both goals for St Stephen’s. He struck early and late and it came as no surprise that he picked up the ‘Player of the Match’ award during the presentation which followed the full-time whistle.

Just like the Division Two final a few weeks back, which was won by Ferrybank, this was a superb contest and well done to all concerned.

Early lead

St Stephen’s opened up like a house on fire and they put St Declan’s on the back foot from the opening whistle. Dean O’Halloran set up Adam Doyle in the first minute but his effort was saved by goalkeeper Tom Moran.

St Stephen’s did however go in front after 5 minutes. Dean O’Halloran played the ball down the left flank to Joshua Aimiuhi who cut into the penalty area before unleashing a superb right-footed shot into the roof of the net.

He almost scored once again 3 minutes later when he got on to the end of a cross from Evan O’Donnell, who pulled the ball back from the right endline but Joshua headed over the crossbar from 8 yards.

One minute later Daniel Ryan made the St Declan’s goalkeeper Tom Moran work with a low long range effort. St Declan’s began to get into the game and they put together a fine move on 16 minutes with Ross Fitzpatrick picking out Luke Kelly who let fly at goal. The St Stephen’s defender Ryan O’Higgins got in a great block at the expense of a corner kick.

St Declan’s took confidence from that move and they got back on level terms one minute later. David Hobbs played the ball out left to Ross Batty who in turn crossed low into the six yards box where Ross Fitzpatrick was waiting to touch the ball to the back of the net.

St Declan’s dominated the remainder of the first half and they almost went in front on the stroke of half-time through Ross Batty who met a cross from Luke Kelly but he shot over the crossbar.

Late winner

Ten minutes into the second half, St Stephen’s were under pressure again when Ethan Hurley, Ross Fitzpatrick and Ross Batty combined superbly but the latter was unable to keep his shot on target.

Two minutes later it was the turn of Eoin O’Dwyer, Ross Fitzpatrick and Luke Kelly to put St Stephen’s under pressure but the defenders kept St Declan’s at bay. It was looking odds on that extra-time would be required to try and get a winning side, but just as what the case in the Division Two decider a late winner turned the game on its head.

Dean O’Halloran played a glorious ball forward from just inside the halfway line. Joshua Aimiuhi timed his run brilliantly before rounding the goalkeeper and placing the ball into an empty net. A player to watch for the future indeed. Smashing football from two very good teams on what was a glorious sunny June morning.

St Stephen’s (full panel): James Roche, Shane Ryan, Adam Farrell (Captain), Ryan O’Higgins, Daniel Ryan, Adam Doyle, Dean O’Halloran, Joshua Aimiuhi, Dean Walsh, Niall McCabe, Evan O’Donnell, Dara Collopy, Dean Power, Diarmuid Carey, Jack Roche.

St Declan’s (full panel): Tom Moran, Craig Brown, Ethan Hurley, Eoin O’Dwyer, David Hobbs, Ross Batty, Andrew Phelan, Aaron O’Connor, Luke Kelly, Ross Fitzpatrick, Jack Maher, Tommy Power, Chris Doran, Gary Walsh, Stephen Dalton.

Referee: John Purcell.