Tramore 0; Carrick United 0
(aet; Tramore won 3-1 on penalties)
Back in August 2008 Tramore and Carrick United set off in search of the Waterford Premier League title. Shortly after 5.15pm on Sunday last in Ozier Park both clubs still had no idea just who was going to lift the Ben Wedding Memorial Cup into the warm May sunshine.
At that stage the two teams had played a total of 110 minutes and nothing separated them, as neither side had managed to score. During the course of the 18-match campaign it was more or less the same story. Both finished on 39 points, and they also had the same goal difference of plus 22. Their goals for and against columns were also almost identical, so perhaps it came as no surprise that it required a penalty shoot-out to split these two fine outfits.
Ultimately it was the Tramore players who danced with delight on the hallowed turf of Ozier Park. They won the penalty shoot-out 3-1, and their large band of travelling supporters refused to leave the White and Black-clad warriors leave the field.
This was Tramore’s second league triumph. They last won the title back in season 2001-’02, and this latest league title meant every bit as much to them, a fact acknowledged by the club captain, Craig “Rocky” Maher as he accepted the cup.
Spare a thought for Carrick United. Maher admitted that the Carrick club had been the flag-bearers for Waterford football during the past decade and as a result many other clubs had improved their standards as well.
However, here Carrick looked like they were running on empty for long periods of the game. The previous week they lost to Fairview Rangers in the final of the Munster FA Cup and just as in Limerick they had very little to offer against Tramore.
The long season caught up with them, but they will regroup and come back strong once again, but for now it the turn of the Tramore players, supporters and management committee to enjoy the wonderful feeling of being champions. Hail Tramore AFC.
Tramore almost went in front in the first minute when Robbie Phelan rose high to meet a free kick taken by Craig Maher but Adrian Walsh produced a fine save.
Shortly afterwards Francis Rockett picked out Micheál Downey with a long throw-in but the former Waterford United frontman glanced a header wide. Sean Browne crossed from the right endline on 18 minutes but there was no-one at the back post to finish.
Carrick had only one shot during the course of the opening period. Adam McSharry passed to Thomas Fitzgerald but he fired well wide from 20 yards.
Tramore central defender Martin Whelan headed over the bar on 37 minutes and moments later, Ian Stenson picked out Robbie Phelan but Tramore’s leading goalscorer had his low shot well covered by Adrian Walsh.
Tramore had a great chance early in the second half. A superb angled ball from Leigh Quilty found Sean Browne on the right and his first-time lay-off set up Robbie Phelan but the usually-deadly striker shot wide from six yards.
Carrick did their best to try and lift their game and Tramore goalkeeper AJ Murray had to tip away a header from Adam McSharry on 63 minutes. Seven minutes later, Murray had to punch clear a free kick taken by Alan Ryan.
Tramore got back into their stride once again after that and Christopher Grace, on for Downey, shot wide in a one-on-one situation with Adrian Walsh.
The fleet-footed Grace was involved in an amazing incident in the dying minutes. Leaving the Carrick defence for dead he ran through on goal only to see his angled piledriver strike the crossbar, then the far upright, before rebounding into the welcoming arms of the Carrick goalkeeper.
A little later Robbie Phelan missed another decent chance and so the game went into extra-time. Two tired teams failed to score during the extra 20 minutes so the League Championship of 2008-’09 had to be decided by penalties.
First up was John Walsh, who blazed over the bar for Carrick. Robbie Phelan scored for Tramore. Barry Murphy netted for Carrick and Craig Maher did likewise for the Seasiders. AJ Murray saved Carrick’s third penalty taken by Richie Lawrence before Sean Browne made no mistake for Tramore.
Brian Barry had to score to keep the faint hopes of Carrick alive but again Murray saved brilliantly, sparking scenes of unbridled joy from the Tramore players and supporters.
It was a glorious day in the long and cherished history of the club. No doubt people like Noel Hayes and Willie Quaid were looking down from above.
Tramore: AJ Murray, Ian Stenson, Stephen O’Shea, Craig Maher, Martin Whelan, Francis Rockett, Stephen Grant, Sean Browne, Micheal Downey, Leigh Quilty, Robbie Phelan. Sub: Christopher Grace for Downey (64 mins). Not used: Zach Shanahan, Thomas Moore, Gary Hunt, Keith Worley.
Carrick United: Adrian Walsh, Alan Redmond, Brian Barry, Anthony O’Donnell, John Walsh, Keith Walsh, Daryl Kavanagh, Wayne Fitzgerald, Alan Ryan, Adam McSharry, Thomas Fitzgerald. Subs: Barry Murphy for Kavanagh (66 mins), Glen Keane for Thomas Fitzgerald (71 mins), Ritchie Lawrence for McSharry (100 mins). Not used: James Walsh, Eoin Burke, Gerald Burke.
Referee: Noel Purcell; Assistants: Tony Walsh and Jimmy McGrath.