Soccer: Marren the hero as Charlestown win

31 January 2007

Soccer: Marren the hero as Charlestown win
By: Michael Gallagher in The Showgrounds, Sligo


St Joseph’s Charlestown 2 St Catherine’s Killybegs 2

Charlestown won 5-4 on penalties

THEY clung together in the centre-circle and willed Cathal Marren to get his hand to the ball. The young students from St Joseph’s Charlestown were deep in the midst of a penalty shoot-out that would echo through their minds for the rest of their lives as the shroud of evening began to gather over Sligo town last Wednesday.
They were one moment from glory and a single mis-take from devastation as Marren danced along his goal-line waving his arms in an attempt to distract the penalty-taker, Donal Murrin. In the centre-circle some of Marren’s colleagues looked towards the heavens begging for inspiration to wing its way towards their goalkeeper.
The last roars of encouragement from the crowd were cut off mid-scream as Murrin strode towards the ball. The Donegal student had been outstanding between the posts for his school all afternoon as his acrobatics denied Charlestown on numerous occasions, but now he had swapped roles and had to beat Marren to keep his school’s All-Ireland dream alive.
He hit the ball hard and true and sent it screaming low along a path that would take it into the left side of the goal. Marren had got his hand to three of the previous penalties but had been unable to keep them out, but as the leather raced through the air on this occasion he had it in his sights.
As the ball arrived at the point where it would travel over the goal line and on into Killybegs history, so did Marren, and the big goal-keeper diverted the leather to safety.
As the ball hopped quietly away, the Donegal students sank to their knees but all around the famous Sligo venue, Charlestown celebrations echoed through the freezing evening air.
It was the culmination of an amazing afternoon filled with, thrills, spills and a match that will be talked about in homes along the Mayo-Sligo border for many years to come.
Twice the Charlestown boys were on their way out of the competition and twice they fought back. They should have won the game in the second half of normal time but couldn’t force the ball over the line, yet they never lost hope and when the final whistle sounded they had secured an All-Ireland final place.
The Mayo students had faced into the fierce, biting wind in the opening half and found it hard to work the ball forward against a strong and resolute Killybegs outfit.
The Ulster boys were probing for an opening and with McCloskey impressive at the back, Molloy and McIntyre prominent in mid-field and Mackie and Ratcliffe lively upfront, they were proving a real handful for Charlestown.
Patrick Walsh was working very hard in the middle of the pitch for Charlestown and Damien Ward looked lively on the wing while James Horan was beginning to make his mark.
John Marren and Thomas Meehan had little possession to work with upfront but they kept the Donegal defenders busy with their scavenging runs. Marren had Charlestown’s first goal effort in the 17th minute, but it was at the other end that the breakthrough arrived. Molloy won possession on the right and switched the ball diagonally across the pitch, the flightpath deceived the Charlestown defenders but Paul Murrin was steaming in from the left wing and he controlled the ball with one touch and then smashed it past Marren with a sweep of his left boot to send the large Donegal contingent wild.
Four minutes later Andrew Mackie ran clean through on goal after a sweet pass from Ratcliffe but Marren kept the deficit at one with a fine save.
Charlestown were aided by the stiff breeze after the break in the 49th minute John Marren and Meehan combined in the middle of the pitch; Marren swept the ball goalwards and Meehan tore forward in chase. The strong bounce from the astro-turf surface deceived McCloskey, and Meehan nipped in to poke the ball over Murrin and into the net.
It was precisely the boost that Charlestown required and they grew in stature with every passing moment. Walsh and Horan were dictating matters in the middle, Doherty and Ward tore forward at every opportunity while Moran, McLoughlin, Finn and the excellent Gavaghan were full of confidence at the back.
Meehan almost put his side in front in the 61st minute when he headed a Ward corner just over the top before Killybegs had two glorious chances of their own. First, Mackie found the ball at his feet six-yards out but his stinging shot was straight at Marren, then Ratcliffe twisted and turned before sending the ball screaming inches wide of the right-hand upright.
Soon normal service was restored and the best chance of the half fell to John Marren in the 67th minute. Cathal Marren’s long kick released the big striker and sent him clean through on goal, only for Murrin to advance and get his hand to the goal-bound shot and extra-time loomed.
The Mayo boys dominated the opening period of the added time and if Murrin hadn’t been at his best John Marren’s 92nd minute header would have given Charlestown the lead but they were hit by a hammer-blow five minutes later.
A long punt into the Charlestown half was controlled by Mackie and as the blue defenders converged, he switched the ball to Paul Murrin and he coolly slotted it home to put Killybegs back in front.
That would have signaled the end for many teams, but not Charlestown. They poured forward in search of redemption and four minutes later they found the equaliser. John Marren hooked the ball into the box and Meehan sent the leather looping over the big goal-keeper into the roof of the net.
Penalties were next up and Ward, John Marren, Meehan, and Horan were all successful while Walsh missed the target by mere inches. Killybegs had four successes also but Molloy was off target, so sudden-death took centre-stage. Danny Doherty goaled for Charlestown and when Donal Murrin faced Cathal Marren, history was just about to come calling. When it did, Marren answered joy-fully.
CHARLESTOWN: Cathal Marren, James Moran, Brian Gavaghan, Enda McLoughlin, Shane Finn, Danny Doherty, James Horan, Patrick Walsh, Damien Ward, John Marren, Thomas Meehan.
KILLYBEGS: Donal Murrin, Michael Mullin, Ronan Dunne, Ronan Boyle, Mark McCloskey, Paul Molloy, Padraic McIntyre, Brian Byrne, Paul Murrin, Andrew Mackie, Jamie Ratcliffe. Subs: Donal McGuire for Byrne (65), Jason Noctor for Ratcliffe (101). Referee: Ronnie Melly.