wonder strike delivers northern success

13 March 2018

A stunning strike three minutes into stoppage from Kevin O'Kane was a fitting way for Northern Regional College to edge out IT Carlow 'C' and become the first Northern Ireland side to claim a Rustlers Colleges and Universities League title.

The Division Two final at the FAI NTC in Abbotstown looked to be heading into extra time with the sides locked on one apiece when O'Kane who had earlier replaced Jason Goldie struck the brilliant winner.

With time running out Jake Francis had a final chance to get the Coleraine side a decisive second goal when he delivered a dangerous free kick deep into the Carlow goalmouth.

Shaun Hore headed clear but only as far as O'Kane lurking just outside the area and he met the ball first time to strike a brilliant volley into the top corner of the Carlow goal.

A fitting goal to clinch a famous win for the impressive Northerners who despite playing the final 20 minutes a man down after Andy Whiteside was dismissed still managed to come from a goal down to take a first time title.

Things looked bright when Stephen French gave Carlow an eight minute lead after he picked up a half cleared Keane Hayes corner and steadied himself before firing past Josh Dunn although the Coleraine 'keeper did get a hand to it.

Although a goal down the Northern Regional continued to play a patient game, knocking the ball around and with the very impressive Francis dictating matters in midfield and his free kicks dropping right into the heart of the area were also causing problems for the Carlow defenders.

Goldie headed over from one of these after good play between Stewart Nixon and Dylan Moore.

Then Francis, Moore and Williams all in quick succession might have hit the equaliser just before the break but their efforts were kept out.

Coleraine were much the better side after the break and it was no surprise when they drew level on the hour mark.

The equaliser came from the penalty spot after Moore was clipped by Hore as he was about to shoot and Eamon McLaughlin well struck spot kick beat goalkeeper Noah Sole.

A Coleraine winner looked likely when Moore then crashed an effort off the crossbar and Nixon just failed to get a touch on the rebound.

While later Nixon's header from O'Kane's cross was brilliantly saved by Sole.

Carlow's late bid for a winner saw centre back Tomiwa Badun pushed up front but despite his great run and inviting cross there was nobody in position to apply the finishing touch.

So it was left to O'Kane to provided the late drama and strike the winner that would take the title up north for the first time.

Man of the Match: Jake Francis (Northern RC)

IT CARLOW: Noah Sole; Conor Quinn, Shaun Hore, Tomiwa Badun, Greg Sykula, Andrew Russell; Keane Hayes, Stephen French (Michael O'Rourke 78), Peter Sherwood, Yale Chadsey (Aaron Fattore 73); Kieran Hennessy.
Subs not used:Michael O'Dea, Jack Craig, Shane Fennels, Tomas Lane, Joseph Smyth.

NORTHERN REGIONAL COLLEGE COLERAINE: Josh Dunn; Danny Brown, Callum Biggart, Caolan Coyle, Josh Stinson, Dylan Moore (Likas Condren 67); Andy Whitehouse, Eamon McLaughlin, Jake Francis, Jason Goldie (Kevin O;Kane 60); Stewart Nixon.
Subs not used: Harry Kirkpatrick, Kyle Walker, Conor Lundy, Jordan Pollock.

Referee: Aidan O'Brien. Assistants: Brian Lawless, Christy Beasley.

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