Blessington went into last Saturday’s game knowing if they avoided defeat they would land their first league title. It was a long way from the difficult few months they endured earlier in the season playing in the cup where they had little success. Things didn’t improve much when they started their league campaign in January away to St. James’s Athletic going 2-0 down before the break having played poorly. They managed to rescue that game with a superb late goal from Lukas Sarkauskas aided by midfielder Sean Gallagher. However, if their fortunes were to change in the league a huge improvement would be required. So with a new team formation, some personnel changes and a lot of hard work on the training ground the team started again with renewed focus.
The next six games saw them go unbeaten taking a maximum 18pts, scoring 17 and only conceding 2. The foundation of this success was built on a solid defensive system where new goal keeper Max Fetherston successfully joined ‘the rock’ Matt O’neill, Alex Punselie, Tony Clarke and the much improved Brian Gilroy in a well drilled defensive line up . Ahead of these were James Durcan and Sarkauskas whose phenomenal work rate and discipline provided great steel and protection to their backline. With this new solidity it gave the front 3 much more freedom to concentrate on their attack. New striker Zach Harney Broe hit the ground running scoring at an impressive rate was joined either side by wide men Eoin Murphy and Jack Roberts.
Going into Saturdays’s game Blessington were favourites having already beaten Shankill earlier in the season, however it was the away team who started quickest, holding onto the ball really well and pinning the home team back in their own half. During these early exchanges Blessington’s attacking trio struggled to get on the ball and found themselves tracking back in order to help their team gain possession.
Fortunes changed however with a goal kick by Sarkauskas which went route one down the middle of the pitch. The pass split Shankill’s defense wide open for Murphy to run onto, he remained calm while still having a lot to do, holding off a defensive challenge before hitting a low shot with the outside of his boot under the oncoming keeper to put the home side in front. A second goal came quickly afterwards with a great strike into the top corner from Broe leaving the keeper with no chance. It must have been difficult for Shankill to go in at half time knowing they played so well and had most of the possession. However despite the amount of ball they rarely troubled Fetherston in goal, Blessington’s defensive system once again holding strong under pressure.
Going into the second half the tide had changed, the home side welcomed back Connor Kiernan into midfield, who had missed a number of games but soon found his rhythm with some great attacking passes, meanwhile on the wing Roberts was now giving the Shankill defense a torrid time. Blessington were now very much on top, holding and moving the ball much better, spaces began to appear in front of them, and goals duly arrived from Murphy (again) and Broe to make it 5-0, (Broe hat-trick) and the game was won.
So after an indifferent start, Blessington had turned their season around to become worthy league champions. Friends and family celebrated with the team afterwards but it’s back to business on Tuesday as the team prepare for a soccer blitz next weekend.
Back row (L to R) Alex, Connor, Brian, Eoin. Front row Lukas, James, Jach, Max, Matt & Zack.