Saturday last saw the hugely successful running of the 2018 Denis O’Neill Memorial Cup in Finn Park, a ‘clash of the fans’ game in Finn Park featuring a number of ex-Harps players and fans from different fans groups, namely the 54 Crew and FBTN (From Behind The Nets).
The 54 Crew came out on top in the fans match, 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in a highly entertaining game, with Shane O’Donnell scoring the decisive penalty after a Nigel Hegarty save for the 54 Crew from FBTNs Shane Doherty set it up for the win.
Ex-Harps men Shane Bradley and Eloka ‘Luka’ Asokuh featured for the winning side, while Chris Breen, Michael Funston and John Walsh returned to Harps colours when they togged out for FBTN.
On a day of high emotion for the many members of the O’Neill family who turned out to mark this celebration of ‘The Major’, it was noted that Denis would have been very complimentary of the huge effort that went into putting on a great family event in Finn Park by supporters.
A barbecue kept the big crowd well fed, while DJ ‘Ois Bosh’, Inishowen Harps man Oisin McLaughlin, had the crowds kept entertained with a live DJ set before the match, during half time, and with his excellent commentary of the penalty shootout after 90 minutes of action.
Well known Harps referee and ticket booth operator Ronan Floyd kept things calm in the middle, only flashing his cards twice throughout the big local derby game.
The match itself was a good free-flowing encounter, and in hot conditions, the players put on a great show for the large watching crowd, of which an estimated 150 people came to see.
As if scoring one goal on his return to Finn Park wouldn’t have been enough for Shane Bradley, he had to make sure he rolled back the years in true ‘Rita’ style, and managed to score for both teams on the day, giving the FBTN an early second half lead with an own-goal from a Don Maguire cross, before heading on up front to head the ball over the onrushing Shane O’Loughlin in the FBTN goal to equalise for 54 Crew to send the game to the lottery of penalties.
Another Bradley was one of the stars on the day, with 14 year old Bobby, son of Shane, starring for the 54 Crew side, up against the likes of Funston, Walsh and Breen and making sure he didn’t look a bit out of place in the middle of the park.
Winner of man of the match in last years clash of the fans game, Oisin Merritt returned to action ahead of his sojourn to Holland in two weeks time with the Irish Cerebral Palsy International squad to play their Dutch counterparts and put in another impressive display in midfield for the FBTN squad, as the former Harps underage player continues to go from strength to strength since his serious injury in June 2014.
Penalty shootout victory ensued for the 54 Crew, with successful penalties hit by Michael Herity, Andy Devine, Chris Dunnion, Dillon Doherty and the winning penalty by Shane O’Donnell, successfully converted penalties proved to be in vain for FBTN’s Adrian Ferry, Don Maguire and Aaron Kelly when Shane Doherty saw his penalty wonderfully saved by 54 Crew goalkeeper Nigel Hegarty to break FBTN hearts.
The trophy presentation followed the penalty shootout with the O’Neill family taking to the pitch to a huge round of applause, and Kathleen O’Neill making the presentation of the Denis O’Neill Cup to 54 Crew while a very deserving Denis O’Neill Man of the Match award went to FBTN Don Maguire.
Both teams and a crowd of supporters, along with the O’Neill family went along to Barrett’s Bar where Martin Hannigan and his staff put on a great night for all in attendance with live music and finger food keeping everyone in good spirits for a great night.
Organisers wish to convey their thanks to all who sponsored the match, and raffle prizes afterwards, including match sponsor Pro-Fitness Ballybofey, match ball sponsor Barrett’s Bar, referee sponsor Don Maguire Fitness, FBTN sponsor John McElchar Transport, 54 Crew sponsor Joey O’Leary Financial Services, and BBQ sponsors McKelveys Bar.
54 Crew squad:
Nigel Hegarty, Ciaran Bonner, Eoghan O’Doherty, Kevin Haughey, Connor Edwards, Andy Devine, Michael Herity, Barry McGowan, Chris Dunnion, Shane O’Donnell, Dillon Doherty, Patrick McConnell, Fionn Robinson, Michael Devine, Tommy Doherty, Bobby Bradley, Eloka Asokuh, Shane Bradley.
Alan Kelly, Shea Hannigan, Adrian Ferry, Shane O’Loughlin, Shane Doherty, Naoise O’Fearghail, Conor McNulty, Don Maguire, Mark McElchar, Shaun McGlynn, Aaron Kelly, Callum Gordon, Graham Horsefield, Andrew Mulrine, Damien Gallagher, Ciaran O’Neill, Oisin Merritt, Chris Breen, Michael Funston
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