By Dermot Clarke
WOODBRIDGE, N.J. — It’s said that 82 percent of all penalty kicks are converted. That’s a little over four out of five. So what are the odds against a team missing four of five in a penalty shoot-out? Imagine, then, a side actually hitting the target with all five kicks and still missing four.
Shamrock coach John Guildea has that unlikelihood down as being akin to winning the Lotto. Because that would mean that the man in goals would have to guess correctly on four occasions, and then still save the spot kicks. Knowing Kevin McPartland’s dedication to the Shamrock Soccer Club, he’d probably prefer to save the penalties and win the Cup than win the Lotto. So he must have been a happy man on Sunday, because that’s just what he did as the Shamrocks, after playing Albanians to a 2-2 draw, won the Cosmopolitan Cup Final, 4-3 after penalties, in Woodbridge, N.J.
Few Shamrock supporters who went to the game could have had many better days since landing on these shores. It didn’t look like it was going to be that way, though, when the Albanians went one up after 15 minutes. And t might well have been two but for a post and a crossbar a couple of minutes later. The Rocks came back, however, and had a goal disallowed before they equalized on 22. A Paddy Geraghty through ball beat the off-side trap and found Tim Cummins racing down the wing. Cummins’s speed and precision enabled him to find Ray Elsesser alone in the 6-yard, and Elsesser, as usual, paid his striking partner the perfect compliment by slotting the ball home.
The hitherto nervy Shamrocks began to settle down. The season-long excellent back four became more recognizable and the Darren Thunder-less midfield were becoming acquainted with each other. The switch-back to the middle seemed to suit Pat Geraghty, and it looked like one of his many strong runs into the Albanian box would reap reward, but the Hofstra man’s name wasn’t on the scoresheet that read 1-1 at the half.
With 20 minutes gone in the second half, it looked like the next goal would win it. Both defenses were steady and much of the half was being played around the midfield. It was time for a hero to step up to the plate, and as has been the case many times in the past it was Billy Henderson who took on the role. Henderson again beat the offside trap and, after cleverly flicking the ball over the last defender, he steadied himself before firing past the despairing Albanian keeper.
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At 2-1 it looked like the trophy was headed for Sunnyside. The Albanians had other ideas, however. Stout defending, particularly by skipper Robbie Walsh and Michael Bishop, kept them at bay and when it looked like a final touch was all that was needed, it was the toe of Paul Wilson or the clawing hand of McPartland that appeared. Aiden Welsh, back in for the unlucky Mick McCarthy, was also a factor with his strong tackling and constant encouragement.
With 6 minutes left in regulation, a penalty was awarded to Albania after a melee in the Shamrock box. The well-hit spot-kick eluded McPartland and the sides were level. The game went into extra time, the Albanians had their tails up and it looked like the battle-weary Shamrocks were beginning to wilt. McCarthy came on for Welsh and Johann Lannon reverted to left back.
The Shamrocks somehow held on for the first half of extra-time. The never-say-die attitude of people like Terry Lawless, coupled with the still resolute back four, got them to the 15-minute mark on level terms. In the second period, the Shamrocks, to everyone’s amazement, began to take control. Fergal Barret was introduced for the justifiably exhausted Billy Henderson. Robbie Walsh and Paddy Geraghty almost wrapped it up for the Rocks. The Albanians, too, had their chances but extra time failed to produce a goal, and so it went to penalties.
McPartland’s day had begun well. He seemed to grow an extra arm to stop the first Albanian kick. Paddy Geraghty tucked his away and the Shamrocks were one up. McPartland guessed right again and stopped a second, Paul Wilson stepped up for the Shamrocks and made it 2-0. Then the Albanians got back into it , scoring their third, and Tim Cummins went a little high and the ball sailed over with the keeper beaten. Two-one, two penalties left each, and McPartland dove to his left to save another. Elsesser then had what would have been the game brilliantly saved, but the Shamrocks were still in control. It looked like it would be down to Terry Lawless to win it for the Shamrocks. Surely McPartland couldn’t save another. Somehow he did, though, when he flung himself to the left again.
It was a great day for McPartland. It was a great day for the Shamrocks. They will be presented with their hard-earned trophies on Saturday at the Annual Dinner Dance in Durows of Glendale. Details, (718) 784-9384.