North Down made the long trip to Limerick for their semi final tie in the Irish Trophy without player coach Gareth McKeown and the sick Jordan Linter. With at least five other squad members also not available due to work commitments there were late call ups to the injured Tom Donnan and Michael Orr who agreed to help out and make the trip.
It was the injured Donnan who opened the scoring when he rounded the keeper and slid the ball home from 5 yards. North Down had most of the pressure and Josh Gilmore had a couple of chances but the home defence were quick to clear their lines. The tricky Limerick forwards were causing some problems and when the North Down defence failed to clear the centre forward nipped in to equalise to make it 1-1 at half time.
The second half was only minutes old when Limerick took the lead. The ball was quickly played upfield and the left winger slipped the ball inside and the centre forward flicked the ball past the helpless Coates. Play swung from end to end until North Down won a corner and Shepherd’s effort was deflected into the net by Mark Shannon. North Down piled on the pressure and Gilmore gave them a 3-2 lead with 10 minutes remaining when he rounded the keeper and shot home. Limerick were not finished and with 3 minutes remaining equalised from close range with the North Down defence stopped waiting for the whistle which never came. And so to penalties.
Coates made a fine save at his left post. Ross Linter scored at the second attempt. Coates deflected the ball onto the post and to safety. Mark Linte’rs effort was saved. Limerick scored their remaining three penalties while Josh Gilmore and David Shepherd scored for North Down to make the score 3-3. Up stepped the struggling Donnan and he calmly placed the ball in the corner of the net to give North Down a deserved but hard fought victory.
After enjoying the hospitality offered by Limerick the team drove on to Galway where the celebrations went on into the early hours. Thanks to Chris Speers for his organisation, to Andy Coates for driving the bus and also to those parents who drove down to offer their support.
PMB Man of the Match: Mark Linter.