ANYBODY paying attention to Kildare soccer in the few seasons leading into the 2005/06 would have seen Newbridge side Liffey Celtic storming their way through the divisions. Five promotions in six years saw them work their way from the basement division in Kildare through to the top flight and in their first season there they showed they weren’t just content to make up the numbers and recorded a very creditable top four finish.
In the league, Castle Villa ended Coill Dubh’s reign in the Senior Division when they pipped to them the title in a season where Coill Dubh were looking to finish first for the fourth season in a row.
Neither side made it through to the last four of the Lumsden Cup though and the talk, certainly around Newbridge anyway, was of a local derby in the final when Liffey Celtic and Connell Rovers were kept apart in the draw.
Liffey did their part to set up that Newbridge derby final when goals from Damian O’Connor, Richie Reid and Dan Connolly gave them a comfortable 3-0 win over Kildare Town.
Premier Division Connell Rovers looked well on their way to the final and a big upset over Carbury when Dave O’Shea and Pauric Canavan put them 2-0 up but Carbury pulled back a goal through Stephen Flynn and David Collins then scored twice to complete the comeback and put them back in the final for the first time since 1998.
In that 98 season, Carbury were narrowly denied a league and Lumsden Cup double when they were beaten by local rivals Coill Dubh on penalties after a replay and they found it very hard to pick up in the trophies they might feel they deserved in the years that followed. They were runners-up in the Senior Division in 03/04 and 04/05 and by the time of the Lumsden Cup final still held an outside of winning the league in this season. The only winners medal they had to show for their excellent efforts was the 2004 Senior Cup after beating Kilcullen so were eager to get their hands on more silverware here.
The final began with similar echoes of both teams respective semi-finals, Liffey started well while Carbury were slow out of the blocks.
By the time that Steven Sheridan put Liffey ahead in the 21st minute, the Newbridge men were well worth their lead and they doubled that 10 minutes later. Liffey captain Tony McHugh, a beaten finalist with Curragh Rovers in 2001, had a shot blocked but the ball came back to him he quickly teed up Thomas McLoughlin who fired home.
There could be no arguments about the 2-0 half time scoreline but Carbury were right back in the match four minutes after the restart thanks to an astonishing goal. There was no danger when the ball fell to Carbury’s Mick Sullivan inside the centre circle but he took one touch to settle himself before firing the ball into the top corner of the net. There have been some good goals scored in Lumsden Cup finals before and since but very few can match this effort.
That wonderstrike gave Carbury a huge boost and they had chances to get level, especially when Conleth Daniels headed just past the post.
Just as Carbury were really getting on top, Liffey were awarded a penalty with 17 minutes to go when referee JP Kelly, in the last game of an illustrious career, consulted with his assistant before before awarding a spot kick for an Andrew Grace challenge on Robbie Cullen. Although Carbury protested, Cullen made no mistake from 12 yards.
Tom Sullivan pulled a goal back for Carbury with three minutes to go when he curled home a delightful goal from just outside the area but it was to prove nothing more than a consolation as Liffey ran out 3-2 winners.
Man of the match, Liffey centre half Shane Malone was quoted in the Kildare Nationalist after the game as saying: “We’re an up and coming team. You’re going to be hearing a lot more from Liffey Celtic in the next few years, I promise you that,” said the centre half.
They were prophetic words indeed because this was the first trophy of a hugely successful period the club in the top flight of the Kildare football. However, it was also the start of a love/hate relationship between the club and the Lumsden Cup. They would go on to reach another six finals but this was the last time they left smiling.
LIFFEY CELTIC: Gavin Slicker, Shane Murphy, Alan Thorpe, Shane Malone, Gavin O’Brien, Stephen Sheridan (Dessie O’Brien 68), Damian O’Connor (Justin Conway 62), Thomas McLoughlin, Robbie Cullen, Dan Connolly, Tony McHugh.
CARBURY: Declan Conroy, David Perdisatt, Edward Cummins, Michael Sullivan, Andrew Grace, Conleth Daniels (Paul Costelloe 77), David Cash, Seamus Daniels, David Collins, Tom Sullivan, Paudi O’Neill (Terry Rossiter 81).
REFEREE: JP Kelly.
Tomorrow, we look back on yet another local derby in the final when Kildare Town took on Monasterevan in the 2006/07 final