Firsts secure best ever top flight result on poignant day

Colts 1sts - Ballyvea
11 Mar 2017

It was a day that will live long in the memory for a whole host of reasons.

Before a ball was kicked, there was a minute’s applause to appreciate the life of Stevie Milburn, made all the more poignant by the attendance of his family.

Then there was the crowd. A brilliant turn out to pay tribute but also to get behind the team in their quest for their first ever Premier League title.

And how they were rewarded with a superb performance of skill, character and tenacity which resulted in the club’s best result at senior level.

Ballyvea had been unbeaten since August 2015, are the current champions and led the table by seven points prior to kick off. But they weren’t ready for the intensity of a young and hungry Colts team who stretched their unbeaten run to 11 league games and kept their title hopes alive.

Colts were more than a match for the champions in the early stages but just lacked a little bit of composure. They knew how dangerous Ballyvea were from dead balls

following the 3-3 draw in Kilkeel last month and got done again when their most dangerous player rose to head the opener after 18 minutes.

But Conor ‘King’ Cassidy led the fight back within 10 minutes when he picked the ball up in his own half and won a series of 50-50 challenges before finding himself one on one with the goalkeeper and he cooly slotted home past the goalkeeper for a terrific equaliser.

Kealan Devlin then went close on a couple of occasion as he and the superb Fergus McBride got on top in midfield while Rory McDonnell and Cassidy were heroic in dealing with the aerial onslaught of a team with more that their fair share of six footers.

Odhran Devlin was comfortable with all that was thrown at him while Joe Sweeney, who had an outstanding comeback in an injury hit season, and Paul Murphy played a crucial role in stopping crosses coming in.

Just before half time Colts took the lead for the first time when Kealan Devlin broke on the left from a Paul Maguire pass and when he pulled the ball back from the by-line the defender turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Sean Irwin.

Colts anticipated more aerial pressure at the beginning of the second half. Although  McBride and Devlin continued to win the midfield battle and Stevie Doherty and Darragh Brownlee continued to look dangerous, they were increasingly defending deep.

Michael Deeny replaced Murphy with Maguire dropping into left back in an effort to restore control of midfield and the decisive goal followed shortly after.

Irwin was proving to be a handful for the visiting defence and his persistence led to the ball falling to Brownlee on the left. As has been the case so many times this season, the wee man produced a piece of magic by curling the ball into the far corner. Cue wild celebrations.

But having lost a two goal lead in the last four minutes in Kilkeel, the game was far from over. Deeny in the wall got his head to a dangerous free kick from the same player who had done the damage in Kilkeel and then Colts felt,they had sealed the points when Doherty cut inside the defender and fired in a great shot. The keeper got his hand to the ball but it crossed the line as sub Arron Waddell reached it and the ref inexplicably disallowed it for offside.

Jack Crompton got a late run out as Brownlee went off to a warm ovation from the crowd and while Ballyvea pulled one back on the final whistle Colts had claimed a famous win.

Colts: O.Devlin, Sweeney, Murphy (Deeny), McDonnell, Cassidy, McBride, Maguire, K.Devlin, Irwin (Waddell), Doherty, Brownlee (Crompton)