Strathroy Harps 2 Killen Rangers 1
A THRILLING week of Laird Cup action which included three dramatic penalty shoot-outs climaxed in perfect fashion when Strathroy Harps midfielder Simon O’Neill scored the mother of all wonder strikes in Friday evening’s showpiece final at Youth Sport Omagh.
Nine minutes into the second half O’Neill left fly from all of 30 yards with the precision and power of a scud missile. From the moment the ball left the midfielder’s left boot it was locked firmly on the target and arrowed high into the net in off David Ward’s left post.
It was a truly memorable goal for a memorable occasion which not only marked the return of the Laird Cup in spectacular fashion but the official opening of a new generation playing pitch at the Cookstown Road venue.
The Laird Cup, after an absence of eight years, was resurrected to coincide with the completion of the new 4G surface and all three quarter-finals on the opening night had to be decided on penalties.
Ultimately the game was won and lost in the opening nine minutes of the second half. A mistake by a Rangers defender allowed Aidy McCaffrey to swoop and guide a low shot to the bottom right hand corner of Ward’s goal.
The Killen keeper was again picking the ball out of the net after he, like everyone else, could only stand and admire O’Neill’s sensational stunning long-range strike.
Thereafter Rangers made a fist of it. Both sides were claiming for handball when a Killen corner had the opposing defence scrambling before Jamie Sproule gave the North Tyrone outfit hope with a deflected strike from the edge of the penalty box.
After presenting the cup to Harps captain Niall McCrory and the player of the tournament accolade to Strathroy’s veteran midfielder Kevy Sloan, Tony Laird said he was delighted that the pre-season competition was back on the map.
“When Sean Curneen (owner of Youth Sport Omagh) asked me would I consider resurrecting the Laird Cup to coincide with the opening of the new pitch I thought this was a great opportunity,” said the Omagh businessman.
“Not only did this give us an opportunity to again showcase the Laird Cup and what a good competition it was but it also showcased the new pitch and the excellent facilities at Youth Sport.
“Hopefully we’ll see everyone back next year and it augers well for soccer in Omagh that we now have this fantastic 4G pitch on the doorstep. This is a great asset for the town and I wish Sean and his committee all the best.
“I’m so proud that the Laird Cup is back up and running again,”he said.