Fairview claim All-Ireland Junior President's Cup
The fixture pitted the respective winners of the 2021 FAI and IFA Junior Cups against each other in a one-off encounter and the game was a real thriller, living up to its billing in front of a sizable contingent of enthusiastic fans from both clubs.
The attendance also included FAI President Gerry McAnaney and Conrad Kirkwood his opposite number from the IFA who made the post-match presentations.
Willowbank had proved the more dangerous side in the opening half and looked to be well in control at the break going in with a clear two-goal lead.
Richard McEvoy had fired them in front on 33 minutes when he ran on to a sublime through pass from the impressive winger Connor McCullagh to steer the ball inside Savage’s right-hand post.
Five minutes later the Belfast side doubled that lead with a real cracker of a goal from Pearse Devine, who volleyed a Fairview headed clearance from McCullagh’s corner straight past the helpless Savage.
However, Fairview regrouped at half-time and were back in the game four minutes into the second half when former League of Ireland star Shane Duggan beat goalkeeper Sean Diarmond after cleverly controlling Mike O’Gorman’s ball in from the left flank and shooting low past the keeper.
Willowbank then had a great chance to extend their lead with two of their second-half substitutes combining but when Ryan McCabe put Thomas McCreevy clear on goal with a defence splitting pass Savage did well to block the shot and avert the danger.
The final 10 minutes was packed with action as Fairview battled for an equaliser. A J Moloney and Duggan both were denied by superb blocks from defenders Ciaran Manson and Eamon Hughes. While Duggan powered a low drive just past the post.
Referee Andrew Cleary then indicated there would be six minutes of time added on and this proved to be a lifeline for Fairview as three minutes in Ross Mann popped up in a crowded box to touch the ball home and take the game to a shoot-out.
Savage was in top form and brilliantly kept out spot kicks from both Ciaran and Gary Manson and then McEvoy to give Fairview defender Steven Bradley the opportunity to seal the win by emphatically despatching the final penalty past Diamond for a famous victory after Duggan and Martin Deady had both converted their penalties.
Fairview Rangers: Aaron Savage, Mark Slatterty (Scott Kirwan 66), Steven Bradley, AJ O’Connor, Martin Deady; Shane Duggan, Jeffrey Judge, Mike O’Gorman, Ross Mann, Russell Quirke (David Hannon 66), James Fitzgerald (AJ Moloney 66).
Willowbank FC: Sean Diamond; Christopher Heaney, Gary Manson, Ciaran Manson, Eamon Hughes; Ciaran Winchester (Eoin McCullagh 88), Pearse Devine (Ryan McCabe 73); Conal Maguire (Keely Loughran 87), Michael Savage, Connor McCullagh (Thomas McGrory 46); Richard McEvoy.
Referee: Andrew Cleary.