The task facing St Peters at McCarthy Park last Saturday evening was straightforward, beat Castlerea Celtic and the Premier Division trophy would stay in Athlone for another season, anything less and the visitors would be celebrating on their way back to West Roscommon.
It may have taken four months for the title to be decided but it was worth waiting for. Mark Sherlock put the hosts in front but Celtic grabbed an equaliser just before the break. Further goals from Sherlock and team captain Daragh Concannon looked to have sealed victory but a grandstand finish ensued when Castlerea scored late on. As the hosts retreated into defensive mode, Celtic piled forward but were unable to score the goal they needed to claim the prize.
Padraig Moran’s men needed to score and got the perfect start on the quarter hour mark. John McCrossan delivered the ball from the left and Sherlock finished from close range. The water break midway through the half allowed Castlerea to regroup and they resumed with vigour.
Goalkeeper, Martin Hrzenjak, launched a wind assisted kick out from which Daniel Connolly fired off the underside of the bar. The relief for Peters was brief as Celtic levelled matters on 36 minutes. Nathan Bligh’s corner kick saw Darren Clabby’s header cleared but Jack Higgins sent home the rebound leaving Castlerea with the advantage when the half time whistle sounded.
The Saints needed to score when play resumed or they would surrender their crown and the lead was quickly restored. There was just two minutes played in the second half when Sherlock grabbed his second with a fantastic effort with McCrossan again involved as he set up the veteran striker to score.
The title looked set to stay in Athlone with a third home goal on the hour mark. Sherlock was involved in all three Saints scores and was fouled in the lead up to goal number three. Concannon stepped up to take the resulting free kick on the edge of the penalty area. The strike from the team captain was superb as it cleared the defensive wall beyond the grasp of the keeper.
It left Celtic needing to score twice in the remaining half an hour play to claim the crown. Mark McConnell had two chances to ease the tension but a goal for Celtic with six minutes remaining made for an exciting finale, substitute Peter Farrell reducing the deficit when finding the net.
The closing stages saw Celtic pile forward in search of an equaliser. Even the keeper joined the attack as all twenty-two players bunched in the home half. A corner on the stroke of full time was cleared and the last action of an absorbing contest saw Aidan Fallon save from Ronan Curran.
The final whistle was greeted with joy among the home ranks as the Saints completed a remarkable campaign by retaining their title. They will feel justice was done as the deduction of vital points left them in a position where they needed another win to be sure.