Cats who got the cream: Kilkenny's Evergreen reach FAI Junior final for first time in 33 years

They’ll face Sheriff YC in this year’s decider on 13 May at the Aviva Stadium.

KILKENNY SIDE EVERGREEN reached the final of the Aviva sponsored FAI Junior Cup final for the first time in 33 years after they overcame Boyle Celtic on penalties on Sunday at the Showgrounds in Sligo.

Packie Holden’s side will meet holders Sheriff YC in the May 13 decider at the Aviva Stadium after they came from behind to make it 1-1 and force extra-time before prevailing 4-2 in the shootout.

A penalty from Danny Browne eight minutes before the break gave the Roscommon outfit an interval lead but Mikey Drennan equalised on 68 minutes in an action-packed tie played in front of 2,200 fans.

Both goalscorers missed their spot-kicks in the shootout which followed but Evergreen held their nerve, with captain Neil Andrews slotting home the decisive penalty.

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 17.36.37 Source: Dave Maher/Sportsfile

Boyle had given their large support plenty to cheer about in the first half by starting impressively and dictating the tempo.

Luka Roddy couldn’t keep his volley down when a free-kick was only half-cleared by Evergreen to the edge of the box and Mick Corrigan had a decent penalty claim turned down when he fell under the challenge of Dylan Whearty.

There was little hesitation from referee Paul Duddy in awarding a spot-kick when Packie Holden bundled over Dessie Carlos after the goalkeeper’s attempt to retrieve a fluffed clearance backfired. Browne stepped up to send Holden the wrong way.

Although Drennan’s header tested Kyle Suffin in the last action of the opening half, Evergreen were far from their fluid best in the opening half and it took the introduction of Daragh Walshe at the break to provide some impetus in attack.

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 17.36.07 Source: Dave Maher/Sportsfile

His presence began to pose problem for Boyle and gradually the Kilkenny side asserted their dominance, deservedly equalising when a throw-in was allowed drift to the back post for Drennan to sweep home with a low half-volley.

Boyle’s best chances of regaining the lead came from the trusty left-foot of full-back. His free-kick from an acute angle with 17 minutes remaining rebounded off the crossbar and he was a yard off-target with another blistering effort.

Walshe conjured Evergreen’s best chance of nicking it in stoppage-time, sprinting clear from the halfway line only to take a heavy touch to allow Suffin snuff out the danger.

Drennan might have sealed it for Evergreen in extra-time from a near-post header which flashed wide and though he missed the first penalty of the subsequent shootout, the former Shamrock Rovers striker was be at the Aviva Stadium next month for the finale.

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 17.42.20 Source: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sheriff secured a fifth final appearance in six years by edging out Killarney Celtic, also on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw, on Saturday evening away to Killarney Celtic at Mastergeeha.

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The Kerry side began the brighter with Matt Keane missing a couple of golden chances to put them ahead. His first effort was hacked off the line and then Lee Murphy foiled the midfielder after he broke clear following a swift counter-attack.

After the break, it was the holders taking the initiative as John Lester and Mark Higgins wasted openings. They didn’t force the breakthrough until two minutes into the second period of extra-time, with substitute Thomas Dunne punishing a defensive lapse.

Matters looked bleak for Celtic when they lost Chris O’Leary to a second yellow card moments later but they earned a last-gasp penalty from a foul on Pat McGrath and James Spillane converted.

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 17.47.11 Sheriff's Lee Murphy celebrates after his heroics proved crucial in his side's semi-final victory. Source: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Sheriff goalkeeper Lee Murphy atoned for conceding that penalty by saving two of Killarney’s efforts and scoring his own spot-kick in the shootout to seal victory.

Boyle Celtic: K Suffin; D Carlos, S Purcell, J Connolly G McDermottroe; M Corrigan, S Battles, L Conboy (A Calpin 71), D Browne; N Brennan, L Roddy (A Murren 71).

Evergreen: P Holden; T Earls, N Andrews, D Whearty, R Quane; L Delaney (D Walshe 46), D Barcoe (D McQuillan 94), B Jordan, C Whearty (B Hickey 62); M Drennan, C English.

Referee: P Duddy (Donegal).

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