Donnelly Ushers in a new era in AUL as Sheriff run ends

by Dave Donnelly
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Sheriff YC’s long-running stranglehold over the AUL Premier A title has been broken as Usher Celtic were last week crowned champions.

The north inner city side have won the Premier A title for each of the last six seasons in a period of unprecedented dominance of junior football in Dublin.

In that time, they’ve also won four FAI Junior Cups and reached the quarter-finals of the FAI Cup twice under the stewardship of Alan Reilly and Chris Giles.

And so it was fitting that their streak should come to an end on the football field in a winner-takes-all encounter with their conquerors from Islandbridge.

Usher travelled to the Clontarf Road ground that’s been home to so much of Sheriff’s success and came out on top of a nine-goal thriller.

It was always going to take a special effort to remove Sheriff from their comfortable spot at the top of Premier A, and the stats don’t lie in that regard.

Usher finished the lead with by far the league’s highest goals tally (70 to Sheriff’s 51) and the lowest number of goals conceded (12), for a massive goal difference of 58.

Striker Steo Donnelly won the golden boot for his massive haul of 26 – a full 14 ahead of his nearest rival, St Paul’s Artane – and keeper Graham Murphy the golden gloves.

Donnelly has been in scintillating form since returning from a brief spell with Bohemians in the League of Ireland, and he’s likely to attract interest from higher up again this summer.

And so it was fitting that it should be he who scored a hat-trick in the game that saw them seal a first-ever Premier A title.

Jordan Buckley, Derek Flood and Jay Ivory also found the scoresheet as the southside club earned a deceptively hard-fought 6-3 victory on Sheriff’s fabulous all-weather pitch.

Buckley opened the scoring with a tidy finish before half time, but Keith Rickard brought Sheriff back level after the break as he volleyed home.

Flood headed home an Ivory free kick to put Usher back in front, before Buckley raced up the wing to set up Donnelly for his first of the game.

Ivory scored direct from a free kick to make it 4-1, before former League of Ireland winner Anto ‘Bisto’ Flood scored two to bring the home side back within a goal.

Donnelly added two in the closing stages as Usher sealed the three points that would leave them four points clear with Sheriff having only one game to play.

After beating Hardwicke 7-0 at the weekend, not even a final-day draw with Baldoyle United could take the shine off Usher’s medals.

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