St George’s clinched their fourth successive BCS Railway Cup crown after thrashing Rushen United in the final at the Bowl on Boxing Day.
Chris Bass Sr’s Saints were at their best as they demolished the Spaniards 7-1 in a one-sided affair at the national stadium.
Geordies went into the contest as firm favourites to claim the trophy and, despite a bright start from Rushen, the Glencrutchery Road side soon found their feet and took a 20th minute lead through the impressive Conor Doyle who rounded Rushen goalkeeper Jay Gandy to slot home.
Further goals from James McStay and Ciaran McNulty in the opening 45 minutes gave the Saints a commanding 3-0 lead at half-time.
And there was to be no second-half comeback by Rushen as a McNulty penalty and a Chris Bass Jr strike put them five goals to the good.
The Spaniards pulled a goal back late on through a stunning Furo Davies free-kick but Doyle and Frank Jones scored in injury time to seal a 7-1 victory for Geordies, the latter with a record-breaking strike (see right).
St George’s began the match on the front foot and very nearly made the breakthrough as early as the second minute when Jones rose highest to meet an inswinging corner but his goal-bound header was hacked off the line by the alert Chris Shimmin.
It quickly became apparent that Rushen were happy to let the Saints do most of the pressing before attempting to hit them on the counter-attack through the pace of Ste Riding and strength of Josh Kelly.
This led to a few Rushen forays forward in the opening throes without leading to any clearcut chances, but at the other end the Spaniards’ goakeeper Gandy had to be on his toes against a menacing Geordies frontline.
Doyle tried his luck from the edge of the box when McNulty cushioned Liam Cowin’s long pass into his path but his left-footed half-volley was saved by Gandy.
The same player went close again soon afterwards when the southerners cleared the ball only as far as Doyle whose sidefooted effort seemed destined to find the back of the net. Unfortunately McNulty was unable to get out of the way and inadvertently blocked his team-mate’s effort.
St George’s efforts were finally rewarded in the 20th minute and it was no surprise to see Doyle being the main beneficiary as his impressive start to the contest continued when he beat the offside trap to latch onto a long ball before rounding the onrushing Gandy and slotting into the empty net from a tight angle.
Buoyed by the breakthrough, Geordies promptly doubled their lead less than two minutes later to deliver a double blow to Rushen’s hopes of landing a 16th Railway Cup success.
Some neat build-up play saw the Saints work the ball to McNulty 20 yards from goal and the striker threaded a pass through to the charging McStay who lashed a shot across Gandy and into the bottom left corner for 2-0.
The game was effectively over as a contest with less than half an hour played when Geordies netted their third to leave Rushen staring down the barrel.
Once again Doyle was involved as he received the ball on the left flank before slinging a deep cross into the box where McNulty ghosted in between defenders to slot home from close range.
The goal finally sparked the Spaniards into life and the southerners threatened to pull one back when Mike Williams’s cross was heading for the top corner until former Rushen goalie Grant Dawson just about tipped it over the bar.
They went close again shortly before the interval when the ball broke to Kelly on the edge of the Geordies penalty area and the forward unleashed a fierce shot which flew only just the wrong side of the post.
Right on the stroke of half-time St George’s went agonisingly close to netting a fourth when, following some confusion in the Rushen box, McNulty turned a defender and shot goalwards, only to see his effort creep inches off target.
Despite that miss, it wasn’t long before St George’s extended their lead just five minutes into the second half when Doyle was sent racing clean through on goal and went down under a challenge from Gandy in the area.
A penalty was given by referee Dave Murphy and the Rushen keeper was booked for his troubles before McNulty smashed home the resultant spot-kick to make it 4-0 to the Saints.
And it was soon five a few minutes later as it quickly flowed into a rout. McNulty turned provider once again as he was sent clear down the right and he unselfishly squared the ball to Chris Bass Jr who fired a superb right-footed shot first time past Gandy.
Jones nearly got in on the act three minutes later when he got on the end of a pin-point Bass cross from the left but his header from close range sailed over the bar.
Rushen nearly reduced the deficit shortly after the hour mark through an unlikely source when Geordies skipper Sean Quaye’s back header evaded Dawson but went just past the post to spare his blushes.
The resultant corner was headed goalwards by substitute Furo Davies and a goal looked certain until team-mate Adam Cregeen accidentally diverted the ball just over the bar as Dawson’s goal remained intact.
Davies was certainly making his presence felt since entering the fray and the powerful forward went close again a few minutes later when he met Kelly’s excellent cross but sent his glancing header just off target.
At the other end of the pitch McStay wasted a golden opportunity to grab his second of the afternoon when Doyle surged into area and crossed to the unmarked midfielder at the back post but he headed over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Rushen skipper Aaron Hawley tried his luck from range with a free-kick which Dawson saved comfortably before McNulty went close to completing his hat-trick when sub Reece Thompson teed him up inside the box, only for Gandy to repel his half-volley.
As the game ambled towards its inevitable conclusion, there was still time for some late moments of brilliance from both sides.
First, Rushen were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box in the first minute of injury time and up stepped Davies to hammer an absolutely unstoppable shot past a motionless Dawson and into the back of the net for 5-1.
However, it was St George’s who had the last laugh (or two) in fine style.
There seemed little danger when Doyle picked up possession inside the Rushen half, but the winger cut in from the right flank and curled a stunning left-footed effort high over the static southern defence which nestled right into the very top corner of the net for the goal of the game.
And there was still time for Jones to get his name on the score sheet.
Thompson broke through the Rushen backline and set up the attacking midfielder to rifle a low shot into the net for a record-breaking fourth successive Railway Cup final goal and to complete a throughoughly satisfying day at the office for the Grand Slam-chasing St George’s.
Rushen United: Jay Gandy, Alex Maitland, Alex Guy (Dan Pownall 75m), Michael Baker (Harry Best 63m), Adam Cregeen, Chris Shimmin, Mike Williams, Ciaran Brown (Furo Davies 45m), Ste Riding, Aaron Hawley (c), Josh Kelly. Subs not used: Jack Saxon and Jordan Watterson
St George’s: Gareth Dawson, Liam Cowin, Julian Ringham, Sean Quaye (c), Johnny Myers (Ashley Higginbotham 80m), James McStay (Reece Thompson 63m), Conor Doyle, Frank Jones, Ciaran McNulty (Calum Morrissey 83m), Jack McVey, Chris Bass Jr. Subs not used: Alex Harrison and David Cherry
Referee: Dave Murphy
Assistants: John McCallum and Peter Greenhill
Fourth official: Andy Lodge
Booked: Kelly, Cregeen (Rushen) and Myers (St George’s)
Man of the Match: Ciaran McNulty - played a starring role throughout with team-mate Doyle Match rating: HHHII