Dragons break long drought in FNQ soccer
PORT Douglas are celebrating their first FNQ Football grand final after a thrilling 3-2 win over Leichhardt on Saturday night.
Hundreds of Dragons fans packed buses to Endeavour Park to witness the club's first premier division grand final appearance.
And they didn't go home disappointed, the Dragons breaking their 46-year drought in a thrilling finale to the 2012 season.
"We don't get a lot of back pages up there," said club president Rodney Rasmussen as he celebrated with the travelling fans.
"It's tough. Because you've got the (Mossman Port Douglas) Sharks and the rugby.
"We're just another one of the teams."
That's likely to change very soon. The Dragons' journey to the top is too good to resist.
Six months ago the team did not even know they would be playing in the premier division.
Three weeks before the season started, they didn't even know they had a team.
Now, they have beaten all comers to claim FNQ Football supremacy.
Their last obstacle was the toughest.
Leichhardt showed their trademark attacking brilliance and toughness beyond their years, but they were overmatched physically by a Douglas United with quality in every position.
The Lions Kallen Barry followed up his match-winning effort in the grand final qualifier with a double in the final.
His first was a crisp finish to a Darcy Fernandez through ball in the 49th minute that opened the scoring and ignited the strong Endeavour Park crowd.
His second was a cool-headed disposal of a deflection off Douglas keeper Gary Fitzgerald.
But it was Dragons forward Ian Marsh who provided the highlight of the night when he bicycle kicked his team's first goal of the night.
"It's something I do at practice all the time," said Marsh, who hadn't scored with a bicycle kick since he was a kid in Chester, northern England.
"You never pull it off in a game. Never. It's just one of those things where the ball bounces up and you think 'Well, I may as we try it'.
"No one expects it to go in. Especially not in a grand final."
A less dramatic goal – captain Nick Tither's header from a corner – gave the Dragons the 2-1 lead in the 69th minute before Barry levelled the score.
When Nick Houghton put Douglas ahead in the 85th minute, it set-up a controversial final 10 minutes that left the Leichhardt contingent of the crowd angry.
Two big decisions went against the Lions as the team mounted a last-ditch effort to force extra time.
The first was a decision to not award a penalty to Paul Eigl when he fell down in the penalty box amid two Douglas tacklers.
The second came after Josh Jennison's injury-time header into the back of the net was negated by a penalty for contact with the keeper.
Coach Pasco Rogato held back from chiding the calls, saying he did not want to diminish his side's performance or the Dragons' win.
"It makes it harder," Rogato said of losing in controversial fashion.
"But I don't want to take anything away from Douglas tonight.
"They deserved to be winners.
"They are a very good team and they deserved what they got tonight."
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Long road to the top: The Port Douglas Dragons were full of cheer after they defeated the Leichhardt Lions in the FNQ Football grand final on Saturday night.