‘Phenomenal’ Shelf FC win title

Shelf FC'Newly crowned Halifax AFL champions at league presentation dinner
Shelf FC'Newly crowned Halifax AFL champions at league presentation dinner

Shelf FC boss Matthew Till has hailed his his’s achievement in winning the Haslem-Sheppard Halifax AFL title for the first time as “phenomenal.”

The Westwood Park outfit nailed long-time Premier Division leaders Ryburn United in the last act of one of the longest seasons on record on Friday evening.

A 4-0 home victory over derby rivals Shelf United did the trick and later in the evening they collected the trophy at the league’s presentation dinner at the Shay.

The unusually wet winter and spring had left last season’s Division One champions and Challenge Cup winners with a huge fixture backlog.

Their chance looked to have gone when they suffered a second league defeat of the season to Ryburn by 4-1 at the end of January.

However, they have won 12 games in a row since then, plus picking up an additional three points when Midgley United failed to raise a team, to pip Ryburn to the silverware by two points.

While Shelf have been facing some opponents with little to play for in their closing games, they have had to cope with a gruelling schedule knowing that one slip would be fatal.

Their last five wins came in the space of 14 days and Till said the formation of the club’s reserve team this season had been a major factor in the success.

“We have had to rotate players and use some of the reserve team players. It has been a phenomenal achievement and the commitment of the lads has been absolutely outstanding.

“We have players who work in Manchester and on the other side of Leeds who have been there every game.”

Till said the players’ determination had been apparent after their defeat in the semi-final final of the Challenge Cup to Greetland, who went on to beat Sowerby Bridge at the Shay.

“The mentality in the changing rooms was different after that game. We knew the league was our last chance to win something this season.”

Till had some sympathy for Ryburn, runners-up three times since their 2013-14 title success, and said the Ripponden side and County Trophy winners Sowerby Bridge had made it a very strong top section this year.

Shelf FC had a scare or two in the first half of Friday’s game. Clayton Smith made a superb double save to deny United and Till thought two 50-50 penalty decisions had gone his side’s way.

While United were denied an early spot kick, FC had their appeals answered in the affirmative and Callum Lewis opened the scoring after around 30 minutes.

Alex O’Keefe gave the hosts more breathing space with a second before half time and when attacking full back Sam Henderson got the crucial third midway through the second half the party was about to start.

The division’s top scorer Lewis bagged a second late on from Ben Ireland’s excellent free kick.

Shelf’s players had a quick drink with their opponents at the Duke William in Shelf and then headed to the league presentation in five cars.

“The rest of the evening is all a bit of a blur,” said Till.