St Michaels 2
Newmarket Celtic 1
Venue: Cooke Park, Tipp Town.
It was heartbreak for Newmarket Celtic on Sunday afternoon as a ninety second minute strike from David Slattery put an end to their run in the FAI Junior Cup.
The Clare outfit were first on the scoresheet when skipper Eoin Hayes hit the net towards the end of the first half. Despite being on top for the majority of the tie, Celtic let their lead slip with seventy minutes on the clock. From there on it appeared to be heading for extra time but St Michaels striker David Slattery found the back of the Newmarket net to give the reigning FAI Junior Cup champions the win.
St Michaels were visibly relieved at the final whistle having been the inferior side for most of the clash. They did not expect such a challenge from their Clare counterparts and they almost paid the ultimate price for their underestimation.
As with most last minute defeats, devastation is now rife in the Newmarket Celtic camp. To add salt to their wounds, they were the better team on the day and that is of no consolation to them at the present time. They allowed St Michaels weave their way back into the game and suffered the heartbreak as a result.
From the get-go it was the Saints who started proceedings the better. Pat Quinn got on the end of a long throw from left back Brian Buckley but his shot was saved by Celtic custodian Niall Quinn with seven minutes played. Two chances fell David Slattery’s way shortly after but on both occasions; his efforts went wide of the target.
With fifteen minutes played, St Michaels were still the side creating the greater amount of chances. A free from Russell Quirke would have caused danger only for a header from Newmarket’s Michael Crosby sent the ball out for a corner. The resulting corner was easily caught by Niall Quinn. Darren Cullinan got Newmarket Celtic’s first chance of the encounter but his free was comfortably saved by Aaron Wall with eighteen minutes gone.
The Saints continued to threaten their opponents and a cross from David Slattery was going to pose problems only for a vital clearance from Clare Oscar Traynor captain, Paddy Purcell. The Tipperary Town outfit almost went ahead with a strike from centre-half Paul Breen, but the crossbar came to the aid of the Newmarket men with twenty two minutes on the clock.
From here, the Clare Cup champions began to dominate proceedings. Darren Cullinan had his corner parried away by Wall. The St Michaels defence were now being put under pressure by Newmarket Celtic as crosses from Alan Brigdale and Eoin Hayes in the space of a minute forced the Saints to drive the ball from their lines.
Paul Breen had a chance for the Saints with thirty one minutes played when he got on the end of a Jimmy Carr cross, only for Niall Quinn to deny Breen a moment of glory. David Mc Carthy came close for Newmarket but his shot sailed to the left of the goal. Jimmy Carr and Darren Cullinan both had chances for their respective sides but neither could rattle the net.
Eoin Hayes was first off the mark after he dispossessed the St Michaels defence before rounding goalkeeper Aaron Wall and slotting the ball to the back of the net with forty one minutes played. After tucking the ball to the net, Hayes was tackled off the ball by Chris Higgins who then received a yellow card. The goal came at a perfect time for Celtic as it gave them a real boost heading in at the interval.
Momentum was clearly with Newmarket at the beginning of the second half and they were first creating chances with both Alan Brigdale and Colin Smyth narrowly missing the target. A free delivered by Brian Buckley found the head of James Walsh but his header was saved well by Niall Quinn.
Celtic came within inches of increasing their lead after a Darren Cullinan fell towards Stephen Kelly but he could not stretch to get the vital touch. Similarly St Michaels struggled to get shots on goal as another header from Walsh sailed over Quinn’s crossbar.
With twenty five minutes on the clock, play was outside the Newmarket box as a St Michaels corner had not been dealt with. Substitute, Richard Ryan saw a gap in the Newmarket defence and ran straight through it and put the ball past Niall Quinn to level matters.
Inspired by the equaliser, St Michaels now began to play with more confidence and took charge of proceedings. It was the opposite for Newmarket Celtic as the goal took the wind out of their sails. Paul Breen and Russell Quirke both had opportunities for the Saints but neither could capitalise. Niall Quinn was called upon with thirty one minutes gone as he denied Thomas Fahey.
Celtic had a good chance with forty two minutes played, but Eoin Hayes could not pull off a shot in the St Michaels box. Shortly after, a long distance volley from Colin Smyth just sailed over Aaron Wall’s crossbar.
The game changing moment came with forty seven minutes played as Alan Brigdale was intercepted by Russell Quirke who crossed into the box where Celtic were outnumbered and found an unmarked David Slattery who blasted the ball to the bottom left corner of Quinn’s net to ensure St Michaels would not lose their crown as FAI Junior Cup Champions and in the process break the Newmarket Celtic hearts.
Jason Purcell will be more than relieved with the result. He is fully aware of the fact that his St Michaels side were second best in most sectors of the field. However, the Saints when they dominated various stages created more chances than their opponents and the more times the target is hit, the greater the chance of hitting the back of the net. Discipline is something Purcell and his side will have to work on for the next encounter as had there been a stricter referee, they could have been reduced to ten men. St Michaels now advance to the seventh round of the FAI Junior Cup.
Jimmy Carr, Russell Quirke and Paul Breen were the standout men for the victors. Aaron Wall in goals dealt well with everything he got, but he could have been tested more. Chris Higgins struggled at times with the pace of the Newmarket wingers and with discipline but his strength was noticeable. In the heart of defence Paul Breen and James Walsh did well and diffused most threats. Brian Buckley at left back was on the ropes when assigned to Eoin Hayes but came into the tie the more it went on and was spot on with his crosses.
Russell Quirke and Jimmy Carr on the wings were very impressive as they constantly caused problems and created chances. In the middle of midfield Thomas Fahey and Colin Bargary did what had to be done without taking the limelight. Up front Pat Quinn and David Slattery linked up very well when chances arose and had to fight hard for every ball as they got nothing easy. Substitute Richard Ryan made a big impact as he got on the ball in midfield and when he saw gaps he cut through them.
Liam Murphy and his assistant Davy Ryan will dissect every minute of the clash to see what went wrong. They made changes when fresh legs where needed and adapted a formation that worked. However, Newmarket struggled in the aerial duels at midfield, most notably from kickouts. It’s no consolation that Celtic have gone further than they did last year but if they keep building on performances like this one, they will soon be conquering the likes of St Michaels.
Custodian, Niall Quinn could not be blamed for the goals conceded, and he was cool under pressure when receiving pressurised back passes. At right back, Seamie Lawlor was exceptional in dealing with the pacy Jimmy Carr and proved nothing beats experience. In the centre Paddy Purcell got on everything and consistently threw his body on the line while Stephen Kelly refused to give the Saints an inch in attack and each clearance had a target. Darren Cullinan was composed throughout at left back, his passes were crisp and accurate but he will know he could have done better for the St Michaels winner.
Alan Kelly was at the heart of most Newmarket Celtic moves, kickstarting each and guiding his teammates throughout. In the engine room, Michael Crosby fought tooth and nail for every single ball and set the tone. On the wings; Eoin Hayes and Alan Brigdale always looked dangerous and contributed to most attacks. Colin Smyth worked tirelessly over the ninety minutes and put in a fierce amount of tackles. Similarly the lone striker, David Mc Carthy ran himself into the ground pressing the St Michaels defence and created chances throughout. Substitute Ronan Mc Cormack delivered excellent passes to set up chances, while Ian Collins got a number of blocks when coming from the bench.
Special praise must go to Paddy Purcell, Michael Crosby and Colin Smyth.
Teams: St Michaels: Aaron Wall, Chris Higgins, Paul Breen, James Walsh, Brian Buckley, Russell Quirke, Colin Bargary, Thomas Fahey, Jimmy Carr, Pat Quinn, David Slattery. Subs: Richard Ryan for Bargary (63:10), John O’Brien for Walsh (63:10).
Newmarket Celtic: Niall Quinn, Seamie Lawlor, Paddy Purcell, Stephen Kelly, Darren Cullinan, Alan Kelly, Michael Crosby, Eoin Hayes, Colin Smyth, Alan Brigdale, David Mc Carthy. Subs: Ronan Mc Cormack for Mc Carthy (67:33), Ian Collins for Lawlor (71:33), Daithí O’Connell for Crosby (84:55).