COCKHILL CELTIC 2 CRUMLIN UNITED 1
Report by Chris McNulty at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds
BY THE end it had become a struggle for Cockhill Celtic, but the Ulster Senior League champions were deserving of this historic win over Crumlin United that puts them into the last sixteen of the Intermediate Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Malachy McDermott’s two goals, one in either half, were the headline acts, but in those moments when Crumlin laid a frantic siege upon Gavin Cullen’s goal as the clock went red, the big goalkeeper was an assured figure in the goal-mouth for the ten-man Cockhill.
McDermott and Cullen are two of the players who have been subject of speculation linking them with a move to senior football – and it was easy to see why. Their influence on this game was stark, but they were not alone in pulling the strings, with Liam O’Donnell excellent in the middle of the park and the wingmen, Gerry Gill and Mark Moran, providing constant angst for the full-backs, Ciaran Reilly and Carl Redmond.
Minus the services of Peter Doherty and James Bradley, who sustained a broken nose and broken arm respectively in the drawn stalemate in Dublin two weeks ago, Cockhill laid down their credentials in style in an excellent performance.
Crumlin are no mean operators themselves and the Leinster Senior League side pressed hard for a leveller late on, only to find Cullen in fine fettle.
Just two minutes after McDermott had fired Cockhill two in front, full-back Kieran McLaughlin was given his marching orders for collecting his second yellow in a six-minute spell. When Jamie Duffy coolly rolled past Cullen in the 73rd minute, there was a brief worry that the thread might unravel for the home side – but they put on a resilient display during those desperate and nervous final twenty minutes or so.
They had got the afternoon off to the perfect start. Just four minutes were passed when Gerry Gill’s corner from the right was met by a thundering header from McDermott, who powered home to the roof of David Meehan’s net.
McDermott began to grow in influence and there was a net threaded ball, intended for Aidan O’Donnell, that just missed its target, while the recently-crowned USL Player of the Year stung the palsm of the Crumlin netminder with a low shot that was well gathered by Meehan.
Crumlin fired a warning shot when James Lee flashed a blistering bullet just past Cullen’s left-hand post before Martin Cramer’s dipping effort deflected narrowly over, though the well-placed Cullen appeared to have it covered.
Sub Lee Roach caused a heart-in-mouth moment for the large home support when his cross from the right just missed the stretching Duffy, who then had a close-range effort well smothered by a brave save by Cullen, who blocked Roach’s follow-up.
Cockhill were beginning to feel the searching questions piling on, but they took a giant leap when they netted a second in the 64th minute. Again it was from a Gerry Gill corner that Cockhill inflicted the damaging blow. Crumlin couldn’t fully clear their lines and when the ball fell to McDermott on the edge of the area, the midfielder didn’t need the invite. McDermott dispatched a cleverly-placed and powerful right-footed shot through the glut of players and into the net.
Just as they began to dream, they were brought to earth again when McLaughlin was given his marching orders by the referee, his second yellow card in six minutes bringing to an end his evening.
Seventeen minutes from time Roach slipped the ball in for Duffy, who carefully side-footed beyond Cullen and it was game on.
Duffy could have equalised, but a near-post header was off target and Cullen then determinedly punched clear after Ross Carrig’s header across goal caused panic.
Cockhill sub Gerard McLaughlin was stunned when play-on was waved as he appeared to have been fouled by Ciaran Kenna, the last man, but Cockhill survived with Cullen the hero thanks to a stunning save to deny James Lee a goal that would’ve forced extra time. Lee met a Gerard Rowe corner and he had done everything perfectly, evading his man, getting a goal-ward header in, but Cullen’s right arm denied him his moment.
Some five and a half minutes of added time were played, but it’s Cockhill whose boat keeps sailing into uncharted waters.
COCKHILL CELTIC: Gavin Cullen; Kieran McLaughlin, Johnny Havlin, Oisin McColgan, Conor Keedy; Gerry Gill, Malachy McDermott, Liam O’Donnell, Mark Moran; Aidan O’Donnell, Garbhan Friel. Subs: Gerard McLaughlin for McDermott (84 mins), Derek Doherty for A.O’Donnell (84 mins).
CRUMLIN UNITED: David Meehan; Ciaran Reilly, Ross Carrig, Ciaran Kenna, Carl Redmond; Daniel Laughlin, Martin Cramer, James Lee, Alan McGreal; Jamie Duffy, Gerard Rowe. Subs: Lee Roach for Laughlin (42 mins), Daniel McGuinness for McGreal (69 mins),
REFEREE: Stephen Toner (Donegal).
The selection, to celebrate 30 full seasons of the Ulster Senior League, which first came into being in the...