Sunday 25 August 2019


BRENDAN FURLONG At Ferrycarrig Park

IT SEEMED unthinkable through the second 45 minutes, but St. Michael's relentless pursuit for victory through extra-time eventually saw them smash three goals past a tired and bewildered New Ross Celtic in this thrilling FAI Junior Cup semi-final played at Ferrycarrig Park on Saturday evening last.

New Ross Celtic, having been dominated for stretches of the opening 45 minutes, erupted on the scene on the resumption as they took firm control for 30 minutes, snatching a marvellous equalising goal, and looking destined for a victory that would have been greeted with delight by the huge home following.

But just as manager John 'Brad' O'Neill was settling for extra-time, having failed in their search for a winning goal, disaster was to strike in additional time, when substitute Robert Farrell was straight red-carded following an altercation close to the sideline. It was to change to whole trend of the game as the additional 20 minutes proved too much for a depleted New Ross Celtic outfit.

St. Michael's, having bossed much of the first-half, once again found their attacking touch through the closing 15 minutes of normal time, as they laid siege to the Celtic goal, but despite some wonderful approach football they failed to fashion a goal which would have proved a winner, failing to avoid extratime in the process.

The pursuit of a final place seemed to rouse St. Michael's who used their numerical advantage in the wide, open spaces of Ferrycarrig Park, as they wrecked their opponents' final dreams with three devastating extra-time goals. While there was no doubt that the sending off had an eventual bearing on the end result, there's no doubting either that the Tipperary side deserve their day in the sun, as they played some wonderful football, with great first touch, inter-changing of passes, and long and accurate deliveries to their wide players, which created huge tests for the New Ross Celtic back four.

St. Michael's have a reputation for open, attacking football, and they lived up to expectations, proving a searching test for the New Ross side. But credit to New Ross Celtic, as they play a similar brand of football which was patently evident during the first 20 minutes of the second-half, a period in which they cast reputations aside, playing with composure and style, and they could have put the game beyond the reach of their opponents.

It started as it continued right through the game, with both sides building attacks during the opening minutes, with first St. Michael's John Connery powering in a low free-kick that was deflected to safety by the outstretched leg of centre-back Jason Cashin. Attacking was their priority with St. Michael's Thomas Fahy drilling a shot from just outside the area, bringing an excellent stop from 'keeper Aaron Deegan, who was to have a wonderful game all through, despite being beaten four times by the end.

New Ross Celtic were finding it difficult to build a worthwhile attack during the opening 15 minutes despite the work of Michael Grangel in midfield, having to wait until the 25th minute for their first real threat on goal when Paul Phelan chose to turn back outside with an opening in front of him, and with that the chance was lost.

Deegan in the home goal made two outstanding saves from Jimmy Carr and Thomas Fahy as he managed to keep his goal intact, but the play of Carr and Fahy in midfield was putting huge pressure on the Celtic back four, where Pat Quinn found space, forcing 'keeper Deegan into another outstanding stop ten minutes before the break.

At the opposite end, Mark Lee floated over a superb cross that was powerfully headed towards goal by Grangel, but it went just over with the 'keeper well beaten, while St. Michael's Quinn up front was causing huge problems, once again testing Deegan with a powerful rising shot which the 'keeper did superbly to push away for a fruitless corner.

The deadlock was eventually broken eight minutes before the break and what a delightful goal it was. John Connery held the ball up before embarking on a run down the left wing, picking out Jimmy Carr on the left edge of the area. Carr cut inside his marker before drilling a superb shot across 'keeper Deegan into the opposite corner of the net, leaving his side with a 1-0 interval lead.

After weathering some opening pressure from St. Michael's, it was New Ross Celtic who took control of the game. Grangel and Jason Cashin continued to power their side forward, while front players, Philip Drohan and Paul Phelan, were now tearing huge holes in the St. Michael's back four, as they continually powered their way forward.

Phelan had a low free-kick into the area cleared to safety, while Drohan, having cut in from the left wing, powered a rising shot just over the top. For the first time in the game St. Michael's were beginning to feel the pressure, but still superb defending at the back by Paul Breen and James Walsh succeeded in stifling most of the home attacks, as they powered forward in search of an equalising goal.

After 48 minutes New Ross Celtic got a deserved equaliser when Drohan powered a superb 25-metre shot high into the top right-hand corner of the net beyond the reach of the diving Derek Breen, setting the scene for a marvellous finish.

Both sides went in search of a lead goal, with Grangel and Paul Phelan going close with a couple of efforts on goal, while at the opposite end it was man of the match Jimmy Carr and Pat Quinn who were beginning to storm back into the game.

Both Carr and Quinn came close, but neither side was able to break the deadlock, with the teams having to face extra-time.

St. Michael's looked the more lively side during extra-time with Carr regaining the lead for his side after 98 minutes with a clinical finish from close range. New Ross Celtic now looked out on their feet, as in the second period, it was St. Michael's who secured their final spot with goals from a powerful Paul Breen header following a Jimmy Carr free-kick, and substitute Danny O'Brien showed his clinical footwork before his low shot took a wicked deflection, looping over 'keeper Deegan to finish in the corner of the net.

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