Saturday 18 January 2020

Clinical saints see off the seasiders

Curracloe United 1 St. Leonards 4

Craig Parker of Curracloe United nicks the ball away from Sam Wall of St. Leonards
Craig Parker of Curracloe United nicks the ball away from Sam Wall of St. Leonards
Seán ‘Mini’ Ryan, who scored a double for St. Leonards, in a race for possession with Ryan Donnelly of Curracloe United

Dave Devereux

High-flying St. Leonards continued their push for promotion to the top flight with hard-earned victory in their Division 1 clash in Curracloe on Sunday.

The clinical visitors took their chances when they came, although the scoreline certainly doesn't do justice to the efforts of the hosts, who had their title-chasing opponents on the back foot for much of the second-half.

That said, it's all about putting the ball in the back of the net and St. Leonards certainly showed no shortcomings on that front with Eoin Ryan opening the scoring, hot-shot Seán 'Mini' Ryan adding a double and Graeme Cullen delivered the coup de grâce late on with a piledriver from outside the area.

Goalkeeper Micheál Ryan also played a pivotal role for the saints, pulling off a superb double save in the 80th minute to keep the seasiders at bay when they were clinging on to a fragile 2-1 advantage.

St. Leonards were six places and 13 points better off than their opponents going into the game and they began with the swagger of a side high on confidence, with Seán Ryan trying a couple of speculative efforts that were straight at goalkeeper Kerill Sutton. Their early endeavour told when they broke the deadlock with twelve minutes on the clock.

Sam Wall's effort on goal was blocked by a defender, but it fell to Eoin Ryan, who took the ball in his stride and fired a shot to the corner of the net.

Curracloe offered a potent threat from set-pieces throughout, and a minute after conceding Gary Murphy headed Mark O'Connor's dangerous inswinging corner over the crossbar.

In the 21st minute St. Leonards doubled their advantage when Donal Kiely headed the ball through to Seán Ryan and, despite the Curracloe contingent vehemently appealling for offside, referee Damien Donovan waved play on and the striker applied a composed side-footed finish to the right-hand corner of the net.

The seasiders needed a quick response and they got the chance to do just that when they were awarded a penalty for handball in the 26th minute.

Craig Parker took the responsibility from the spot-kick, and he made no mistake in calmly slotting the ball past Micheál Ryan.

In the 35th minute the hosts came close to plundering the equaliser when Johnny Forde fizzed in a shot from the left which was saved by Ryan, but in the ensuing scramble Curracloe couldn't force the ball over the line.

St. Leonards always looked a threat when they got the ball into the final third and in the 37th minute the Ryans combined, with Seán scooping a shot over after a good one-two with Eoin.

Curracloe continued to give as good as they got, though, and Gary Murphy curled a shot narrowly off target five minutes before the interval.

The home side bossed it in terms of possession after the change of ends, but found it hard to create clearcut chances against a well-organised St. Leonards rearguard.

In fact, the visitors came close to extending their advantage when substitute Ken Cahill got his head on a Jack Burford free-kick and was only the width of a post from making almost immediate impact.

Curracloe continued to press and they made a few St. Leonards hearts skip a beat in the 72nd minute when Craig Parker fired in a beautiful delivery from a corner that was just begging to be nodded to the net, but with three attackers rising in the goalmouth, none could get a telling connection.

The seasiders would have been level with 79 minutes on the clock but for the brilliance of goalkeeper Micheál Ryan.

Parker whipped in a cross from the right wing and Mark O'Connor's header looked destined for the top corner, but Ryan somehow managed to claw it away and then quickly re-adjusted his feet to thwart Kyle Roche's follow up.

Seán Ryan then made sure of the points six minutes from time when he pounced on a defensive slip and showed great composure to cut inside before firing the ball to the net.

Graeme Cullen then added a further gloss to the scoreline two minutes later with a beautiful strike.

The ball fell to the midfielder on the edge of the box and his sweetly-struck effort looked destined for the top corner from the moment it left his boot.

Curracloe United: Kerill Sutton, Johnny Forde, Brian O'Connor, Gary Murphy, Ryan Donnelly, Craig Parker, Seán Keane, Dylan Dixon, Robbie Staples, Mark O'Connor, Kyle Roche. Subs. - Steven Corrigan for Forde (HT), Niall Cash for Murphy (62), Chris Cowman for Staples (69).

St. Leonards: Micheál Ryan, Niall Molloy, Sam Wall, Jack Burford, James Redmond, Eoin Ryan, Martin Doyle, Graeme Cullen, Martin Fitzharris, Donal Kiely, Seán Ryan. Subs. - Páraic Conway for Kiely (53), Ken Cahill for Fitzharris (61), Jamie Cooney for Redmond (80).

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