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Saturday 20 January 2018

Cullen strikes late to send Celtic through

BRENDAN FURLONG

DAMIEN CULLEN struck with a dramatic injury-time winner to help New Ross Celtic emerge from this five-goal thriller with Freshford Town in an action-packed FAI Junior Cup fourth round clash at Freshford on Sunday morning.

There were hard luck stories for both sides along the way, but it was New Ross Celtic's ability to dominate lengthy passages of play that led to them launching one final attack as the game moved into the first minute of additional time, and Cullen popped up with a powerful header to send the New Ross boys through to a fifth round clash away to Mungret (Limerick), a game they are eagerly looking forward to.

A gritty, gutsy win, was how manager John ' Brad' O'Neill described his side's passage through to the next round. O'Neill admitted ' it was a stunning victory given that this was our first game in three weeks. To come to Freshford and get a victory was a fantastic result. We can now look forward to next weekend and our Leinster Senior Cup game with Killester at the AUL Complex.'

Early in the game it was the home side who were posing problems, particularly left winger Paul Gannon, whose runs down the flank were creating holes in the visitors' back four.

It was fitting that it was Gannon who opened the scoring on 18 minutes, when his shot from the edge of the area took a deflection to leave 'keeper Aaron Deegan flatfooted.

Following this setback, New Ross Celtic began to rumble, and within five minutes were back level. Philip Drohan and Paul Phelan combined to create space, with Phelan's excellent centre being powered home by Mark Lee for a superb equaliser.

It could have been different before the break as New Ross Celtic applied intense pressure but they were unable to find a way through a packed defence, leaving it 1-1 at the interval.

Freshford started the second-half strongly but had little fortune in front of goal, with Guinan and Mike Dowdall having shots blocked away to safety.

Twenty minutes into the half, New Ross Celtic took the lead for the first time.

A Paul Phelan corner was partially cleared, leaving Anthony O'Connor to power home a superb 25metre shot, making it 2-1.

Fifteen minutes from the end, Freshford Town resurrected their chance of a victory.

Guinan cut inside from the left flank but his cross was handled by Brian Mullett, with Mike Dowdall tucking the resulting penalty neatly into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to make it 2-2.

As both sides strove for a lead goal, it was New Ross Celtic who staged one final attack, and substitute Darren Whelan set Philip Drohan free down the left.

Drohan fired over an excellent cross that was powerfully headed to the top right-hand corner of the net by Damien Cullen for a dramatic late winner.

New Ross Celtic: Aaron Deegan, Brian Mullett, Stephen O'Leary, Jason Cashin, John Mullett, Damien Cullen, Seán Culleton, Anthony O'Connor, Mark Lee, Philip Drohan, Paul Phelan. Subs: Matt O'Neill, Darren Whelan.

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