ILLISTRIN UNITED had to dig deep to score two late goals to sink a tenacious Gweedore Celtic in a thrilling match in the SFAI U-16 National Cup on Saturday.
Goals from Darragh Harper and Christian Keenan eventually paved the way for the Ballyare residents but they were made to fight until the bitter end by Celtic.
The home side seemed to have the advantage in height and strength from the kick off and in the first half they dominated holding possession for lengthy periods.
Their midfield and forward lines pinned Gweedore down for some lengthy spells but the lads from the west held up a fortress in defence and limited Illistrin to few real chances given their possession advantage.
It would be a busy afternoon for Gweedore goalkeeper Michael Carroll but he was composed and agile and needed to be on the seven-minute mark when Kyle Keenan forced him into action from a close range shot.
Gweedore took some time to settle before Eamonn Collum struck a long range shot that went wide in their first significant attack.
Darragh McWalters got the referee’s attention for a heavy challenge on Gweedore’s Ciaran McHugh as the game livened up.
Eamonn Collum earned a free in a dangerous position for Celtic when he was fouled as he fired off a long range shot on goal. The resulting free went the same way and the score stayed 0-0.
On the 20-minute mark McSharry forced a good save from Carroll and the Illistrin team were growing in confidence as the half wore on. Carroll did exceptionally well dealing with a number of menacing corners whipped in by Illistrin’s Darragh Harper and the Gweedore side managed to absorb the pressure and were glad to hear ref Con McLaughlin’s whistle went to end the half.
From the restart it was clear that Gweedore were not going to sit back and allow as much possession to their hosts.
Odhran Ferry went just wide with Illistrin keeper Rory Carr at full stretch a couple of minutes in.
The best opportunity in the game by this stage fell to Illistrin’s McWalters when he latched onto Cormac Cannon’s headed flick on and was cleared off the line to keep the sides level at the 15-minute mark in part two.
From that let-off Gweedore pounced back with a number of committed attacks coming from good link-up play from Naoise O’Baoill in midfield and their forwards and tested Rory Carr on a number of occasions but the ‘keeper handled their pressure very well.
Their most dangerous move of the half forced Carr into action twice within seconds as he rose quickly to make a great double save after O’Baoill and Sean O’Donnell ran his defence ragged.
Then the breakthrough came for the home team when a long cross by a rampant Cormac Cannon found Darragh Harper in the box where he showed excellent control to chest it down and lash a shot that Carroll could only get a hand to but wasn’t enough.
A goal up with 33 minutes of the half gone they pushed on and Keenan forced yet another great save from Celtic’s Carroll but within minutes Keenan would not be denied again when he found himself with a rebounded shot at his feet following some frantic Gweedore defending. This time he made no mistake and narrowly blasted past the keeper to make it 2-0.
Gweedore held the composure they had throughout and rallied hard but the two goal deficit was a mountain to climb as the clock ticked down and the final whistle blew leaving a hard earned win for Illistrin.
Illistrin United: Rory Carr, Ronan Crossan, Darragh Harper, Christian Keenan (Lee Doherty), Paul Ferry, Darragh McWaters, James McSharry (Noah Sami), Conor O’Grady, Odhran Barron, Kyle Keenan, Cormac Cannon.
Gweedore Celtic: Michael Carroll, Neasan MacGiolla Bhride, Daniel Spinks, Conor McCafferty, Joe McFadden, Odhran Ferry, Eamonn Collum, Sean O’Donnell, Ciaran McHugh, Owen Gallagher (Liam Wiggins).
Referee: Con McLaughlin.