Cockhill Celtic produced an excellent performance to see off Crumlin United and seal a place in the last 16 of the FAI Intermediate Cup.
Cockhill Celtic 2
Crumlin United 1
The Ulster Senior League champions had Malachy McDermott to thank for scoring both goals against the Dubliners, who were the second favourites for the competition having not lost a match all season in the Leinster Senior League’s Sunday Senior One.
Donal O’Brien’s team had to do it the hard way too, with right-back Kieran McLaughlin dismissed midway through the second half for picking up two yellow cards in six minutes from match referee Stephen Toner.
But Gavin Cullen in goal was also exceptional and Cockhill can now look forward to a fourth round tie against St Mochta’s in Clonsilla on the last weekend in January.
The win also means that O’Brien’s team will take part in the FAI Cup for the first time in their history, as well as the EA Sports League Cup having won the Ulster Senior League.
After the sides drew 0-0 in Dublin a fortnight ago, O’Brien spoke of the need for his team to make more use of whatever deadball situations came their way.
The Cockhill manager said “15 or 16” corners came and went in the capital but from their very first at the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Ground on four minutes, they produced the opening goal when McDermott headed past David Meehan following Gerry Gill’s delivery.
It was just the start that O’Brien would’ve sought and the Buncrana side almost went two up when Meehan got a strong hand behind a rasping drive from the edge of the penalty area from McDermott.
However, Crumlin were a constant threat and James Lee smashed a shot into Cullen’s side-netting and Martin Cramer’s deflected effort dipped narrowly over the crossbar.
Both teams continued to play attractive football on the pristine playing turf in the second half and a centred ball from Crumlin substitute Lee Roach was tantalisingly planted along Cullen’s six-yard line at pace and Duffy was inches away as he stretched with the studs.
Cullen then made a splendid double save when he smothered bravely to deny both Duffy and Roche. Captain Lee then headed just wide from Ciaran Reilly’s cross.
Cockhill, though, weren’t daunted by their illustrious opponents, who had won the FAI Intermediate Cup in both the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons. Mark Moran’s shot clipped Reilly and flew just over.
From the resultant corner from Gill, on 64 minutes, McDermott smacked home Cockhill’s second from 15 yards when Ross Carrig’s clearance fell his way. Meehan got hands on the shot but its sheer power took it home. Cockhill were in dreamland.
That goal came either side of McLaughlin’s two bookings and the second one was for a heavy challenge on Alan McGreal. Twenty-four minutes remained and Cockhill had to sit in.
Duffy’s goal, when he was played in by a precise pass from Roach, was clinically taken on 73 minutes and the momentum appeared to be edging towards the team managed by Martin Laughlin.
It was occasionally nervy for Cockhill, like when Duffy headed just over from Daniel McGuinness’s cross and Carrig saw a header bounce right across the goalline before Cullen gathered.
Deep into five minutes of stoppage time, Cullen clawed away the ripest of headers from Lee, which was destined for the top corner. It was a top class save to top a top class day for Cockhill Celtic.
“Do you know what made us this week?,” O’Brien said afterwards. “We went down to Dublin two weeks ago and stayed the night before. That’s what done it. We approached it well. People might say that it’s only amateur football and this and that, but when you do it you may as well do it like professionals. We stayed there in Bewley’s in Newlands Cross and it rubbed off on us. We were well prepared.
“It could’ve gone either way down there. But we battled well today.
We’ll see how Malachy is now for the next day. It looks like his ligaments could be in bother. Liam O’Donnell is 32 or 33 years of age and was excellent. The fitness levels were unreal. We’re going into
January now and it will mean that we’re 12 months on the road since pre-season.
“It’s good, though. We just have to dig deep. We’re off to Mochta’s in the next round. It’s another match but we’ve the FAI Cup for the first time and the League Cup as well so it might allow us to attract players and that’s the level you want to be playing at.”
Cockhill Celtic: Gavin Cullen; Kieran McLaughlin, Johnny Havlin, Oisin McColgan, Conor Keedy; Gerry Gill, Malachy McDermott, Liam O’Donnell, Mark Moran (Gerard McLaughlin 79); Aidan O’Donnell (Derek Doherty 79), Garchan Friel.
Crumlin United: David Meehan; Ciaran Reilly, Ross Carrig, Ciaran Kenna; Daniel Laughlin (Lee Roach 42), Martin Cramer, James Lee, Alan McGreal (Daniel McGuinness 69); Jamie Duffy, Gerard Rowe.
Referee: Stephen Toner.