Aranmore United missed the boat as they played out a scoreless draw with Strand Rovers in their Downtown Cup clash in Maghery on Saturday.
The game was a home tie for the Islanders but was switched on Friday night after the Arranmore pitch was deemed unplayable following Thursday night’s heavy rain.
Arranmore, who were the better side for well over three quarters of this highly competitive local derby clash, had to be congtent with a share of the points after missing a host of good scoring chances.
The bulk of them came in the opening 45 minutes and again in the closing fifteen minutes when Strand keeper Kevin McGovern stood between them and what looked certain goals.
However, United sailed back home with just a point. And following Saturday’s draw and their first round share of the points with Keadue Rovers, Gerry Early’s young guns need full points from their remaining game with Glenea United, or at least a high scoring draw, if they are to be in with a chance of qualifying from the group as runners up.
With Benny McGarvey, Mark and Conor Proctor and Edward McGowan getting an early grip in the middle third, all the early pressure was on the Strand Rovers rearguard and goalkeeper McGovern.
Conor Proctor and Michael McHugh had the best of the early chances for the visitors with Brendan Brennan taking the ball off Proctor’s toe with a sliding tackle inside seven minutes. Brennan picked up a yellow card for the tackle.
Arranmore’s next best chance fell to Declan Proctor, but the number 11 was wide of the target from a tight angle after taking a precision diagonal pass from Benny McGarvey.
Strand Rovers were restricted to sporadic raids in the first half and the lightening pace of Doalty Boyle to unhinge the Arranmore rearguard. And their best chance of the half fell to Mark Ward who drove wide from five metres with the goal gaping after Boyle’s initial volley was blocked by Danny Rogers.
Edward McGowan drew an early save from McGovern and Declan Proctor forced an early corner as Arranmore piled on the pressure in the opening ten minutes in the new half.
But with Stephen Barrett changing his formation from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1,Strand had their moments in the second period.
Mark Ward raided with great effect on the right wing and along with Doalty Boyle and Brendan Glackin in the air, asked some serious questions of the Arranmore defence as John Gallagher’s goals led a charmed existence on a number of occasions.
Once again one of the best chances fell to Gerard Diver who skimmed the outside of Gallagher’s post from ten mentres.
But with Danny Rogers standing tall at the heart of the Arranmore defence, the visitors survived to produce a storming last 15 minutes.
Mark Proctor pulled his shot wide from close range and Daniel O’Donnell, a second half replacement for Benny McGarvey, drew a good save from McGovern from a long way out on the right wing.
Shortly afterwards McGovern was again up on his toes to save from Declan Proctor and Ruan Reynolds was denied by the upright.
In injury time, Chris McGlanaghy blasted wide from close range when cooler nerves were called for. Then man-of-the-match McGovern saved from point blank from Proctor to deny the winger what looked a certain winner.
While the game produced no goals it was always entertaining and the local derby element meant the tie had a competitive edge about it from the first whistle to the last.
Apart from their saviour McGovern, Strand Rovers had top class dsiplays from Declan ‘Yank’ Boyle, Martin McGarvey and Brendan Brennan in defence; Mark Ward on the wing and Doalty Boyle and Brendan Glackin, who carried a huge threat in the air up front.
For Arranmore Danny Rogers turned in a big performance at the heart of the defence, Michael McHugh and Sean O’Hara were also faultless at the back. Benny McGarvey, in midfield, and his replacement Daniel O’Donnell had fine games as did Edward McGowan, Conor and Declan Proctor.
Arranmore United: John Gallagher, Ruan Reynolds, Sean O’Hara (Sean Early 54 mins), Michael McHugh, Danny Rodgers, Benny McGarvey (Daniel O’Donnell 45 mins), Conor Proctor (Sean Conlon 73 mins), Mark Proctor, Edward McGowan, Chris McGlanaghy, Declan Proctor.
Strand Rovers: Kevin McGovern, Aidan McGeehan, Declan ‘Yank’Boyle, Mark Ward, Stephen Glackin (Aidan O’Donnell 88 mins), Martin McGarvey, Brendan Brennan, Gerard Diver, Doalty Boyle, Mark Boyle (Cathal Boyle 65 mins), Brendan Glackin.