Three goals inside the final half an hour brought an abrupt end to Letterkenny Rovers’ FAI Youth Cup aspirations.
Castlebar Celtic 3
Letterkenny Rovers 0
Instead, Castlebar Celtic marched on to the semi-finals of this season’s competition following a fairly emphatic victory in the end at Celtic Park.
It’s an old cliché in football but the first goal in this contest really was the difference. With the sides locked at scoreless going into the 62nd minute and very little to choose between them, Gerry Hunt struck the opener and Rovers never recovered.
The County Mayo club – who last won the competition as recently as 2007 – were in the ascendancy from that point onwards and a further two goals put a nice gloss on their victory.
Rovers’ team manager Anthony Gorman was forced to make two changes from the side which comprehensively dispatched of DDSL outfit Swords Celtic in the previous round.
With his son, Dale, on international duty with the Northern Ireland Under-17 side at the European Championships in Holland, Tristan Ferris came into midfield while Brandon Wilkie started wide right in place of flu’ victim Ryan McCloskey.
Gorman’s absence was keenly felt as the visitors found it difficult to come to grips with the game in the centre of midfield.
The entire first half was a fairly stale affair as both defences were on top of their game restricting the opposition to long range efforts and a couple of set pieces.
Indeed, the visitors were enjoying the better of the play during the opening quarter of the second half but they were dealt the blow of conceding the crucial first goal.
A quickly taken corner kick from Gareth Dunne was met by a low drive from Gareth Hunt which squeezed in at the near post.
Rovers appeared rattled and before they found time to reassert themselves on the contest, they were two behind on 70 minutes.
On this occasion, Jordan Loftus broke with pace down the left flank and his cut back from the end line was swept home by Liam Flatley.
It was a long way back for Rovers and although the change in formation to a 3-4-3 saw them exert some decent pressure on the home side, there was little sniff on goal.
Shane Porter tried his luck with a speculative long range free-kick which the goalkeeper Paul Daly almost bundled over his own line.
The victory was complete two minutes into stoppage time when Hunt added a second goal smashing the ball into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.
It’s back to local action for the Rovers next week as they look to add a cup to their league success but a national title has proved beyond their reach for another year at least.
Castlebar Celtic – Paul Daly, Kenneth McDermott, Stephen Walsh, Ryan Kelly, Gareth Dunne, Keith Mulchrone, Jordan Loftus, Liam Flatley, Colm Nevin (Gary Walsh 80m mins), Gerry Hunt, Johnny Walsh.
Letterkenny Rovers – Jason Quinn, John Blaney (Peter McGlynn 72 mins), Noah Mailey, Kieran Doherty, Shane Porter (Liam Blaney 84 mins), Tristan Ferris, Brandon Wilkie (Marty Vance 63 mins), Kevin McGrath, Jason Doherty, Kieran MacPherson, Jason Doherty, Aaron Scanlon