Callan United’s A team must really like a challenge – how else can you describe they way they had to dig out a Premier Division win over Stoneyford United?
Callan, who came into the game on the back of a win over Evergreen B, looked to have left their form in the dressing-room as they fell two goals down inside the opening quarter.
However, a strong recovery (plus some good finishing) saw them turn the game around – but they still had to survive a late, late scare before all three points were secured.
The turning point for the hosts came after the hour. Callan had been on the front foot from the start of the second half, holding a high line as they tried to force their rivals back. Centre-back John J. Egan led the charge, driving towards midfield before lofting a telling ball from the left flank that curled towards the far side of the pitch.
The delivery was inch-perfect for C.J. Delaney. He controlled the ball on the edge of the box, before unleashing a low drive with his second touch that flew across goalkeeper Simon O’Shea and nestled inside the far post.
The goal capped a remarkable turn in fortunes for Callan, who were off-colour from the start. Although they knew a home win against a side battling to stay out of relegation trouble would be tricky they didn’t do themselves any favour with their lethargic start.
Stoneyford had no such problems, taking the lead after 15 minutes. A quick throw-out from goalkeeper Simon O’Shea was picked up by Damien Raggett and worked on to Tommy O’Leary on the right wing.
Seeing a gap, O’Leary carved Callan open with a raking diagonal ball. His pass was inch-perfect for Martin Murray, who timed his run well before knocking a confident shot beyond the outrushing Wall.
Callan were stunned by that goal, but did get into gear soon after. Robbie Wall got them going, delivering a great ball from way out on the right. It fell towards the back post, where both Tony Delaney and Mark Laffin attacked it. Had either player gone for the ball the net could have beckoned, but both managed to cancel each other out at the worst possible time.
That missed opportunity looked even costlier when Stoneyford went two up with 23 minutes on the clock.
With Ciaran Colfer whipping the ball in from the left, Callan netminder Wall failed to get a clean punch on the ball, sending it spinning into the path of Brian Donovan, who couldn’t miss from six yards out.
Callan really had it all to do now, but took just three minutes to reply. C.J. Delaney provided the opening with a great cross from the left. Tony Delaney made a nuisance of himself in the box, but when the ball broke loose Mark Laffin was on hand to steer a low drive into the net.
That goal sparked Callan into life – and how. With their attack jolted into life they set about hunting for an equaliser, but even they must have been surprised at how quickly it came.
Two minutes after pulling a goal back, Callan were able to celebrate another. There was an element of luck about the leveller, as a probing ball from midfield took a bounce on a sticky pitch.
The ball skidded towards the box but slowed down before it reached the danger zone. That caused goalkeeper O’Shea to hesitate a little, leaving him in no man’s land. He eventually rushed out to kick the ball clear, but his effort was charged down by Eoghan Fahy and arrowed back into the net.
Callan were quick to resume their attacking game in the second half, pressing Stoneyford into a more defensive role. They had some early sights at the target, but couldn’t turn them into goals.
Much of that was down to netminder Simon O’Shea. First the Stoneyford ’keeper did well to catch Johna Culhane’s 47th minute shot from the edge of the box. He was called into action again a few minutes later, getting down smartly to his left to stop Tony Delaney’s low shot.
The Stoneyford goal was living a charmed life, but their luck ran out when C.J. Delaney netted what proved to be the winner.
Callan retained control of the game after that, but almost shot themselves in the foot when they conceded an injury-time penalty.
Brian Donovan took the spot-kick, drilling a low shot towards the bottom left corner – but Owen Wall spared Callan’s blushes, guessing correctly to get down and push the ball to safety.
Callan United A: Owen Wall; Tommy Comerford, John J. Egan, Cathal Byrne, Alan Costigan; C.J. Delaney, Mark Laffin, Johna Culhane (Dylan Dunphy, 75 mins), Robbie Wall (Lee Doheny, 75 mins); Eoghan Fahy, Tony Delaney.
Stoneyford United: Simon O’Shea; Liam Walsh (Ben Follett, 86 mins), Brian Donovan, Jamie Molyneaux, Seanie Gibbons; Thomas O’Leary (Cormac Walkin, 64 mins), John O’Shea, Ciaran Colfer, Conor Coffey; Damien Raggett (Adam Fennelly, 68 mins), Martin Murray.
Referee: Pat O’Connor.