Lions A 1
East End United A 1
(AET – East End won 4-2 on penalties)
AN ICE-COOL Paul Murphy finish on a searing hot Sunday saw East End United advance in this season’s McCalmont Cup.
The United midfielder was spot on in Durrow, as his penalty kick helped the visitors tame the Lions in a tense shootout.
After enduring a topsy-turvy 110 minutes, the penalty shootout proved to be the exact same. The Lions looked to have the upper hand when netminder Paul Shortall stopped Willie Walsh’s kick but when opposite number Patrick O’Neill got behind David Freeman’s effort, and then saw Aiden Keenan blaze wide, the advantage was back with the ’Bridge boys.
Murphy stepped up and drilled his shot low to the right. Although Shortall got his hand to it, he was powerless to prevent the ball from spinning away into the corner of his net.
The game started at an equally fast pace. The Lions roared into action, and could so easily have been in front within a matter of minutes. A swift Aiden Keenan corner was turned into a dangerous shot from Darren Lynch within five minutes, but Patrick O’Neill did well to block the effort – and better again to deny Murt Clancy from the rebound.
East End were forced to defend deep in the early stages, with Paul Murphy anchoring midfield as the hosts bombed forward. After weathering the storm they found their own attacking form on 18 minutes, when Ross Dowling delivered a perfect ball up the left for Michael O’Neill but his pinpoint cross flew across goal, just begging for the slightest touch to turn it into the net.
They made amends with their next attack, taking the lead in some style after Sean Falsey floated in a corner. Although Gary Hayes got his head to the ball it flew across the box towards O’Neill, who hammered a first-time shot high into the top left corner.
That goal stunned the Lions, who took some time to get back into rhythm. They came close to drawing level when, in the 52nd minute, sub Niall Brophy supplied a neat low cross for David Freeman to run onto, but he drilled his shot just wide of O’Neill’s right hand post.
East End survived that scare, and the one that followed just a few minutes later. Darren Lynch was the architect, digging out a great cross which dropped at the feet of Keenan, but Andy Lowry rushed out to make a brave block when a goal seemed the only outcome.
Keenan and Lynch continued to link up well throughout the morning, and combined for another pot at the East End goal just after the hour. Keenan’s long throw fell just right for Lynch, who let fly with a cracking shot, but once more O’Neill broke Lions hearts with a super stop from point-blank range.
The sides continued to press for goals, but just when it looked like East End would hold on to their slender lead, the Lions hit the target. There were just two minutes of normal time left when defender Kevin Shortall won possession in midfield.
Pushed forward to help in attack, Shortall worked the ball out to Keenan - and kept running. Keenan’s shot was well stopped by O’Neill, but Shortall was there to hammer the loose ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Chances were harder to come by in extra-time – the Lions should have gone in front when Danny Lennon got on the end of Niall Brophy’s 102nd minute cross, but he couldn’t keep his shot on target.
With the game down to penalties, it looked like East End were heading out when they trailed 2-1 early on but O’Neill’s save and the Keenan miss, combined with accurate kicks from Brian Lannon and Tommy Jordan pushed them 3-2 clear, before Murphy struck the clincher.
Lions A: Paul Shortall, Danny Lennon, Shane McCann, David Freeman, Kevin Shortall, Seamus Clancy, Darren Lynch (Cormac McCann, 73 mins), Murt Clancy, Aiden Keenan, Michael Dooley, Lee Campion (Niall Brophy, 46 mins).
East End United A: Patrick O’Neill, Andy Lowry, Ross Dowling, Liam McEvoy, Eddie Fitzgerald, Willie Walsh, Sean Falsey (Wayne Dowling, 63 mins), Gary Hayes (Tommy Jordan, 70 mins), Paul Murphy, Robbie Ryan, Michael O’Neill (Brian Lannon, 79 mins).
Referee: Eugene Coyne.