East End United A............................3
A DOUBLE substitution paved the way for three goals as East End United A survived a McCalmont Cup scare.
With 45 minutes to play the Premier Division side were facing into a major Cup shock. As well as trailing Clifden United 2-0 they were also second best, as the Division Three champions were well on top in Bennettsbridge.
However, the introduction of Ross Dowling and Michael O’Neill changed all that. Dowling had a hand in the two goals that brought John Maddock’s side level, before O’Neill grabbed a precious winner with 20 minutes left.
In an excellent move started by full-back Andy Lowry, East End cut Clifden open. Lowry’s low ball was picked up Robbie Ryan, who knocked it through for O’Neill. The sub, who had raced from the left flank, timed his run to beat the offside trap and then coolly lifted his shot over the diving netminder Philip Funcheon.
Both sides were intent on grabbing some early goals, but it was East End who almost shone first in brilliant Sunday afternoon sunshine. Brian Lannon went close to giving the hosts a fourth minute lead when he slid in to knock Willie Walsh’s brilliant diagonal ball past Funcheon, but Mick Barcoe sped back to hack the shot off the line.
Lannon was also involved in the next good chance that fell his side’s way. Rising high the striker flicked Patrick O’Neill’s 15th minute kick-out on. Paul Murphy latched on to the delivery and fizzed it across goal, but Funcheon was quick off his line to fist the ball away.
Clifden may have been under the cosh early on, but they weren’t out of the game. Darren McCormack went close with a 17th minute chip that just cleared the crossbar, before the visitors saw a penalty appeal waved away. James Nolan made the claim after he was upended in the box by Liam McEvoy’s 20th minute challenge, but Clifden were turned down.
East End were slightly lucky to escape that time, but didn’t learn from their mistake. Four minutes later they had no answer, as Nolan’s surging run from half-way was halted by an abrupt challenge in the box.
Kevin Shortall came up from the back to take the kick. He made the journey a worthwhile one, driving the ball high beyond O’Neill’s right hand.
Clifden were on top now, but even they couldn’t have believed it would take just two minutes to double their tally. Nolan got his reward for some strong running when he latched on to Michael Ralph’s low ball across the box and hammered an unstoppable shot into the top right corner.
East End were stunned by that quick salvo, but try as they might they couldn’t find a way back into the game. Brian Lannon went closest, curling a 30th minute free round the Clifden wall, but Funcheon did really well to dive along his line and push the ball away before it crept inside his left post.
After a frustrating opening 45 minutes, East End were a changed side after the restart. Coupled with bringing in Dowling and O’Neill they adopted a more patient approach to their game.
The changes took just five minutes to bear fruit. Taking a quick throw Ross Dowling collected pass back from Robbie Ryan close to the corner flag on the left. Given plenty of time, Dowling delivered a peach of a cross, one that Paul Murphy couldn’t but guide inside the near post.
East End were revived by that goal, but should have been back on level terms within 60 seconds. A super turn on the edge of the box saw Ryan lose his marker, but his shot was well stopped by Funcheon. The drama wasn’t over, as the rebound fell at Brian Lannon’s feet, but again the netminder made a fantastic save while on the ground, before doing so again at the third attempt.
The hosts were charged up by those attempts, and finally drew level on the hour. Awarded a free out on the right wing Ross Dowling used his left foot to curl a wicked ball in towards the goalmouth. Lannon made a nuisance of himself under the delivery, doing enough to force Funcheon to divert the ball into his own net.
Clifden weren’t out of it yet, but their resistance was finally broken when O’Neill grabbed the winner 20 minutes from full-time.
East End United A: Patrick O’Neill, Andy Lowry, Sean Falsey (David Dowling, 81 mins), Wayne Dowling, Liam McEvoy, Eddie Fitzgerald, Willie Walsh (Michael O’Neill, 46 mins), Gary Hayes (Ross Dowling, 46 mins), Brian Lannon, Paul Murphy, Robbie Ryan.
Clifden United: Philip Funcheon, Kevin Shortall, P.J. Hickey, Murt Murphy, Mick Barcoe, Derek Ralph, Dermot Nolan, Michael Ralph, Darren McCormack (Chris Proctor, 90 mins), James Nolan (Tom Murphy, 83 mins), Paddy Murphy (David Delaney, 71 mins).
Referee: Eugene Coyne.