Holding their nerve when it mattered most saw a resilient Deen Celtic rescue a Division One point from the jaws of defeat.
The Castlecomer men had David Lynch to thank for that point, the striker coolly rolling in an 89th minute penalty for the last act of a 10-goal thriller.
The goal marked the second comeback of the morning for Celtic, who seemed to be staring at a heavy loss when Simon Burke completed his hat-trick to make it 5-3 to the hosts with little over 10 minutes left on the clock.
Rather than throw in the towel, Celtic went looking for a way back into the game. They got a good return with five to play as Darragh Stone moved up from full-back to whip in a cross for Chris Rochford to head home at the back post.
The goal gave the visitors some heart, but it didn’t look as if they’d catch a Callan side gunning for their win of the campaign. Neil Murtagh went close, curling a free-kick over the United wall from the edge of the box, but his shot finished outside the top right corner.
Just when it looked like Callan would hold on, Celtic snatched a last gasp leveller. Driving through from midfield the visitors appealed for a penalty when Rochford was clipped in the box. Nothing was given but in the follow-up Lynch was fouled when chasing the loose ball, giving referee Tristan Eardley no option but to award his fourth spot kick of the tie.
It was a crazy end to the game - but not as crazy as the beginning for Celtic, who found themselves not one but two goals down inside seven minutes!
Callan attacked from the off, hitting the visitors with pace. The game was barely two minutes old when, having forced a corner, Dan McCormack’s quick ball in struck the arm of Celtic’s Caleb Roche.
Callan netminder Owen Wall made the trip from his goal to take the kick and made no mistake, slotting low into the bottom right corner.
It was a bad blow for Celtic but worse was to follow. The pacey Simon Burke heaped more misery on the visitors when he made it 2-0 on seven minutes, showing great footwork to slip the challenge and leave his marker for dead before slamming a low shot across ’keeper Robbie Lynch.
Comer heads didn’t drop for too long as, within four minutes, they had pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Wall clattered into Shaun Holden. David Lynch made no mistake from 12 yards, drilling the ball low and to the left.
Given heart by that goal, Celtic made it 2-2 after 20 minutes. Lynch was the provider, firing a free-kick across the face of the breeze into a packed box. Rochford’s shot was blocked, but Callan couldn’t stop Deen defender Alan Phelan from netting the follow-up.
Callan had been rocked by Celtic’s double whammy, but had chances to take the lead again before half-time. Simon Burke was heavily involved, hooking a 27th minute shot over before crashing another effort off the bar a few seconds later.
Burke made better use of his next chance, firing Callan back into the lead 11 minutes into the second half. Pouncing on a stray ball in midfield, Burke set off for goal, doing well to avoid the attentions of Robbie Lynch and Darragh Stone before lashing the ball home from inside the box.
Celtic’s response was to level matters again within seconds. Right from the kick-off David Lynch sped for the Callan goal, beating their defence with a long ball which Rochford tucked home.
Deen were fired up by that goal and almost took the lead for the first time a few minutes later. Shaun Holden had a chance to push his side in front when he let fly with a searing shot, but Owen Wall did well to fingertip the ball over the bar.
Wall’s next involvement was to shoot Callan in front for the third time. Again the United No 1 trotted down the field to take another penalty, this one coming in the 71st minute after Burke was upended in the box. Robbie Lynch guessed correctly, diving to his left to save the first kick, but he couldn’t stop Wall from scoring the rebound.
Celtic were stung by that spot-kick and almost leaked another goal to a John Mark Egan snapshot. While Deen struggled Callan were on fire, driving on and opening a two-goal lead again. Burke completed his hat-trick with 13 minutes to play, finishing well after Alan Costigan’s cross was helped on by Robert O’Brien.
At that stage it looked like curtains for Celtic - but they weren’t finished yet!
Callan United: Owen Wall, Alan Costigan, Kevin Fitzpatrick (Robert O’Brien, 66 mins), John J. Egan, Cathal Byrne, John M. Egan, Dan McCormack (Dwayne Hanrahan, 37 mins), Lee Delaney, Simon Burke, Robbie Wall, Joey Byrne.
Deen Celtic: Robbie Lynch, Darragh Stone, John Deevey, Eddie Brennan, Alan Phelan, Neil Murtagh, Anthony Kavanagh (Ronan Phelan, 78 mins), Caleb Roche, Chris Rochford, David Lynch (Larry Cantwell, 90 mins), Shaun Holden (Ciaran Stone, 62 mins).
Referee: Tristan Eardley.