Eoin Wall was the man of the moment as Callan United charged into the semi-finals of the McCalmont Cup.
The netminder scored one penalty, and then saved another as United charged past Freshford Town in an Easter Sunday cracker.
Having led 2-1 after 90 minutes, it looked like Callan had been caught in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Freshford were awarded a penalty after a Ryan Bergin hand hit Danny Campion’s cross.
Given a chance to send the game into extra-time, it looked like Freshford had saved their skins at the last second. Not so!
James Kenny assumed the spot-kick duties, going low and to the left, but Wall guessed the right way and beat the ball out. The danger wasn’t fully over, as the rebound looped back into Kenny’s path, but he steered his header wide of the mark.
It was a whirlwind ending to what was an interesting battle of the two league champions. Freshford, Division Two winners, were keen to continue what has been an excellent season but Callan, the Division One champs, were determined not to let them have things their own way.
With both sides pressing for a way through there was little room for error in the opening stages. Robbie Dowling went close to giving Town a dream lead after three minutes when he robbed J.P. Corcoran of possession and burst through, but Wall sprinted from his line to save at the striker’s feet.
As the half wore on Callan showed their steel, shutting down Freshford and limiting their time on the ball. Lee Delaney had a great chance to push the visitors ahead when he made a break from midfield. His pace left three defenders for dead, but his 26th minute shot lacked the power to trouble Shane McGree.
Tense and tough
It was a tense and tough opening half hour, but the game changed after Callan lost midfielder Joey Byrne to a bad injury. An ambulance was called for the player, who suffered a dislocated knee, stopping the game for half an hour.
When play resumed Freshford were quickest to find top gear. Sub Steven Farrell almost created a perfect start for Freshford when he unlocked the Callan defence with a clever ball for Eoin Vaughan to run on to. The striker raced in, but Wall sprinted from his line to make a brave save, taking a knock for his troubles.
Despite that scare, Callan showed a better focus when the action got back to full flow. Pressing forward, they began to peg Freshford back, Alan Costigan causing mayhem with a 36th minute cross that Nigel Stanley did well to head out.
Better was to come for Callan from the resulting corner. Simon Burke’s delivery was whipped in towards the front post where. Stanley tried to clear the danger, but could only head the ball past his own ’keeper.
The goal was no more than Callan deserved, but they should have doubled that lead within minutes. Driving up the right, Lee Delaney’s quick ball was worked across goal by Burke to Ryan Bergin.
Left with McGree to beat it seemed like Bergin couldn’t miss, but he dragged his 42nd minute shot agonisingly wide of the left post.
That missed chance could have come back to haunt Callan if it hadn’t been for a late defensive rescue. The first half was in stoppage time when Farrell got his head to Danny Campion’s corner, glancing the ball towards the inside of the far post, but Kevin Fitzpatrick was there to head the ball off the line.
Fitzpatrick was just one of four reasons why Callan kept a firm grip on the game in the second half. The full-back was man of the match for his defensive display as part of a back four which stifled Town at every turn.
It also helped that Callan had Owen Wall between the posts. He was well-placed to make a fine save on 58 minutes, stretching to finger-tip Danny Campion’s teasing header over the bar.
Wall got his chance to show how lethal he can be at the other end when, on 78 minutes, Callan were awarded a penalty for a tug on Luke Burke. Wall made the long trek worthwhile, giving opposite number Shane McGree no chance with a kick fired confidently into the top right corner.
Despite being two goals down, Freshford didn’t give up. With 90 minutes on the clock they got a lifeline when Graham O’Flaherty pounced to fire home after Callan failed to deal with Robbie Dowling’s cross.
Throughout injury-time they pressed for the equaliser, and celebrated as if they had it when referee Lee Kill gave that penalty. However, the longest cheers would be Callan’s thanks to Wall’s heroics.
Freshford Town: Shane McGree, Michael Farrell, Jason Stanley, David Brennan, Nigel Stanley, Graham O’Flaherty, Danny Campion, James Kenny, Robbie Dowling, Eoin Vaughan, Liam Hickey (Steven Farrell, 29 mins).
Callan United: Owen Wall, Alan Costigan, Kevin Fitzpatrick, J.P. Corcoran, John J. Egan, Robbie O’Brien, Ryan Bergin, Joey Byrne (Luke Burke, 29 mins), Simon Burke, Lee Delaney, Robbie Wall (Eoghan Fahy, 59 mins).
Referee: Lee Kill.