NEWPARK wanted to make the perfect start to their Maher Shield campaign - so who better than a Meagher to send them on their way?
Alright, the spelling of the surname might not be the same but defender Ray Meagher was the real difference as he helped the city club sink Tullaroan on a weather-beaten Sunday morning, winning 2-1.
Meagher bagged a goal in either half as last season’s cup specialists - they made the finals of the Division One and McCalmont Cup competitions, as well as the Shield semi-finals - advanced to the second round.
It took Meagher just eight minutes to make his mark on the game. Awarded a free just inside the Tullaroan half, Dean Woods - who had a fine performance throughout - floated a brilliant delivery into the box, where Meagher sent a powerful header past netminder Jason Cahill.
The visitors were in flying form early on and almost doubled their lead within a matter of seconds. Shane O’Neill went storming down the left wing and whipped in a menacing cross, but no-one was there to add the finishing touch.
Newpark found plenty of success along the flanks, using their width to peg Tullaroan back. Henry O’Neill dashed along the right touchline, pulling the ball back for Tommy Comerford to fire in the cross. John Hayes got his head to it, but couldn’t keep his effort from rising over the bar.
Tullaroan had been on the defensive for the opening quarter, but gave Newpark a real scare with their first attack of merit. Tom Fitzgerald split the city side’s defence with a teasing lofted pass aimed at the unmarked Richie Guilfoyle, but Bobby Maher stretched out far enough to claw the ball out for a corner.
The danger wasn’t fully over, as Gerry O’Dea delivered two teasing corners in succession. The second fell to Joe Norton, but his shot spun wide.
Newpark went back on the attack in the closing stages, but couldn’t stretch their advantage before the break. John Hayes had a chance when Shane O’Neill slid a low diagonal pass into his path but his shot was straight at Cahill.
Henry O’Neill went closer again, this time in the dying seconds of normal time. Standing over a free Hayes rolled the ball across to O’Neill, who curled a clever shot towards the top right corner, but the ball cleared the angle of post and crossbar.
The sides were battered by the elements at the start of the second half, but made light of the driving rain to create some good chances.
Tullaroan had the first opportunity of the half and could have levelled through it. Adrian O’Dea caused panic when his 52nd minute free picked out Tom Fitzgerald ghosting in at the back post, but he couldn’t keep his header on target.
Back came Newpark. Two minutes later John Hayes won a midfield tussle and sent Mark Flynn on his way to a certain goal but he dragged his shot wide.
Both goalkeepers were tested again soon after. Jason Cahill had to look lively to deny Flynn and Shane O’Neill in quick succession - Bobby Maher was just as impressive, blocking Brendan Burke’s point-blank shot with an outstretched foot before the hour.
Newpark’s resolve was tested when Shane O’Neill was red-carded for an off-the-ball altercation with 18 minutes to play, but Meagher soothed their nerves when he came up from the back to bundle home a Hayes corner with 11 minutes left on the clock.
Meagher wasn’t quite finished scoring, however. The defender completed an unwanted ‘hat-trick’ when he put through his own net in injury-time, but it wasn’t enough to deny his side their place in round two. Tullaroan: Jason Cahill, Danny Coogan, Joe Norton, Miceal Brennan, Michael Burke, Richie Guilfoyle, Gerry O’Dea (Robbie Hoyne, 75 mins), Adrian O’Dea (Mikey Egan, 84 mins), Brendan Burke, Ger Brennan, Tom Fitzgerald (Diarmuid Burke, 58 mins).
Newpark: Bobby Maher, Tommy Comerford (Sammy Johnson, 64 mins), Gerry O’Brien, Ger Wall, Ray Meagher, Stephen Dawson, Henry O’Neill, Dean Woods (Keith Fleming, 90 mins), Mark Flynn (Sean Falsey, 64 mins), John Hayes, Shane O’Neill.
Referee Eoin Walsh.