Callan United 1
Lions A 0
AN INCREDIBLE journey has reached the desired destination - Callan United are in the final of the McCalmont Cup.
Simon Burke was the hero for United, striking early in the second half as the Division One side tamed the challenge of top flight Lions A.
It was hard-fought at times, but Callan made sure of their place in the May 27 decider against Newpark United when Burke struck the all-important goal four minutes into the second half.
There was an element of luck in the build-up - an under-pressure Callan could have conceded a penalty when a Lions corner appeared to come off a United defender’s arm - but there was nothing flukey about the finish.
The Lions were caught when two defenders collided while rushing to collect a long Callan clearance. Burke split the two backs and pounced on the loose ball in midfield.
Surging forward, he drew Paul Shortall from his line before coolly firing the ball high into the right side of the net from outside the box.
Callan had made a fine start to Saturday’s semi-final, which was played on the Kells Road. Although playing in a division below their opponents Callan showed no fear - they had already knocked Evergreen A and Freebooters A out of the competition.
The chance to make it three Premier Division scalps was almost seized upon when John James Egan got up to flick Tony Delaney’s 13th minute corner towards the far post, but somehow the Lions scrambled the ball to safety.
The Lions woke up after that scare and began to work their way into the game. Kevin Shortall sent a powerful 15th minute free over the Callan wall but also cleared the bar, a similar finish to Lee Campion, who clipped a sidefoot shot over after Cormac McCann had provided a telling cross.
Campion went close again on 23 minutes when he latched on to Liam Dowling’s opportune ball over the top. Spinning his marker Campion had a clear shot at goal, but dragged the ball just wide of Eoin Wall’s left hand post.
The Lions kept pressing, but couldn’t find a way to make their pressure count. Niall Brophy did his best to send a Liam Dowling corner back across goal on 26 minutes, his header leaving the Callan defence in a flap, but although Dowling was quickest to the ball he blazed over from a tight angle on the left.
The game didn’t really ignite until the second half, but instead of the Lions piling forward it was Callan who hit top gear. They proved that when Burke sent the large Callan crowd into raptures.
Rather than spur the Lions on though, the goal saw Callan double their efforts to get more and more goals. John Paul Corcoran went close with a diving header while, 60 seconds later, goalkeeper Paul Shortall was forced to leave his line to push Tony Delaney’s dangerous cross to safety.
Burke was proving to be a thorn in the side for Lions and was at the heart of another good Callan chance on 52 minutes. Holding off Seamus Clancy he whipped a dangerous ball across the box. Shortall could only palm it into the path of Matthew Holohan, but his chipped attempt failed to drop under the bar.
The Lions were under pressure now, as Callan went looking for a second goal to kill the game off. John Mark Egan and Simon Burke led the charge, rushing Seamus Clancy in the centre circle and dispossessing the Lions defender. The ball fell to Burke, who raced forward and shot from almost the same spot as he had scored from, but this time Paul Shortall made a good save.
The danger wasn’t fully over though, as Matthew Holohan won the ball again. He drove it back across the box, over the Lions defence, but although he had time at the back post Burke couldn’t keep his header on target.
Burke was a driving force for Callan and almost grabbed what would have been a deserved second goal in the dying seconds. Forced to go with three at the back as they looked for an equaliser, the Lions were caught light when Delaney played a great through ball. Burke sped through, nicking the ball past the advancing Shortall, but his low shot from the left rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.
In a frenetic finish, John Mark Egan also had a chance to seal the game in injury-time. After winning a tussle in midfield he stormed towards goal, but left with just Shortall to beat he opted to try and pass the ball to Burke, allowing Shortall to make the catch.
Those misses almost cost Callan as deep into stoppage time the Lions gave it one last throw of the dice. Following Lee Campion’s corner sub Darren Lynch kept the ball in the box, but Michael Dooley’s header soared over the bar.
You could hear the Callan crowd gasp - but they had done enough. The final spot was theirs.
Callan United: Eoin Wall, John J. Egan, Joe Byrne, Alan Costigan, Cathal Byrne, John M. Egan, Tony Delaney, Michael Hartley, Simon Burke, J.P. Corcoran, Matthew Holohan (Robbie Wall, 90 mins).
Lions A: Paul Shortall, Liam Dowling, Cormac McCann, Simon Randall (Murt Clancy, 65 mins), Kevin Shortall, Seamus Clancy, Ben Wallace (Darren Lynch, 65 mins), Shane McCann, Lee Campion, Mick Dooley, Niall Brophy.
Referee: Pat Conroy. Linesmen: Eugene Coyne, Larry Buggy.