Tony Delaney (Callan United) challenges James Moran (Stoneyford United). Photo: Michael Brophy
James Moran was the man of the moment as Stoneyford United overcame a numbers deficit to grab three precious Premier Division points.
The long-serving Moran helped himself to a hat-trick as 10-man Stoney’ showed patience and composure to frustrate their hosts on their way to an impressive win.
The manner of the victory was made all the better by the fact that Stoneyford played the entire 90 minutes a man light. Despite the lack of personnel, they more than held their own. Defensively they were strong while, in midfield, their link-up play provided the perfect platform to set up attacks.
The hard work finally paid off when Stoneyford broke the deadlock 10 minutes into the second half. Piling on the pressure following a booming Damien Raggett free, they kept possession close to the Callan box, David Ryan keeping play alive.
The ball was slipped to Moran, who made just enough space to unleash a shot which curled beyond the reach of netminder Owen Wall and inside his right-hand post.
Waiting for the right moment to strike proved vital for Stoneyford, so it was no surprise when they repeated the trick to double their lead six minutes later.
Sean McPhillips was the architect, picking up possession in the centre circle and spraying a clever ball out to the left.
Moran timed his run to a tee, springing the offside trap to bear down on goal. He waited for Wall to make his move, then cleverly tucked the ball away inside the netminder’s near post.
The goals were a real blow for Callan, who had tried their best to stamp their authority on the game but found the Stoneyford defence a tough nut to crack. Brian Doheny tried his luck with a fifth minute free that whistled wide of the far post - Stoney’ went just as close 60 seconds later when Eamonn Foley got on the end of Ciaran Colfer’s testing cross, but he couldn’t keep his effort on target.
Callan continued to force the pace - Eoghan Fahy brought a good fingertip save from’ keeper C.J. Delaney - but chances were few and far between as Stoneyford kept things tight at the back.
The visitors played an intelligent game, looking for passes rather than launching the ball to safety. That, combined with some clever first-time flicks, proved enough to make sure they always had room to get the ball safely out of danger.
Callan continued to press for more as the half wore on. They had a great chance to break the deadlock 10 minutes from half-time when, following some patient build-up, Tony Delaney dashed in from the right wing and unleashed a fierce strike.
His shot had netminder Delaney scrambling across his line but, to his relief, the ball zipped just wide of the far post.
They went closer still just a few minutes later. Robbie Wall pounced as an Eoghan Fahy cross broke his way, firing off a smart volley, but Delaney reacted well to save with his feet.
Cleared Off Line
The danger wasn’t over as, from the resulting corner, Cathal Byrne rose highest to meet the cross, but his effort was cleared off the line.
Stoneyford were quick to show their claws, breaking on a counter-attack from the resulting clearance.
Bursting down the left Eamonn Foley whipped in a teasing cross for David Ryan to meet at the back post, but Dion Fitzpatrick made a telling block to save his side.
Callan were keen to step up the pace in the second half and almost made the breakthrough in a matter of minutes. Eoghan Fahy cleverly let Alan Costigan’s raking pass run through for fellow striker Nicky Roche.
He had time and space to shoot, but C.J. Delaney stayed big to make the save.
Callan seemed certain to make a charge after that, but Moran’s first goal took the wind out of their sails. The second? It all but flattened the hosts.
Stoneyford were on a high after that, and put the game to bed with 20 minutes to go. Pressed into a matter of urgency, Callan decided to go with three at the back as they fought to get back into the game but just as they made the call the visitors put the result beyond their reach.
Again, Stoneyford’s swift play yielded a rich return. A long kick-out was seized upon by Moran, who released Sean McPhillips down the left. Callan were slow to react and paid the price, McPhillips haring away before drilling a low ball across the box for the incoming Moran to sidefoot home from point-blank range.
The goal was swift and merciless. Not bad for a side with 10 men!
Callan United A: Owen Wall; Dion Fitzpatrick, John J. Egan, Cathal Byrne (Matthew Houlihan, 59 mins), Alan Costigan; Robbie Wall, Tony Delaney, Brian Doheny, Tony Moran; Eoghan Fahy, Nicky Roche (Mark Laffin, 70 mins).
Stoneyford United: C.J. Delaney; Sean Gibbons, John O’Shea, Damien Raggett, Conor Coffey; Sean McPhillips, Eamonn Foley, Ciaran Colfer, David Ryan; James Moran.
Referee: Jimmy Nolan.