Downpatrick Beat Strangford In Harry Clarke Quarter Final

Downpatrick FC through the semi-final in Harry Clarke Cup

Both teams squared up at Dunleath Park in a game that saw both pressing hard from the whistle.

However, it was Strangford that looked the more dangerous with their quick attacks many involving their captain Conal Fitzsimons. Downpatrick looked somethat taken aback at the very attacking mode of Strangford but kept their composure and weathered the attacks well.

The Downpatrick back line of Cassidy, Fitzpatrick, Logue and Farrell were under pressure but contained the many Strangford attacks well.

On 3 minutes Strangford were on the front foot and Conal Fitzsimons hammered a powerful volley but it rose over the Downpatrick top bar.

And just 2 minutes later there was goal-mouth drama in the Downpatrick box as Eoin Kelly hit the crossbar and the ball came to Thomas Fitzsimons who tried to head the ball down over the goal line but it hit a defender and Strangford won a corner.

But despite the intense early pressure from Strangford, Downpatrick found space to break up field and and Nathan McAllister started a good move which saw Dylan Kelly receive the ball at the back of the box and he clinically executed a powerful volley seeing the ball into the middle of the Strangford net.

This was first blood for Downpatrick, but Strangford just kept on attacking. But gradually the tide turned and Downpatrick started to mount quick attacks into the Strangford half.

Morgan Fitzpatrick in possession for Downpatrick clears the ball after a Strangford attack.

Eaoin Kelly was making a good run into the Downpatrick half by Shea Holland made a solid block which signalled game on. Play seemed to get more intense. At times play looked scrappy but bother sides were locked in a struggle to the end.

Then Kelly made an excellent pass through to Conal Fitzsimons who was on fire and he ran to the goal by Downpatrick keeper Ruairi Murphy came out to the edge of his box and blocked the goal scoring attempt.

It was surprising that Strangford had not scored even one goal, but then their bad day at the office got worse.

Dylan Kelly always a danger man for Downpatrick passed through to Nathan McAlister who on a quick break hit the ball from the back of the Strangford box beating keeper Connery on 26 minutes.

Both teams wanted the victory, but there was only going to be one winner in the end.

Strangford’s Ronan Smyth stymies a Downpatrick attack.

The game took a more difficult turn then when Strangford’s Rory Reilly received 2 yellow cards and a subsequent red leaving the visitors a man short against a determined Downpatrick side. And Strangford’s head coach too received a yellow card as tempers heated up.

Then on 33 minutes, Strangford’s Paul Donnelly scored bringing his side back into contention keeping their Harry Clarke Cup hopes alive.

But this goal benefit was short lived as striker Dylan Kelly again on 43 minutes just before half-time hit the ball from just inside the Strangford box beating Connery putting Downpatrick 3-1 ahead on the whistle for the break.

Eoin Kelly missed a chance of a goal for Strangford when he was on a 1 to 1 with Downpatrick keeper Ruairi Murphy as he unleashed the ball and it hit the post.

As the first half closed, Downpatrick were now in the driving seat, a hard-earned position to be in, but Strangford still had their foot on the pedal and would not let go.

As the second half unfolded, play was quite physical and both Adrain and Andrew McCoubrey received yellow cards.

Strangford came out fighting in the second half as they had done in the first. Again just 3 minutes into the second period and Strangford’s Conal Fitzsimons headed just over the bar.

Downpatrick double goal scorer Dylan Kelly, left, challenges for the ball.

And again Fitzsimons had a chance of another header minutes later but that was held well by keeper Murphy.

Downpatrick steadied and started to come back into the game but the tension in the air was heavy.

Then a bit of brilliance from Dylan Kelly lifted the Downptrick side as he crossed to Nathan McAlister but Strangford defender Shane Teggart made a top class intervention denying McAlister his goal opportunity.

Strangford must receive full credit for not rolling over and stick their legs up in the air. They were determined to the last.

Downpatrick were not full strength as they had to play two under-17 players in this match.

But despite the final score, it was Strangford that did much of the early attacking in the first half with Downpatrick making decisive forays when the openings arose into the Strangford half.

Then in the second half, Strangford again over-ran Downpatrick at times but they kept their nerve, and breaks involving Kelly and McAlister helped draw play away from the midfield and back lines, easing the pressure at times.

It was a tough game for both sides. Strangford ticked a lot of the boxes but they missed out on capitalising on goal opportunities after having done so much of the hard attacking graft to get to scoring positions.

Downpatrick are now through to the Harry Clarke semi-final stage.

Downpatrick FC: 1 Ruairi Murphy GK 2 Ryan Cassidy 3 Morgan Fitzpatrick 4 Caolan Logue 5 Con Farrell 6 Adrian McCoubrey (C) 7 Nathan McAlister 8 Shea Holland 9 Dylan Kelly 10 Jake Harding 11 Andrew McCoubrey. Subs: 12 Drew Barnes 14 Matthew McMahon 15 Kevin Trueman 16 Gerard McCarthy.

Strangford FC: 1 Thomas Connery GK 2 Stefan McGrattan 3 Conall Magee 4 Thomas Fitzsimons 5 Fionn McCall 6 Shane Teggart 7 Paul Donnelly 8 Owen Curran 9 Ronan Smyth 10 Conal Fitzsimons (C) 11 Eoin Kelly. Subs: 12 Eoin Waterson 14 Eoin Magee 15 Rory Reilly 16 Shea Savage.