Harry Clarke 2019 Cup Semi Final.
Bignian Park, Kilkeel – 15th March 2019.
Killough 1 Celtic Bhoys 0.
The first semi-final of the Harry Clarke Cup was a hard fought affair between seasiders Killough and Celtic Bhoys. From the whistle, both teams started off at a fast pace on the 3G pitch and for most of the match, they kept it up. But there had to be a winner and on thi soccasion, Killough were up for the challenge with a full and fit team.
Within minutes, in a Killough attack, Jordan Curran won a free kick and it fed into the goalmouth but the Bhoys’ Michael Burns knocked it same. But in the tussle, Killough won a corner and Tony McIlhine almost clinched a spectacular overhead kick goal.
Soon after Killough outside left Chris McMullan received a long cross and ran into the Bhoys goal area and hit a solid volley but it was held with the safe hands of Nathan Curran.
The match ebbed to and fro and on one occasion, Celtic striker Stephen Galbraith almost lobbed over the head of Killough keeper Peter Kelly.
Killough has a spell of dominance and were using the wings well to keep play open and make attacks through the middle a possibility when the occasion arose. Celtic won a corner but the Killough defence cleared it sharply.
This was a match that was flowing both ways with both forward lines eager to open the scoring, but credit to both defences, the score remained 0-0.
Gareth George made a long shot for Killough but it was well held in the safe hands of keeper Curran. As the minutes ticked to the end of the first half, it was Celtic who started to press for the elusive opening goal. Mullan made an excellent play towards the Killough goal but Killough defender Gareth George had other ideas.
Then a moment of drama at 40 minutes happened as Killough’s Freddie O’Connor lobbed the ball over the head of Nathan Curran. It could have been a game changer just before half time but it missed the back post by inches.
The pressure was telling on both sides and eventually Colm Stranney Killough midfielder received a yellow card for a heavy tackle on Celtic’s Sean McMahon.
The second period started off again at a breakneck pace and again McMullan was in the middle of a series of attacks by Celtic Bhoys on the Killough goal. Celtic won a free two yards from the Killough box but keeper Kelly handled it expertly. Killough had turned on the pressure and forward Ross Armstrong uleashed a volley but again Kelly was the hero making an excellent save.
At 10 minutes, Celtic’s Jordan McCoubrey almost connected from a cross into the middle of the Killough from sub Eoin Boyle. Then from this high point, the game slowed a little with a couple of injuries and the players were probably glad of the breaks.
15 minutes into the half, as play geared up again, Killough put on the squeeze on Celtic and as players battled in the goal area, Jordan McCoubrey found the ball and hammered it through the forest of legs into the Celtic goal giving keeper Curran no chance.
Celtic responded immediately and Stephen Galbrath upping his game made a good effort to attack the Killough goal. Killough were looking much happier with a vital goal in the lead, and the match certainly became more physical as the minutes crept on.
Celtic were doing everything they could to thwart the steely Killough defenders. One excellent cross from Celtic defender Conor Doherty to Eoin Boyle almost paid dividends.
Stephen Galbraith was making runs at the Killough goal but was getting increasingly frustrated by the Killough defenders. Galbraith took a short corner to McMullan who imporoved his angle and made a terrific shot at the Killough goal but it was just a fraction over the top bar. Then Celtic sub Caolan Boyd missed a header. It looked as though Celtic’s luck had run out on this occasion.
Then Mullan made a brilliant low volley but in what must have been the save of the match, Killough keeper Kelly dived low and blocked what looked like an inevitable goal.
As the minutes ticked by, Killough kept play as much as possible in the Celtic half denying them the opportunity to find that equaliser to get into extra time.
Certainly in the second half, Killough were playing as a solid team, and Freddie O’Connor made his contribution in the defence in Killough claiming a deserved place in the Harry Clarke final.
Celtic Bhoys: Nathan Curran, Shaun Megahey, Conor Doherty, Matthew Carson, Michael Rice, Jordan Curran, Jordan McCoubrey, Richard Kerr, Stephen Galbraith, Sean McMahon, Christopher Mullan. Subs: Eoin Boyle, Caolan Boyd, Sean Cahill, Terence Bell.
Killough FC: Peter Kelly, Freddie O’Connor, Gareth George, Caoimhin Groves, Colm Stranney, Tony McIlhone, Jack McLaughlin, Michael Burns, Ross Armstrong, Ryan McIlhone, Declan Looney. Subs: Jason Clarke, Steven Laverty, Kian Tierney, Conor Kelly, Ben McLaughlin.