Rathfriland Rangers beat Crumlin Star in close match to get to Border Cup semi-final
Border Cup Round 5: Wednesday 24th November 2021
Crumlin Star 0 Crumlin Star 1
Rathfriland Rangers did enough in a tight match against Crumlin Star to get through to the semi-final of the Border Regiment Cup in the match played at Seaview in Belfast writes Jim Masson.
On paper Crumlin Star looked the stronger of the two being an NAFL Premier Division side, 4th on the table having played just 7 league games compared to Rathfriland being 9th in the table having played 5 matches. However, this was a cup quarter final confrontation and pride and a possible place in the final were at stake. On goals away too, Rathfriland were showing the weaker with 9 compared to Crumlin Star’s’s 3.
Killyleagh YM are also nudging their way towards the Border Cup final but have to play Derriaghy CC at Seaview on Wednesday 1st December. Could we see a Rathfriland-Killyleagh final, with two teams tunnel-visioned into winning the silver at Christmas time?
It was Crumlin who tried to put their stamp on the match early on pushing for an early goal. A Crumlin move saw McBurney pass to Doyle and the ball going through to McKervey for a half volley, their first shot on target.
Graham was figuring in attacks on the right for Rathfriland and gradually they started to work their way into the game after the nervy opening minutes with an attack from Fitzpatrick which was well held by the Crumlin keeper.
Then Graham made a low cross to Neale moving into the goal area finding space but it was a yard too far and could have been the opening goal.
As contact became more physical, Rathfriland’s Hayes was yellow carded. Both teams were basically in attack mode with play reaching up and a down the pitch at a fast rate. Rathfriland midfielder Fitzpatrick then won possession after Kilmartin had been bundled off the ball and made a 40-yard volley on target but the steady hands of Smyth held the ball well.
Again Graham made a low hard cross to the centre near the Crumlin goal with Neale waiting to knock in, but it was just deflected by a defender. Then Hayes on 15 minutes had an opportunity to score from a free outside the Crumlin box, but it went just over the bar.
It was Rathfriland who were making more constructive attacks and enjoying shots on target but Crumlin were constantly attacking, trying to grind the Rathfriland defence down. McKervey made a good run and passed to Fearon who lashed a shot at the Rathfriland goal but it rose over the bar.
The game swung round to a period of Crumlin putting pressure on Rathfriland and Kilmartin almost headed in but the ball was a fraction too high for him. But despite a Crumlin offensive, Rathfriland held out.
Rathfriland were using their wings well, making useful crosses and keeping play open. Neale found an opportunity and made a strong run at the Crumlin goal and volleyed and it took an equally good save from keeper Smyth to keep the ball out of the net.
Again Smyth having a busy time in goals, was tested minutes later when Graham crossed to the head of Neale who headed on target but Smyth was there to deny the goal. This was certainly the clearest and best goal chance yet for Rathfriland and the match sped on to half-time with both teams looking for that crucial advantage of a goal before the break.
Rathfriland had another opportunity when Kilmartin crossed to Newell who under pressure rushed the shot and it flew over the bar. Rathfriland were again looking more dominant and the more likely to score. So far the game had been very quick paced. Increasingly Crumlin were finding the attacks hard to handle.
In one flurry, Hayes went up for a header at goal and again was unlucky not to score, then Neale shot at goal at an angle near the back line and was just wide of the far post.
Newell netted the ball in a break through the middle but the linesman had his flag up for offside. Then followed an attack from Campbell to Fitzpatrick and Holloway who made a terrific volley from the back of the Crumlin box, the ball just inches wide of the post.
Rathfriland had several opportunities to score from shots at the Crumlin goal but they were just off target or held by the goal keeper who was having an impressive game facing the Rathfriland forwards.
In the second half, Rathfriland again kept up the pressure but ever-watchful of a Crumlin break. Graham made a pass to Neale who shot well on target but keeper Smyth was forced to made a diving save to finger-tip the ball to safety.
Then on 65 minutes Fitzpatrick weaved his way past a few defenders into the Crumlin D area and shot but again Smyth was proving to be a brick wall in front of the Crumlin goal.
But not to be outdone, it was Crumlin who broke and McKervey put the ball into the Rathfriland goal area from a free kick and there were three attempts to score they had to settle for a corner which was cleared. Crumlin started to push Rathfriland back into their own half more gradually.
There was one scare for Rathfriland as Crumlin’s Fearon raced past backfooting the defenders to get the ball with Rathfriland keeper McMullan also moving at pace towards it. McMullan was forced to make a poor clearance and was lucky not to go a goal down.
Just when everyone was thinking this close match could head into extra-time on a cold night, and even penalties, deliverance came from Ruairi Fitzpatrick in the 37th minute. Rathfriland’s Newell crossed to Graham who volleyed at the Crumlin goal but a defender gave away a free kick just outside the box. Fitzpatrick stepped up to the mark and shot over the heads of the defenders dipping the ball into the Crumlin net giving keeper Smyth no chance.
This goal was the edge that Rathfriland had sought despite the determined attacks from Crumlin who as yet could not convert. Crumlin fought back looking for the equaliser but the Rathfriland defenders were playing well and withheld the forthcoming challenges.
Crumlin made frenetic attempts to level the match in the dying minutes but it was a confident Rathfriland who squeezed through to the semi-final.
On the night, Rathfriland shone that bit brighter that Crumlin Star, but it was never-the-less a close fought match with some missed opportunities on both sides.
Rathfriland Rangers: 1 Brian McMullan (GK), 2 Daniel Devlin, 3 Robert Graham, 7 Ruairi Fitzpatrick, 8 Andrew Kilmartin (C), 9 Brian Newell, 10 Adam Neale, 11 Matthew Holloway, 12 Jordan Hayes, 14 Harry Campbell, 17 Brian Johnston. Substitutions: 5 Johneen Black, 6 Rhys Kelly, 16 Sam McAllister.
Crumlin Star: 1 Dean Smyth (GK) 2 Brendan O’Neill, 3 Aidam McNeill, 4 Paul Prigent, 5 Mark Lyons, 6 Joseph McNeil, 7 Samuel McBurney, 8 Kevin Trainor, 9 David Fearon, 10 James Doyle, 11 Barry McKervey (C). Subs: 12, Ciaran Murphy, 14 Patrick McIlkenny, 16 Stephen Smyth.
(Copyright Jim Masson/Down News.)