Leinster Senior Cup
By Jonny Stapleton
The painful howls of the bookies could be heard over the joyous screams of Swords Celtic fans, as their aptly name side sleighed another giant in dramatic fashion last night.
Celtic, who were backed in from 7-1 to 2-1 in some unfortunate bookmakers, twice came from behind putting ten man Bangor to the Sword with a goal in the dying minutes.
Drogheda United’s FAI Cup final goalscoring hero Gavin Whelan was at it again as he headed home the winner to spark wild celebrations amongst the visiting support and those who had punted on the Northside outfit.
Celtic might sit three rungs down from Bangor on the LSL ladder, but the Iveagh grounds will not become the new Lourdes. This was a shock but the Crumlin venue didn’t play host to a miracle last night.
Swords have produced cup upsets previously having defeated Senior Sunday outfit Wayside Celtic in the previous round of the contest, they also boast a squad sprinkled with former League of Ireland talent and indeed a host of players that watching Crumlin United boss Martin Loughran would consider putting into his high flying team.
However, they did find themselves trailing after a frantic start. Pocket Rocket Eoin Lanigan shot down the right wing, his cross along the deck was missed by everyone except David Freeman at the back post. Whilst the visiting rearguard screamed for offside the man who took the captains arm band of the influential but absent Lar Dunne rolled home to give the Senior Sunday side the lead after just 10 minutes.
The bookie slips were quickly picked up of the deck and un-crumpled, as Swords restored parity with immediate effect. Stephen Conway, who gave the footballing side a go big option, won a free which Andrew Timmons lined up. The visiting management were upset the wall wasn’t ten yards away, but a ten out of ten free kick soon turned discontent into joy. Timmons curved effort was more beautiful than any curves posed by Beyonce and nestled in the top right hand corner.
All square again the sides began to duke it out. It soon became apparent the visitors, despite playing Sunday 1B were capable of holding their own at the higher level. Granted Bangor were one or two short, but by all accounts so were Swords.
The moved the ball well, Jordan Nolan is the closest thing you’ll get to Ryan Giggs, not the hamstring hampered footballing Giggs of today, but the 19 year old go at them version. Whelan keeps them ticking over and Conway looks a treat up front. However, it was Barry Caulfield that was their leading light, as the front wide man works harder than ‘Dirt’ Dirk Kuyt, but just hasn’t got a bullish work rate in his armoury he can play ball too. His corners, front running and rugby physic were causing the host problems.
However, despite having less of the ball Bangor had the better chances to take a lead into the break. They looked dangerous on the break and put for some last ditch Dean Reilly interceptions could have found the net.
After the break Bangor seemed more composed and began to move the ball with a bit a purpose. They nearly reaped instant reward as Freeman slipped in Lanigan, the striker lifted the ball over the keeper but Reilly scampered back to clear off the line.
The home side looked to have transformed from nervous favourites to an outfit content to bully a side who reside well below them in the LSL hierarchy. However, just when they began to take the ascendancy Wesley Doyle saw red. The midfielder charged into the box after a lovely home move, hit the ground, screamed penalty, but got a second yellow as the referee deemed he dived and exited stage left.
Their was instant rubbing of the hands with glee from the visiting support as they sensed another upset, but it wasn’t long before said hands were the home for buried heads.
Lanigan produced a wonder strike to give the team with a man disadvantage a goal advantage. The former Moyle Park striker controlled a long ball, turned, let fly from 25 yards and looped the ball over the despairing keepers head.
With 25 minutes remaining Swords didn’t panic, there was time for an equaliser, however, after 15 minutes of domination and half chances an edge grew into their play and the game in general.
On came former Norwich, Spurs and Cork City player Neill Fenn, but when their talisman fluffed his lines after another bullish Caulfield run there was a sense that this was going to prove a step too far.
No one told Caulfield, however, forget Live To Die Another Day this action hero is of the Never Say Die kind and he kept working. His hard work lead to a corner, which he drilled near post, Jason Smith reacted first and flicked the ball across the keeper and into the far left hand corner. 2-2 and time for a third.
That third seemed to go the way of Bangor when Lanigan crept in around the back post to head home a free he had won, but the off side flag prevented it from counting.
Sword’s spirits were lifted further and they piled forward. Caulfield stung the keepers fingers with an effort from range and Niall Hudson whipped in crosses more inviting than a steak meal to a hunger striker, but to no goal avail.
However with just two minutes remaining the right back wrapped his foot around the ball and sent toward the penalty spot, it just inched over the head of Fenn, but Whelan dove at it and headed into the bottom right hand corner. Cue wild celebrations and a lot of docket checking.
Man of the Match: Barry Caulfield – Not the star name on show but was the star performer on the night. While the Swords team tried to slice their way through Bangor, he bludgeoned his way through.