An 89 minutes strike secured Crumlin United derby delight and issued cruel defeat on Bangor Celtic on Wednesday night.
Bangor had competed with their hosts in a game that was more fight and flair throughout, even enjoyed dominant spells and at the very least deserved a point from a game that was low in real quality but entertainingly high in intensity.
However, just when it looked like a game, that is possibly best summed up by the fact dropped balls were contested vigorously rather the ball be punted back to the team in possession prior to the stoppage, would end up honours even Crumlin’s late pressure told and they secured an opening day three points.
Alan Barrett was the unlikely hero, the former Tolka midfielder, who was manning a right in the blue of Crumlin, pounced when a free kick that had deflected off the wall into the area fell into his path he fired through the bodies to decide the game in the home sides favour.
Crumlin started with great intensity and vigour and looked to have real pace and purpose about them in the opening minutes. They didn’t create anything clear cut but they were forcing Bangor to work overtime without the ball.
At that stage it looked as if they could go on and dominate once they found some real rhythm and the passes began to stick. However, Bangor began to grow into the tie and started to look a lot more comfortable as things settled.
They played two up top, but never looked out numbered in the middle of the park which is probably testament to the performance of Lar Dunne and Mitch O’Connor, while at the back they looked well drilled and composed.
Jake Donnelly did mange a shot on target after one of a number of feisty tackles lead to a free kick in a dangerous area, but Stephen Conlan managed to to tip it onto the bar.
However, Bangor had the better chances before the break. Only a timely David Vickery intervention prevented the visitors converting a break away move from the resulting corner, while a minute later Mikey Quinn got down low to his right to tip away a Lar Dunne effort after the midfielder had been played in by Graham Zambra.
Zambra then headed straight at Quinn from six yards after a long throw caused trouble in the Crumlin area before Micheal Fox drove straight down the keepers throat after his drive at goal.
Crumlin cut a frustrated bunch going into the break and they again started with some vigour, but again it was defences that were standing out with the likes of Gary Murphy and Mark Keeley impressing at opposite ends of the pitch.
When Conor Murphy sent in a cross that was begging for the slightest of touches it looked like Crumlin were about to take control. However, they lacked real cohesion and some of their star men were trying to take on too much responsibility when it looked like the simple ball was the better option.
There was plenty of huff and puff and Martin Loughran will take solace in the desire, effort and urgency his side showed, but every time they looked like getting on top Lar Dunne would lead by example and give his side a morale boost.
When the pressure began to mount ‘Mr Bangor’ would lead by example be it in the tackle, with a driving run or chasing down a lost cause and his efforts really played a part in stopping Crumlin from taking charge.
As the half wore on Crumlin although not too fluid were starting to create chances not long after Craig Walsh fired over the bar Jake Donnelly was pinging the post.
The front man benefited from a nice once touch move that included Ger Rowe, Walsh and Murphy before volleying onto the up right. The hosts upped the pressure and pushed for a winner, but Bangor particularly through Ro Byrne remained a threat on the counter, while the fact the brought on Sean Traynor to replace Mitch O’Connor in centre of the park showed their line had winning aspirations.
However, just when it looked like the derby would end in a stalemate Noel Murray won a free kick just outside the area. With Donnelly on the pitch any free kick is a real chance, but the striker hit the wall. The ball, however ping ponged it’s way around the area before eventually falling to Barrett who fired home sparking wild celebrations.
Bangor did have two late chances from corners but Micheal Fox lifted over from six yards while keeper Conlan powered a header over the bar with the last action of the game.