LSL Senior Sunday
It was as tense, eventful and in the end entertaining as any drama, but this football 90 minute production didn’t produce a happy ending for either title chasing side.
When Karl Russell’s late strike deflected home the Bluebell faithful thought they had done enough to win a tight game and thought they had done enough to claim victory an even tighter title race, but while the players partied pile on style the management team screamed for them to get the ball and to urgently resume playing.
Due to Dennis Moran putting St Mochtas three goals up against Wayside Bluebell United needed two more goals to make it three in a row.
They never looked like getting them and ultimately lost out in the cruelest of fashions. The visitors, who played 70 minutes with a man advantage, did the hard part, winning at Pearse Park, a venue Mochtas suffered one sided defeat at, but were left to rue a missed penalty and a lapse in concentration after scoring. Although, in saying that the title wasn’t won or lost on the last day.
Bluebell started the tie the better. They had more purpose about them and seemed to be winning the 50-50 battles, but created little in the way of clear cut chances.
Tony Griffiths was lively while Gareth Cooney fired a 20 yard volley straight down the throat of Mickey Quinn.
There wasn’t a great deal in terms of quality, understandably so considering what was at stake, but the hundreds of neutrals that turned up were reveling in the tensions and the bite in the tie.
Just as Crumlin seemed to be finding their feet and getting the likes of Conor Murphy and Karl Forsyth into the tie they threatened to throw away any title chances they had before we reached the half way mark of the first half.
Quinn came to punch a long free into the box clear, but the ball spun off his gloves and headed back into the area. On the spot merchant Cooney was waiting to pounce, but before he could head home into an empty net David Vickey produced the kind of pike an Olympic Volleyball player would be proud of and punched clear.
The referee had no choice but to point to the spot and pull out his red card. The usually cool Griffith stepped up to punish the home side further, but blazed over.
There wasn’t too much disappointment post the miss as it seemed as if Bluebell would go on to dominate at that stage.
However, the sides were relatively evenly matched for the remainder of the half. The sending off ensured both sides called for more and made the referee’s job all the more difficult. There were more cards than chances before the turn.
Gary Seery did fire over from range after a well work break away move started by Griffiths when he probably should have past, while Crumlin shot over from range.
Jake Donnelly also called Andy McNulty into action with a snap volley on the turn from 19 yards, while his opposite number, Shane Stritch was on more than one occasion halted by tight offside calls.
With both teams needing to win to have any chance of winning the title the tempo increased in the second half. Stritch continued to look a threat in behind for the visitors and seconds after he raced onto a Tony Keeler ball to force a save from Quinn he headed into the side netting.
Bluebell moved the ball quicker and at last seemed to be trying to use their man advantage. However, as the half wore on it was Crumlin who started to get on top.
Seemingly incensed by a Conor Murphy peno shout that fell on deaf ears, booked James Lee started to excel in the middle of the park and the hosts benefited greatly.
They began to look extremely dangerous on the break and with Gary Murphy and Noel Murray solid at the back, break chances seemed to come often.
Conor Murphy had two good chances to open the lead around the hour mark. The former Middlesbrough trainee first produced a brilliant one handed save from Andy McNulty when he headed goal ward from 7 yards out following a floated in free kick.
Murphy then fired just wide of the post after Donnelly scooped brilliantly into his path. McNulty then had to save from Donnelly, but was obviously carrying a knock. Indeed, as he lay injured after punching a cross clear he had to hop on one foot to prevent a cheeky lob attempt finding the net.
A delay for treatment followed and it seemed like it would threaten Crumlin’s rhythm, however, Donnelly tested the keeper from another break away move once the game restarted. The striker cut back on his left foot after being released by Murphy, but couldn’t find passage past the veteran net minder.
With time ticking on it became a case of now or never for Bluebell and they introduced talent from the bench. It seemed to pay dividends as they began to threaten again and not long after Stricth had forced Quinn into saving they took the lead.
Sub Jordan Keegan played a neat one two before volleying across goal, Stricth got in front of his man and managed to divert goalward. However, there wasn’t enough on the effort to test Quinn and Cooney pounced to squeeze home from five yards.
Wild celebrations were soon followed by even louder groans among the ‘Bell support.Within seconds the game was level and Forsyth broke down the right flank and dug out a brilliant cross for Conor Murphy who made no mistake with his header this time.
With seven minutes remaining, Bluebell went all out for a winner and they secured it after some brilliant work by Russell. The right back surged with the ball down the inside right channel, looking more like a winger than a defender. His initial effort was well saved, but after a bit of ping pong his left footed follow up deflected home.
The visitors, unaware of the Mochtas score the visitors thought that was enough and celebrated wildly only for the joy to cut short for a second time.
The away line let it be know more goals were needed. With four minutes to go two goals was a big ask and it was Crumlin who came closest to scoring as Lee fired two efforts from range before hitting the inside of the post after a clever one two.
As it was Bluebell managed to get the win, but a third title wasn’t to be.