LSL Senior Sunday
It was a night of firsts from Drumcondra and Jordan Cromwell in particular.
The striker scored Drums first goal of the season, his first ever at Intermediate level to secure the Senior Sunday sides first win of the season.
However, the win owes a lot to a sensational 90 minute goal line clearance from Aaron Byrne as he denied Portmarnock what looked certain to be a late equaliser.
Indeed, high octane Porto will feel they deserved something out of the game, but while their high energy approach inspired periods of dominance it made them frantic in their finishing and they may have paid the price for a lack of composure in front of goal.
Drumcondra started well with Stephen Cantwell looking dangerous from a wide left berth and Luke Griffin showing some nice touches in midfield.
However, the visitors, who Joe O’Riordan was biting well for around the park, had the first real chance. Christopher Burdges looked to profit from a bizarre back pass, but under pressure couldn’t get enough purchase on his strike to trouble Shane Finnegan.
In a game that was played at an entertaining pace throughout Liam Hudson and Tiagh Keogh then combined brilliantly to tee up Griffin, but his effort flew wide before Cantwell cut in side to test Brian Kane.
Porto then took control and enjoyed a period of dominance. They were not afraid to look for their front two early and both looked a threat in behind. A get numbers forward tactic also saw them benefit from second balls, but a number of off sides prevented them from getting as many chances as their spell of pressure deserved.
Graham Rusk did have two efforts from distance routinely saved, while Conor Fowler saw a free kick follow a similar fashion. Former Tolka engine O’Riordan also had a chance, but after playing it down the line and brilliantly bursting through the inside right channel to collect a return pass he dragged his effort from 17 yards wide.
Drums eventually got to grips with the pace of the tie and got their foot on the ball again, but teen Sean Kennedy excelled in that period for the visitors. The unassuming young midfielder’s positional sense and tackling prevented the hosts from really getting a platform in the bottom three and it seemed as if he was one of the key reasons Porto didn’t look out numbered in the centre of the park despite a 4-4-2 set up leaving them a man light in the engine room.
Cromwell did well to hold off his man turn and shoot during that time, but his effort went the wrong side of the post and Nial Kenny did head over come corner time before the half.
The home side, who had lost their opening two, started the second half like they did the first with Kelly showing some nice touches down the right.
After a period of possession they took the lead on 57 minutes. Cantwell prevented the ball from going out for a goal kick and forced the newly promoted side to take a throw in deep in their own half.
Connor Rusk pressed, won the ball and set off for goal, his run was halted but the ball fell for Cromwell just outside the area. The former St Kevin’s striker took a touch before expertly stunting the ball into the bottom left hand corner. His Marco Tardelli style celebrations showed what the goal meant to him and a club desperate for their first win of the season.
Portmarnock’s response was beyond admirable and they certainly look a side with fight. Spectacular goal expert Ray Whelehan fired over from range second later before Burges, who looks central to their attack headed wide from 10 yards soon after.
Drums did drop off a little, but were unable to get their foot on the ball for large periods as Porto went at them.
A brilliant body on the line block from Bobby O’Reilly denied Bruges five minutes later after good work down the left from Barry Caulfield before more offside flags left the away side frustrated.
It was blood and guts from both sides at this stage, but the visitors looked the more likely, but a lack of composure in the final third and some good home defending prevented them from getting back into the tie.
Bruges did have a great chance when a knock down from a Fowler cross diagonal landed in his path, but he seemed to get caught between smashing a volley home or just looping it over the keeper and in the end did neither with 10 minutes to go.
In the final 10 minutes Drums showed better game management and kept the ball better, but Porto looked like they had secured an equaliser right at the death.
Finnegan came out of his area to clear but sliced his effort out, a quick throw saw him reach for the ball while scrambling back, but it dropped to Burges.
The striker riffled a volley goal wards and it looked destined to rattle the bet but the rushing back Byrne somehow managed to get a combination of his knee and gut to the strike and clear the ball for a corner.
A sub then forced a good save from Finnegan seconds later before Drums saw out injury time in the corners to register a win they seemed desperate to get.