AUL Division 1 Sunday
Mourne Celtic FC – 1 (Miley, 85)
Lusk United AFC – 1 (Walsh, 70)
It was honours even today in Skerries as local rivals Mourne Celtic and Lusk United played out a hard-fought draw. A game played in perfect conditions, both teams threatened throughout before a pulsating final 20 minutes.
The match had a frantic start, with Mourne striker Kevyn Miley surging through on goal in the opening seconds after a defensive mix-up before being thwarted by a well-timed block from Andre Berg. Then, from the resultant corner, centre-half Billy Nally had a powerful header cleared off the line.
The opening stages saw the Skerries men pour forward in attack, and Robbie Broderick blazed another shot over the bar. Experienced frontman Brian Sheehan tried to relieve the pressure for Lusk with some good hold-up play, and had his team’s first real chance on the 12 minute mark, firing over after a quick counter.
Mourne Celtic had another good chance five minutes later when Miley squared for Aaron Wynne inside the six yard box. The Celtic captain swiveled well, but failed to generate any power in his shot which was gratefully collected by Lusk stopper Wayne Jones.
With the young Skerries side on top, they began to turn the screw and midfield enforcer Jackie Scott – the only player in their starting XI over the age of 22 – flashed a powerful drive across goal. This was followed by midfield partner Martin O’Neill going close with a low shot from the edge of the box after a half-clearance.
Lusk, however, were always dangerous on the counter, and Johnny Walsh had Mourne keeper Barry Turner scrambling with a long range volley.
On the half hour mark, Scott again went close for the Skerries side, curling a shot just wide after some pinball in the Lusk box. Mourne’s chances were then dealt a blow, with Scott having to withdraw with a foot injury.
With Mourne in disarray, Lusk would take control of the game, and Turner had to be alert to tip over a long-range free kick from classy Candystripes captain Jamie Caul. The following corner then saw winger Ciaran Redmond glance a header against the outside of the post.
Now on top, Lusk had a glorious chance when Walsh played Ryan Keegan through on goal, but Turner came out on top, saving well from the industrious right back. Walsh himself would then go close after a clever move from an indirect free kick, but his low shot rolled wide and the two sides went in at the break scoreless.
Mourne began the second half much like the first and almost took the lead in spectacular fashion when, from the halfway line, Aaron Farrell spotted Jones off his line. The right back’s Alonso-esqe effort however cannoned off the crossbar.
Lusk quickly regained control though, and Barry Cooney showed good pace to get through on goal, but sent his shot over. Minutes later Cooney squared a delicious ball across the Celtic six yard box, but no one could get on the end of it. Just after the hour mark Walsh would again threaten the Mourne goal, whizzing a shot over the bar.
The resilient Mourne Celtic side then almost took the lead when substitute Stephen Lawless released Luke McKenna with a sumptuous through ball, but the winger was denied by Jones in the Lusk goal.
Lusk quickly reasserted themselves, and Stephen Hanratty – who was impressive throughout – curled a shot over the bar. Keegan then had a great chance when he burst into the box following another trademark run, but the threat was superbly cut out by Mourne defender Daniel O’Flaherty.
Despite such heroics, Lusk took the lead after 70 minutes. Some magic on the left wing by Hanratty allowed him to send in a low cross that was steered in by the ever-dangerous Walsh for the game’s opening goal.
Mourne Celtic responded brightly to the goal, committing men forward but – some driving runs by O’Neill aside – did not really trouble the Lusk defence which was well-marshalled by Berg and Caul.
With ten minutes remaining, Lusk almost had a second. Walsh sent in a looping cross which Hanratty caught on the volley. While the technique was perfect, Turner pulled off an amazing close range save.
Five minutes later Lusk would be made to rue this miss when Miley showed some intricate footwork on the edge of the box and, after receiving contact, went to ground, giving the referee little choice but to point to the spot. The striker then stood up to take the spot kick himself, casually sending the keeper the wrong way and levelling the scores.
With both teams looking for a winner, Lusk went close in the dying stages with substitute Colin Ridgeway volleying over just before the final whistle.
A point apiece, Mourne Celtic will be the more satisfied side, and will be looking to replicate and elongate their strong start in future. Lusk will be frustrated following the late penalty, but they should take heart from how they grew into the game and the attacking oomph shown throughout.