Immaculata manager Kevin Lawlor is warning his players to expect the unexpected if they want to continue their Clarence Cup adventure after comprehensively beating Killyleagh YC 5-1 in the third round on Saturday.
The Co Down villagers, one of the clear tournament favourites, were put the sword with a classy display from the hosts, who will now face much lower ranked opposition in St Oliver Plunkett in the fourth round.
However, Lawlor is urging caution as he asks his team to learn from their shock defeat by Division 1C side Mossley in the Border Cup earlier this season.
“The Plunkett game will be a tough one for us, make no mistake about that,” stated the Mac boss. “We were 3-1 up with ten minutes to go against Mossley, and they ended up beating us 5-3 in extra time, so we know not to take anything for granted in football.
“That was another great performance from the boys today, especially against a Premier Division team. I don’t think Killyleagh came here expecting to get beaten five, but then a lot of teams don’t expect what happens when they come here. In fairness, it could have been more.”
Beaten Killyleagh boss Stephen Johnston conceded that his side were beaten by the better team on the day.
Echoing some of the sentiments of his opposite number, he reflected: “I’m unhappy with our performance – we didn’t play anywhere near to our ability, and didn’t deserve anything from the game. I definitely didn’t expect them to put five goals past us.
“The important thing now is to put some points on the board. After fighting relegation last year, we want to push ourselves as high as possible up that table.”
With a mid-table berth, and eleven games to go, there is every chance of a strong finish to the campaign, but they will want to put this defeat well and truly behind them.
Early indications actually were that this was going to be a closely-matched affair, after both teams scored in the opening five minutes. Immaculata were first to hit the net, after just 36 seconds, with Padraig Adams tapping in from a quick-fire James Haughey cross.
A few short minutes later, and a hand-ball on the edge of the Mac penalty area gave Killyleagh a gilt-edged opportunity, and one which was gratefully received by Niall Walsh, who rifled the free kick into the bottom right hand corner.
Immaculata could have regained their lead in the 7th minute, when a Ciaran Murray corner was cleared, but only as far as Jonathan McDonnell, who stuck his boot through the ball to produce a thumping drive which whizzed narrowly past the left post.
They came even closer in the 32nd minute, when Colm O’Riordan put Murray through, but Ian Mannus rushed off his line to block the striker’s effort, and Adams blasted over from the rebound.
Up until this point, Immaculata had looked the dominant force, yet Killyleagh were giving them a tough contest, with little quarter given.
Yet two goals on the cusp of half time changed all that.
The Murray/Adams partnership was in full flow again in the 38th minute, with the latter heading his second goal from the former’s cross. Mannus, to his credit, had the ball in his grasp, but the header was so powerful that it carried him over the line.
The Killyleagh keeper then kept out efforts from Murray and Neil Slane, before an unfortunate mix-up in the away side saw the ball rebound off a Killyleagh defender and into their net.
It could have been worse for Johnston’s men by the break, as O’Riordan was unfortunate to head off the underside of the bar from a throw-in.
Yet it wasn’t long before Immaculata had the game put beyond their opponents’ reach. Indeed, the second half was only eight minutes old when Slane slotted home from close range after a pass from McDonnell.
Killyleagh did their best to remain positive and carved out a couple of rare opportunities in response; Gerard Smith doing well to rob the ball from Ryan Montgomery in the box, and Billy McGovern even better to get his body in the way of a Montgomery shot shortly afterwards.
Murray completed the scoring in the 77th minute, with a simple finish after some neat build-up play between John Boyce and McGovern, but in truth, there could easily have been more goals to follow.
Boyce’s introduction as a 65th minute substitute had given Immaculata’s attacking threat another dimension, and he was unlucky not to add to the overall tally.
He firstly dragged wide of the mark from a Colm O’Riordan back-heel on 86 minutes, then headed straight at the keeper from a Haughey cross. Either side of Mannus, and it would have been a sure-fire goal... yet Killyleagh will have been relieved the final deficit wasn’t greater than it was.
Gerard Smith: Virtually umblemished copy book, could do little about the goal. 8
Billy McGovern: A great example in defence. 8
Michael McVeigh: Nippy, showed a positive attitude throughout. 9
Gerard Valliday: Won most of his aerial challenges. 7
Gary Largey: A steady showing. 7
Colm O’Riordan: Kept things ticking along in midfield. 8
James Haughey: Never once stopped to take a breath. 8
Jonathan McDonnell: Tracked back well: 8
Neil Slane: Really caught the eye with skill and pace. 9
Ciaran Murray: Kept the opposition on their toes. 8
Padraig Adams: Showed a great knack for being in right place at right time. 8
John Boyce: On for Murray, 65
Gary Dorrian: On for Adams, 72
Jackie Dynes: On for Mc Donnell, 72
Ian Mannus: Had a tough afternoon, though made plenty of saves too. 6
Tommy Hughes: Game ended early by injury. 5
Jonny Murray: Outdone for pace on occasion. 5
Niall Walsh: Accuracy from set pieces rewarded with a goal. 7
Gary Murray: Overworked by the opposition. 5
Ryan Montgomery: Drifted in and out of the game. 6
Aaron Gilmartin: Prepared to get stuck in, fully committed. 7
Darren McConnell: Put in a fair shift. 6
Willie McIlroy: Had a reasonably quiet game. 5
Dale Davidson: Passing was superb from both long and short range. 7
Andy Carberry: Not his best day at the office. 5
Johnny Brennan: On for Davidson, 60
Stephen Kennedy: On for Hughes, 22
Jordan Kennedy: On for Gilmartin, 72
MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil Slane (Immaculata). A real standout performance, and a goal to top off a great day for him.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Immaculata’s opening goal from Padraig Adams after just 36 seconds set the tone for their afternoon.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Ian Mannus’ quick-thinking block from Ciaran Murray in the 32 minute.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Killyleagh’s biggest mistake was failing to keep the scores level at half time after a decent first half display.