Downpatrick breeze past Foundry into Clarence Cup semi-finals
It may be a tall order, but Downpatrick have kept their ambitious bid for a league and cup double alive with a comprehensive 3-0 away win over fellow Premier Division challengers Albert Foundry in the quarter-final of the Clarence Cup.
Last year’s Division 1A champions are 20 points behind the current leaders Shankill United with nine games in hand, although with other teams between the pair much better placed for a title charge, there is no question this competition is their best chance for silverware this season.
However, if this performance was anything to go by, and if Downpatrick can keep their players fighting fit as they plough their way through a gruelling fixture backlog, perhaps there is a glimmer of hope that a remarkable double can still be achieved.
Victorious joint manager Joe McMahon has vowed his players will continue to chase that dream while it remains a mathematical possibility.
He said: “Teams just don’t turn up here and win 3-0. Albert Foundry are a top side, which they showed by reaching the final of the Steel & Sons Cup this season, so we aren’t taking this lightly.
“The league is a massive ask for us now, but all we can do is ask the players to keep putting in performances like that today. If you can win 3-0 at Foundry, then I guess anything’s possible.”
Albert Foundry began the game in a positive fashion, with Ian West grazing the crossbar with a cross just two minutes in, before Stuart Martin sent through Paul Young for a one-one-one with keeper Michael McKenna, only for the striker’s delayed shot to be saved with ease.
It may only have been the early stages, but these missed opportunities were rued by the home side when their opponents took a 15th minute lead; Barry Treacy delivering a high ball into the area, and when neither goalkeeper nor defence could clear, Peter Telford found the ball at his feet, and made no mistake from a couple of yards out.
That sense of regret increased when Downpatrick doubled their advantage in the 23rd minute, as Philly Traynor played a clever pass ahead of Aaron McGarry, who peeled behind the defensive line before knocking it under Stephen Cairnduff.
Foundry did their best to hit back, but Young’s cross was just above Martin who couldn’t get a head to it at full stretch.
Instead, it was Downpatrick celebrating again as they struck a third in the 35th minute. Telford headed the ball into the box, and this time it was Stephen Galbraith in the right place at the right time, as he slid the ball into the net.
Downpatrick kept piling on the pressure, and although Conor Corry put in an excellent sliding challenge on Traynor at the edge of the box, the ball trickled into the path of Treacy, whose powerful shot was well saved by Cairnduff.
The away side had the ball in the net once again on 40 minutes, but referee Davy McCartney ruled that Galbraith had handled the ball from Treacy’s cross before tapping it in.
Foundry were unable to reduce the deficit before the break, as Martin’s header was straight at McKenna, and a 30-yard drive from Daryl McAlinden whizzed just outside the left post.
Another long distance effort from the Foundry full-back was saved on the other side of half time, while an Aaron Harris header was just prevented from crossing the goal-line.
Chances were few and far between during most of a turgid second half, and with sleet and hail not helping matters, the game fizzled out to its conclusion.
There were some glimpses of life in the closing 10 minutes, however.
Telford showed his defensive qualities, as he tracked back to cut out Marcus Beattie at the crucial moment, Darren McCombe went down in the box under a Treacy challenge, but no penalty was given, and McCombe struck the side-netting from close range.
Clear-cut opportunities were then squandered at both sides; Downpatrick sub Ricky Kerr somehow screwing wide from Eoin Boyle’s pass across the face of goal (only to be ruled offside, in any case), and Martin miscuing a half-volley from a similar distance.
But it had just been that kind of day for Foundry, as their manager Colin McIlwaine later conceded.
“How can I expect my team to play the kind of football I want them to play in conditions like these,” he asked.
“We gave away three soft goals though, and they showed the determination to win – they are a good side, so credit to them.
“The rest of this season is just about getting as many points on the board as we can, but it will be tough, with all the games left to play.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Philly Traynor (Downpatrick). The catalyst for a great team performance.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The pass that Philly Traynor put through to Aaron McGarry, and McGarry’s cool finish to put Downpatrick two-up.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Stephen Cairnduff’s stop from Treacy’s rasping effort on the stroke of half-time.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Ricky Kerr’s miss late on was a bad one – but his blushes were spared by the referee, who called offside.
Stephen Cairnduff: Showed some glimpses of quality on a tough day. 6
Ian West: Looked at his most effective when going forward. 6
Daryl McAlinden: Timed challenges well, and had a few chances. 7
John Burns: Not his finest performance. 5
Conor Corry: Found Downpatrick attack a handful in the first half. 5
Paul Acheson: Strung a few decent passes together. 6
Darren McCombe: Unfortunate not to score. 7
Aaron Harris: Had a quiet game. 5
Paul Young: Got into some promising positions. 7
Paul McCord: Found it tough to get a foothold. 6
Stuart Martin: Good work-rate throughout. 7
Bill Maxwell: On for McAlinden, 65
Lewis Dean: On for Young, 72
Marcus Beattie: On for McCord, 58
Michael McKenna: Can be pleased with his clean sheet. 8
Barry Fitzsimons: Good tracking back, energetic. 8
Christian Holland: Kept a good defensive line. 7
Niall Walsh: Unwavering under pressure. 8
Blane Connolly: A steady showing. 7
Jamie Sharvin: Always quick to spot an opportunity. 8
Barry Treacy: Involved in plenty of attacking moves. 8
Peter Telford: Made his presence felt. 8
Stephen Galbraith: Gave Foundry plenty to do. 8
Philly Traynor: A brilliant blend of hard work and skill. 8
Aaron McGarry: Great control of the ball and deserved his goal. 8
Eoin Boyle: On for Holland, 60
Adrian McCoubrey: On for Sharvin, 80
Ricky Kerr: On for Traynor, 72