Newington's McCarthy ends 11-year reign with win over Coagh
Newington YC 3 Coagh United 1
Only minutes after Glentoran got their hands on the Marie Curie Irish Cup for the 22nd time, the man who masterminded their most famous downfall in the competition bid an emotional farewell to the club that have given him so many happy memories.
Newington YC’s Eamonn McCarthy, who on Saturday stepped down after 11 years managing the club’s first team due to work commitments, fondly regards their shock 1-0 fifth round win at the Oval in 2012 as his, and the club’s, finest hour.
But that in itself is no mean feat, when placed along with getting the club promoted from the Amateur League into the Belfast Telegraph Championship two years ago, five Amateur Premier Division titles in eight years, including three-in-a-row between 2009 and 2011, and a Border Cup.
After giving one final post-match speech to his players in the Seaview dressing room and collecting a gift from them of two canvasses of the Newington teams he has managed, he remarked: “This is a very special club. They don’t have a lot of resources, and haven’t had a home they can call their own for a long time, since they lost their old home at Muckamore, but they have a lot of pride.
“We have had some great players down the years, some who have progressed, like Darren Murray who was playing in the Irish Cup final today, and others, like ‘Skin’ Lyttle and Neil Quinn, the type of player who I never thought I would get to be associated with. I’d also like to pay special tribute to my captain Sean Adams, who signed for me back in 2005, and who has been a great leader for me.
“I’m delighted to be leaving them in a strong position – our under-age teams are playing very well, and our seconds won another trophy last night, so the future looks bright. It’s now just about rebuilding to get some youth through.”
Taking one last opportunity to relive that momentous upset of three years ago, McCarthy added: “It’s fitting that Glentoran won the Irish Cup today… it’s a reminder of the gap in class, calibre and standing of the two clubs, and what we achieved that day. You have a lot of highs in life, but having my wife, my father and my two daughters at the game… you couldn’t get a bigger buzz.”
The stakes, and drama, in McCarthy’s final game in charge were infinitely less in comparison. However, thanks to the eventual outcome and Moyola Park’s 3-3 draw with Glebe Rangers, Newington moved up to finish a commendable fifth in the Championship Two table.
Joe Finlay, somewhat against the run of play, sent the North Belfast men on their way with his 28th minute opener. It was hard to say whether he had intended a cross or a shot from close to the by-line, but either way, it was a superb finish from a tight angle.
The goal appeared to awaken the home side, and they came close to doubling their lead twice before the break. The first came on 44 minutes, a thundering Patrick Pierce free kick from 20 yards out, which William Hasson did well to tip over. Then, from Tony O’Hanlon’s resultant corner, Peter Gilgunn crashed a header off the bar.
Coagh looked to have a goal in them, and as the game progressed, Stuart Forrest, Ryan Smith, and Mark Taylor had efforts saved.
Yet it was Newington who stretched their lead in the 81st minute, with O’Hanlon gratefully accepting a clever through-ball from Gilgunn to slide past Hasson and seemingly seal the three points.
The visitors had other ideas, and from the restart, in an almost mirror-image of what had just gone before, Reece McWhirter rolled the ball forward to Smith, who slotted in with ease.
Eager to send their departing gaffer out on a high, Newington pressed on, and in the 86th minute, Gilgunn sent a weighted ball forward to Ronan Brannigan, who was left to lob the ball into the net to make completely sure of the victory.
For stand-in manager Graeme McKenzie, the final whistle represented a chance to reflect on a demanding job well done in an extremely limited timescale.
The 26-year-old said: “I took charge for the last four games, and it was difficult. I knew the situation we were in, and embraced the challenge.
“We needed four wins from four games, and we did well to get them. I thought we took the game well to Newington today, and I was proud of how we went about it.
“As far as I know, that was my last game in charge today. We’ll just have to wait and see what the committee says, but Coagh are a big club, and I have really enjoyed the experience, so if I was offered the job, I would definitely consider it.”
So, as one managerial story draws to a close, another one may just be about to begin.
And if McKenzie has anywhere near the journey and success McCarthy has enjoyed over the past decade, he’ll have a story or two to tell some day.
Dean Smith: Looked in control of his goal. 7
Patrick Pierce: Didn’t put a foot wrong. 8
Dee Manning: A solid shift. 7
Jim McMenamin: Strong and assured. 8
Sean Adams: Commanded the back line. 8
Kevin O’Neill: Kept things ticking along in midfield. 8
Tony O’Hanlon: A positive attacking display. 7
Peter Gilgunn: Had a big say in this game. 8
Gary Rafferty: Didn’t have a huge impact. 6
Joe Finlay: Netted a memorable goal. 8
Ronan Brannigan: Lively and alert. 7
Kyle Reid: On for Finlay, 65
Sean Magowan: On for O’Neill, 65
Stephen Brennan: Not used
William Hassan: Gave a good account of himself. 7
Jason Ferry: Worked hard to make up ground. 8
James Ferguson: A decent effort. 7
Scott McGeown: Tidied up with little fuss. 7
Sean Henaghan: Did the simple things well. 7
Ryan Smith: Took his goal impressively. 8
Matthew Kempton: A relatively quiet game. 6
Stuart Forrest: Showed some good footwork. 7
Reece McWhirter: Fine service to the attack. 7
Jonathan Young: Could have tested keeper more. 6
Mark Taylor: Kept plugging away. 7
Ryan Stinson: On for Kempton, 57
Graham McKenzie: Not used
Gareth McGuire: Not used
MAN OF THE MATCH: Peter Gilgunn (Newington YC). Two superb assists and only denied a goal by the bar.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Joe Finlay’s opening goal from a tight angle certainly was one to catch the eye.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: William Hasson’s finger-tip save from Patrick Pierce’s free kick on the stroke of half time.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: There were few mistakes, though Newington may be annoyed at conceding just after scoring.