O'Riordan's sweet strike the icing on the cake as Immaculata knock out Lower Maze
Colm O’Riordan scored a stunning scissor-kick fit to grace an Irish Cup final to help Immaculata overcome a gutsy Lower Maze side in the competition’s third round on Saturday.
The influential central midfielder delivered the super strike well into the second half, just as their Mid Ulster opponents were beginning to sense there may be a way back into the game at 2-1 down.
And O’Riordan’s manager Kevin Lawlor revealed another reason why his timing – as well as his finishing – could not have been any better.
“We were getting ready to take him off,” admitted the Mac boss. “He was carrying a calf injury, and if that’s what he can do when he’s injured… well, it speaks for itself. Collie is an outstanding player… that was one of the best goals I’ve ever seen here, the build-up was great and that finish was the icing on the cake.
“John Boyce (Immaculata striker) was getting married today, so we were missing half our team today, but I felt the boys out there for us did a great job.
“Ever since we have been getting into the Irish Cup, I have said it is a big deal to us. You can see that by the way we have made the fifth round in the last two years, and I think, depending on the draws, we can do some damage again this season. ”
Make no mistake, though, this was not all plain sailing for the Grosvenor Road side, and Lower Maze – who are second from bottom in Intermediate A - deserve a great deal of credit for the manner in which they approached this game.
They enjoyed a good spell of early attacking possession, and even had the ball in the net in the second minute, courtesy of Samuel Davidson, who had been put through cleverly by Andrew Crooks, but referee Stuart McFarland blew for an offside.
After Stuart Stevenson blasted over the bar with another opportunity, Lower Maze also showed an early indication of strength in defence, when Derek Wiggam produced a great sliding tackle to deny Padraig Adams.
Immaculata now looked dangerous in the final third, and it took an outstretched boot from Martin McDonald to guide Daniel Largey’s effort from a squared Colm Carson free kick out of play, while Adrian Oliver’s header from a Carson corner struck the underside of the bar, but was deemed not to have crossed the line.
Lower Maze’s hastiness in attack was caught out again in the 26th minute, when Samuel Davidson was marginally early in his forward charge from a purposeful Peter Smyth header, and play was called back for offside.
However, the visitors’ frustration was short-lived. Only a few short seconds later, Samuel Davidson was turning past Largey to give himself plenty of time to pick his spot in the bottom right corner of the net.
Unfortunately for Lower Maze, their joy at scoring was equally temporary, as Immaculata proceeded to equalise at the opposite end, immediately from the restart. Adams collected from Tony Heagney before bending a superb finish from the edge of the area inside the right post.
Looking to build on the momentum they now had, Immaculata’s O’Riordan beat the offside trap from a Largey long-ball, only to hammer it wide from a tight better. He should probably have done better, and of course later in the game, went on to do so.
But for now Lower Maze had their goalkeeper Michael Thompson to thank for keeping the scores level after pulling of two 42nd minute saves, firstly a Heagney effort from the corner of the box, then from Oliver at much closer range.
The away side had clearly hoped that would be that, regarding the first half action, but a minute before half-time, Thompson parried a shot from Marvin Brahoua into the path of the predatorial Adams, who made no mistake from a couple of yards out.
The bad news kept coming for Lower Maze, as their captain John Banks hobbled off the pitch due to an ankle injury he had tried to run off just before Immaculata had gone in front.
The opening spell of the second half saw Samuel Davidson go down in the box under a Largey challenge, with no penalty given, and Carson go down under a Wiggam challenge, with the ref pointing straight to the spot.
The travelling supporters, who had been aggrieved not to see a decision in their favour at the other end, were relieved to see Adams miss out on a hat-trick as he knocked the 57th minute penalty over the bar.
Lower Maze had a golden opportunity to draw level once more in the 64th minute, as Smyth sent Samuel Davidson for a one-on-one with the keeper, but opted to go for his near-side and poked wide.
Now the Mac set about punishing their opponents’ missed opportunities, and in some style. Firstly, with O’Riordan’s acrobatic finish from just inside the box in the 76th minute, thanks, initially, to a well-delivered high-ball from Carson.
And while Lower Maze were more clinical from the penalty they were awarded after Largey fouled Samuel Davidson in the box, with the latter striking straight down the middle from the spot-kick, it was Immaculata who had the final say.
Carson, an instrumental figure in this game, got a goal of his own in the 86th minute, delivering a tremendous thumper from near the corner of the box, beyond the reaches of the helpless Thompson.
Lower Maze’s Darren Neill - standing in for his father and regular first team manager Tom, absent due to work commitments – later reflected that his young side (which had four 16-year-olds in the first XI) could well have got more out of the game.
“The boys in the changing room will be disappointed,” he said. “I felt the game was maybe there for the taking for us today, We had a game plan and went 1-0 in front, but we let them back in too easily, and our legs went in the end. Credit to Immaculata.
“We are still in a few cups , and obviously we are looking to pull ourselves up the league. The spirit and the attitude among the boys is great, and it is all looking good for the future.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Colm Carson. A potent attacking display and hardly put a foot wrong.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Goals don’t come much better than Colm O’Riordan’s 76th minute scissor-kick. Yet more incredible was the fact that he carried it off while injured.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Michael Thompson’s two saves in quick succession before half time were not only impressive, but came at a crucial time. The only disappointment for him was that the teams weren’t level by the break.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Padraig Adams will no doubt kick himself for passing up on a hat-trick from the penalty spot.
Gerard Devine: Can be satisfied with a decent day’s work. 7
James Haughey: Put in a fair shift. 7
Colm Carson: Outstanding delivery and scored a peach of a goal. 9
Billy McGovern: Held his own. 7
Daniel Largey: Most prominent defensive display, though conceded a penalty. 7
Colm O’Riordan: Linked up the play well, and his goal stole the show. 8
Tony Heagney: Led by example. 7
Marvin Brahoua: Attacked with purpose. 7
Nikki Beta: Energetic and relentless. 7
Padraig Adams: Two goals, and could have been more. 8
Adrian Oliver: Wasted very little in a productive afternoon. 8
Ryan Rooney: Not used
Christopher Lawlor: On for Brahoua, 60
Sean McGovern: On for O’Riordan, 76
Joe McClenaghan: On for Heagney, 60
Joe Donnegan: Not used
Michael Thompson: Did well to keep the scoreline down. 6
Jack Snoddy: Didn’t look overawed. 7
Darren Marshall: Gave it everything. 7
Mitchell Bowman: A disciplined outing. 7
Derek Wiggam: Experience helped those around him. A major presence. 8
Martin McDonald: No let-up in his pressing. 7
Peter Smyth: Intelligent passing was an asset. 8
John Banks: A physical display, though injury cut game short. 7
Samuel Davidson: Full of confidence, a real handful. 8
Andrew Crooks: Worked hard to win the ball back for his team. 7
Stuart Stevenson: A great engine. 7
Matthew Johnson: On for Crooks, 65
Jordan Davidson: On for Wiggam, 78
David O’Neill: Not used
Owen Bradford: On for Banks, 45
Belfast Telegraph Digital