St Patrick's topple Crumlin Star in epic Steel Cup derby battle
Toals Steel & Sons Cup fourth round - St Pat’s YM 4 Crumlin Star 3 (after extra time)
When St Patrick’s YM manager Ciaran Smyth emerged from his side’s Toals Steel and Sons Cup fourth round victory over Crumlin Star on Saturday saying he was mentally drained, it was surely a sentiment that would have been echoed by most who watched, played, and were involved in this eventful north Belfast derby.
It may not always have been pretty, but this cup tie had everything – from passionate support from the sidelines, full-blooded commitment from both teams on the pitch, end-to-end action, a score-line that swung like a pendulum, a penalty scored, another saved, seven goals, five red cards, and in the end, an unexpected cup upset.
There was barely a moment to take a breath in what was a frantic, and at times, hot-headed affair. Even several hours later, Smyth admitted he was still struggling to gather his thoughts.
“That was an out-and-out battle today, and I don’t think it has all sunk in yet,” the St Pat’s boss admitted. “It is, without a doubt, the most mentally draining game I have ever been involved in.
“It’s certainly not a game you gloat about, and I think all the sending offs took away from it. There are a lot of friends and relatives between the two clubs and there is the utmost respect there.
“I thought the fight the Star showed in coming back when we were 3-0 up was immense, and I think either side could have felt unlucky to lose that one.”
The fact that St Pat’s - who have gained just one point from three Division 1A games - were the winning side owed itself partly to the positive start they made. In the sixth minute, Brendan O’Neill broke through the Crumlin back line, but his eventual shot was hit straight at keeper Ciaran McNeill.
Crumlin had their own chances too, but when Francis Murphy lashed over the bar, and an Aidan McNeill effort was tipped past the post by Darren Madden, it acted as a reminder to the hosts of how important the first goal would be.
And sure enough, St Pat’s claimed the opener in the 22nd minute. A clearance from the deep-lying Aidan Mulvenna bounced towards Robert O'Neill, who in turn out-jumped Paul Berne to head past the flat-footed goalkeeper.
One of the game’s pivotal moments arrived a few minutes later. A sliding challenge from Steven Brown on Cormac Brannigan drew a reaction from the latter, and when both players were shown red, there were heated exchanges involving both teams.
When the game restarted, the fast-paced action continued with Jamie Jacobsen knocking the ball over the bar for St Pat’s, and Madden saving from Crumlin’s Paul McLarnon.
Yet again, though, it was St Pat’s who hit the net, and this time they did so both in the 37th and 38th minutes. Their second goal of the game was a well-placed Joe Thompson header from a Jacobsen cross, while their third was a neat top corner finish from the impressive Brendan O’Neill.
Crumlin could well have pulled a goal back with chances either side of the break - a powerful Robert O’Neill strike forcing a superb save from Ciaran Murphy, while the St Pat’s keeper could only parry away a wickedly dipping free kick from Barry McKervey.
The away side were now showing greater purpose, and when Ciaran Murphy was sent off after he was deemed to have gone down in the box without sufficient contact, it appeared only a matter of time before they would make the extra man advantage pay.
That proved to be the case as McKervey tucked away a 68th minute penalty awarded for an alleged Sean Begley hand-ball, but the St Pat’s defender and his team-mates contested that it had struck his face instead of his hand.
From here, Crumlin stepped up the pressure even further, and Madden had to be on top of his game to keep out a dangerous cross from McKervey and a looping header from McLarnon.
However, the home defence could only hold out for so long, and a fantastic Francis Murphy finish inside the far post meant it was ‘game on’ for the final 10 minutes of normal time.
When substitute James Doyle first shot well over the bar, and later was intercepted just as he was about to strike from the edge of the area, St Pat’s must surely have felt they had overcome their Premier Division neighbours.
But as injury time loomed, a long ball from deep inside the Crumlin half picked out Paul Prigent, who from 18 yards out, rifled the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
The visitors’ celebrations were unbridled, and it seemed fitting that such an epic contest should go into extra time, but there were golden chances at both ends to prevent it from reaching that point.
For St Pat’s, Neil Quinn played the perfect pass to put Sean Paul Johnston through on goal, but the sub conspired to hit the side-netting, while Crumlin’s Francis Murphy rattled the crossbar from a tight angle.
And so, extra time followed, and it was no less eventful than what had gone before. In the 95th minute, Crumlin’s Gary McKernan was sent off after the referee judged him to have brought Jacobsen down in the box. Jacobsen rose to his feet, and struck a penalty which was well saved by Ciaran McNeill, only for him to lash wildly over on the rebound.
But Jacobsen wasn’t finished. On the stroke of the turnaround, the referee waved away Crumlin claims that the ball had crossed the touchline, as St Pat’s surged up the field, with Johnston cutting back to Jacobsen, who curled the ball into the top right corner to send the home support wild.
The controversy continued into the second spell as Ciaran McManus was the fifth player to see red, for a challenge on Doyle.
Afterwards, it was clear that Crumlin manager Sean Brown felt several key decisions had gone against his side, but he added: “You imagine any neutral at that game… you wouldn’t get a game that exciting for a tenner in the Irish League all season.
“I knew we wouldn’t have an easy time against St Pat’s. I know their team, and I know they have quality players.
“The two sending offs in the first half ruined it, and I felt that set the tone. It opened up the game, and once you give a team a three-goal head-start, it’s always going to be an uphill struggle.
“Good luck to St Pat’s – I hope they get a good draw – but the league has always been our priority this year. This could even be a blessing in disguise… sometimes a defeat can bring you all a bit closer. We will bounce back.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Brendan O’Neill (St Pat’s YM). A positive, forward-thinking display that typified his team’s approach to this game.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Too many to choose from. The early red cards impacted the game, Crumlin’s third goal marked a spirited comeback and Jacobsen’s winner for St Pat’s completed a memorable, incident-packed afternoon.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Once again, plenty to choose from, but Ciaran McNeill’s save from Jamie Jacobsen’s extra time penalty topped the lot.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Jacobsen missing the target from the rebound of his saved penalty.
St Pat’s YM
Darren Madden: Given how busy he was, three goals conceded was a job well done. 7
Jamie Jacobsen: Missed a few chances, but took the one that really mattered. 8
Sean Begley: Uncompromisng at the back. 7
Aidan Mulvenna: Cleared his lines well. 8
Ciaran McManus: Tough, physical display. 7
Brendan O’Neill: Turned defence into attack and deserved his goal. 9
Neil Quinn: Turned most 50-50s to his favour. 8
Raymond Spotswood: Relentless work-rate. 7
Robert O’Neill: Strong in the air. 7
Joe Thompson: Played well up until his red card. 7
Cormac Brannigan: Early dismissal meant his impact was limited. 6
John Donaldson: On for R O’Neill, 66
Sean Paul Johnston: On for B O’Neill, 82
Paul Gowdy: On for Spotswood, 74
Ciaran McNeill: Penalty save was a highlight of a busy day. 6
Aidan O’Kane: Showed some flashes of quality. 7
Philip Savage: Not lacking in commitment. 7
Gary McKernan: Red card ended a disappointing afternoon. 5
Paul Berne: Seemed somehow out of sorts. 6
Paul McLarnon: An important component in Crumlin’s fight back. 7
Steven Brown: Early dismissal meant his impact was limited. 6
Aidan McNeill: A decent effort. 7
Francis Murphy: Kept pressing, and his goal was a fine finish. 8
Ciaran Murphy: Would like to have tested the keeper more. 6
Barry McKervey: Top class set-pieces always gave his side hope. 8
James Doyle: On for C Murphy, 58
Paul Prigent: On for A McNeill, 62
Jim Campbell: On for Savage, 62
Mark Mooney: Not used
Patrick O’Neill: Not used
Belfast Telegraph Digital