Donegal Celtic lifted some of the gloom surrounding the troubled west-Belfast club last night as they booked their place in the sixth round of the Irish Cup.
Ryan Henderson’s first-half goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for managerless Celtic in a fifth round replay against Institute.
After a dramatic weekend at the club, that saw boss Paddy Kelly and his backroom staff quit amid suggestions of internal disputes, it was a case of getting the job done and securing a home tie with Cliftonville.
Stand-in boss Sean Hawkins watched the hoops labour to victory on a sapping surface and as Celtic’s ship was steadied in choppy waters, Paul Carlyle’s men were left to rue missing the boat having led for a large part of the first meeting 10 days ago.
The visitors engineered enough opportunities in the first-half to be better positioned at the end of it — instead of trailing to Henderson’s ultimately decisive goal; a header that came in the 10th minute.
Paddy McLaughlin, in particular, was presented with two gilt-edged chances but on both occasions sent headers over the Celtic crossbar. He was unmarked when he met Declan McKeever’s 15th minute corner and again in the 37th minute when Dean Jarvis sent in a pin-point cross for the Institute centre-half.
Thomas McBride tested Celtic goalkeeper Robert Robinson with a long-range drive and in the 19th minute the north-west men claimed for a penalty when Davitt Walsh appeared to go down following a tussle with Celtic’s Paul Bradley.
Stephen Parkhouse, who scored in the original drawn fixture, also registered a headed attempt that sailed over the crossbar shortly before the interval.
Celtic, too, could have had full control of the tie as early as the 18th minute when striker Darren Murray somehow headed Jonny Harkness’ perfect delivery across the face of Corey Wilson’s goal.
There was little to capture the imagination after the break, with chances falling to Jarvis, who drilled a low shot straight at Robinson, while a superbly struck free-kick brought the best out of his opposite number Wilson in the 83rd minute.
With the game drawing to a close, Parkhouse was sent-off by referee Colin Burns after appearing to strike substitute Ciaran Murray.
‘Stute did force the ball into the net in injury-time, but had fouled Robinson in the process.
Celtic, who host Glenavon on Saturday, are unlikely to appoint a successor to Kelly before then.
DONEGAL CELTIC: Robinson, Keegan, Harkness, P Bradley (O’Hara 47), Henderson, L Bradley, D Murray (C Murray 71), McAllister, McVeigh, Burns, O’Connor.
INSTITUTE: Wilson, Roddy, Taylor, Crown, McLaughlin, Jarvis, Walsh, McCauley, Parkhouse, McBride (McCready 79), McKeever.
Referee: Colin Burns (Newtownabbey).