Crumlin United boss Paddy Kelly reflects on Islandmagee cup cracker
He has led Donegal Celtic to a host of silverware and helped them earn promotion to the Irish League Premiership but, in all his days in football, Crumlin United manager Paddy Kelly admits he has never seen a game quite like their penalty shoot-out win over Islandmagee in the Irish Cup second round on Saturday.
The Division 1A side beat their Premier Division opponents 3-2 in sudden death after drawing 4-4 in normal time.
It was a match that had everything for the spectator, with the advantage swinging from one side to the other throughout, and barely a dull moment.
Kelly remarked: “I spoke to a few neutrals after the game and they told it me it was the best game they had seen in years. It was totally end-to-end stuff and anyone who paid to get in certainly got their money's worth.
“I thought we were under the cosh early on, but after that we controlled the game, and I don't think it should even have gone to penalties.”
At one stage, it looked as if the Islanders were going to run away with it, having leaped into an early two-goal lead, but two Gerard Keenan penalties either side of half time levelled the scores.
It was then Crumlin's turn to take the lead, Paddy McIlkenny on target with his first goal for his new club since signing from DC. Islandmagee drew the sides level once more, before Pat McCafferty struck a fourth for the hosts with 15 minutes left. Just when they thought they'd wrapped it up, Michael Moore hit home a wonder-goal to take the game into extra time.
If the goalless half hour that followed was tense, it was nothing compared to the spot-kicks that came next.
“I couldn't watch the penalties,” confessed Kelly. “I never do. Even when I was at DC, I was never able to watch them.
“I just sat in the dugout and watched my coach's reactions, and he told me what was happening. They hit the bar and the ball hit the line, and the referee didn't give it (our keeper Mark McKeown told me it was the right decision), then one of our players hit the bar and another player fell as he was striking the penalty.
“Once I knew it was Mark McKeown who had a chance to score the winning penalty in sudden death, I knew he wouldn't miss.
“It was a great advert for the Amateur League, and a very emotional afternoon for Islandmagee, as it was the first game they had played after the death of their young player Stuart Ross.”
Kelly added that he aspires to reach the latter stages of the competition to land one of local football's 'big guns,' but his focus for now will be simply to negotiate round three and keep the run going.
One club that Crumlin are sure not to meet there is Camlough Rovers, who face expulsion from this year's Irish Cup after failing to field a team for their scheduled second round game with Immaculata on Saturday.
Without any way of contacting the authorities or their opponents directly, Camlough chairman Jackie Mooney has asked to apologise to all involved through this week's online edition of The Park.
He explained: “Our squad is operating at a low number of around 18 or 19, and we have no reserve team. We had three lads playing in a Gaelic final at the weekend, two who were called into work, one who was at the Republic of Ireland v Germany match, and another whose wife was getting out of hospital after having a baby. Then I got a call in the morning from two other boys who had a dose of the flu.
“It is a kick in the teeth for us, because we look forward to going into these competitions, and we had been in a good run of form.
“We tried to contact Immaculata, but we couldn't get a number for them on the internet, and the IFA only went to an answer-phone. I would like to apologise to Immaculata and the IFA on behalf of the club… hopefully it will just be a one-off blip.”
For all the full list of Irish Cup second round results and all of the scores from elsewhere, click on our results section.
Belfast Telegraph Digital