LURGAN Celtic progressed to the semi-final of the Bob Radcliffe Cup courtesy of a narrow but deserved 1-0 win over Championship 2 leaders Armagh City.
They now meet Championship 1 side Warrenpoint in a bid to retain the trophy.
Brendan Mackin returned to midfield but only to play the first half as he was playing for Shane O’Neills against Mullaghbawn at 4.30 while Declan McVeigh and Steven Boyd swapped over at full back with McVeigh reverting to his normal right hand side.
Celtic started off the more dominant team and within five minutes were awarded a penalty when the Armagh keeper took down O’Hare going through and received a yellow for the transgression but the Hoops failed to take advantage with the keeper saving the spot kick.
Mackin then shot against the post and the ball was hacked away. Minutes later the same player burst down the right and crossed but no Celtic player was in the right place to take advantage and the danger was cleared.
Armagh started to threaten but the home defence dealt well with any danger although in one break the visitors wasted a good chance by shooting over before Daniel Ryan, Aaron Haire and Raymond Fitzpatrick combined well to force a last ditch save.
Niall Lavery then fed Haire who saw his effort blocked and Armagh went straight downfield to create a chance but firstly Boyd got a touch and then Ciaran Fox tipped the ball away for a corner.
Just prior to the interval the Hoops turned the screw and came close in several attacks but the Armagh defence, under severe pressure, managed with some desperate defending to just about kept them at bay.
Paul McAnallen replaced Mackin for the second half and in a carbon copy of the previous week’s game Celtic took the lead when Fitzpatrick had an effort cleared only for Lavery to slot home .
The game then settled into a period of scrappy midfield play with neither side able to gain the upper hand.
Halfway through, in a sudden break, City’s Murray let fly with a tremendous effort but keeper Fox made a great save to keep his goal intact.
In reply Ryan and Fitzpatrick both came close before a wild scramble in the six yard box saw the ball move around like a pinball machine before Haire’s shot was charged down. Celtic were awarded a free kick on the left and when the ball was played in Ryan got up highest to head down to Lavery who, from six yards, blazed over when a goal looked on.
Towards the end Fox was called into action once more but they regained control and saw the game safely out to advance to the semi-final and over the 90 minutes the best team won.
This week the Hoops face a trip to Ballymoney to play Glebe Rangers and with Armagh hosting Knockbreda the Hoops have a chance to narrow the gap on one of them.
Stefan Campbell and Brendan Mackin should be available for the trip and new signing Paul Donegan could come into the frame as well for this top of the table clash at the Riada Stadium with a 3pm kick off.
The youth team played Milbrook in the George Savage Cup and dished out a severe 8-0 thrashing to their unfortunate rivals with McCarron and McAlinden getting two goals apiece and S. Toland, M. Toland, Toman and Skelton grabbing one each and they also hit the woodwork five times in a one sided encounter.
The reserve side also had a win on Saturday when they played away to Mliford and gained a 4-3 victory after going behind to an early goal.
McGuigan scored a poacher’s goal and took the lead with a 30 yard strike from Lawless.
Milford then equalised before the break and took the lead when the Celts were temporarily reduced to 10 men due to injury.
But the Hoops roared back and turned on the style by passing their way to an equaliser by McGrath who finished a lovely move down the right hand side .
The winner came from a well worked corner when Conway found Lawless on the edge of the box and his 20 yard volley to seal the win was the goal of the match.