Brave effort from Hoops as they frustrate Linfield

Josh Barton on the ball for Lurgan Celtic against Linfield.
Josh Barton on the ball for Lurgan Celtic against Linfield.

Lurgan Celtic may not have won, but they can hold their heads high as they frustrated hot favourites Linfield in Saturday’s Irish Cup semi-final at Windsor Park.

Many fancied a handsome winning margin for Linfield especially with Lurgan Celtic’s well documented goalkeeping crisis. It finished 3-0 to David Healy’s side but the Hoops certainly gave their more illustrious opponents plenty to think about.

It took three second half goals from Aaron Burns to finally break the hard working Celtic back line with goalkeeper Gavin O’Neill not letting the side down.

Celtic charged forward from the kick-off trying to catch the Blues on the hop but the defence snapped up the ball and for the next few minutes there was little between the sides which certainly settled the nerves of the Hoops.

Declan McVeigh showed a quick turn of foot after linking up with Dale Malone, the ball was fed to Aaron Haire who went for goal but his effort lacked any power to trouble Ross Glendinning.

The Blues should have scored as Paul Smyth got down the line and his cross was met by the inrushing Andrew Waterworth but he missed the goal by inches.

On 9 minutes the woodwork saved Celtic when Waterworth again had a chance as he got in a header, it rebounded out to Aaron Burns who headed over.

O’Neill did well to smother a shot from Matty Clarke as Linfield continued to look for that early goal. Celtic then began to make some headway up front with Haire getting a yard on the defence but his well struck shot was pushed away for a corner by Ross Glendinning.

It was Haire again with another fine run into the box but the ball just ran away from him.

Linfield missed another glorious chance on 24 minutes as Paul Smyth volleyed over the bar from inside the area.

With ten minutes to go to the break Celtic won a free kick which Malone whipped in but McVeigh could not get on the end of it at the back post.

Having held Linfield to a scoreless first 45 minutes the Hoops were no doubt delighted with their efforts.

The second half was nip and tuck before Linfield finally got the breakthrough on 60 minutes. Kirk Millar got the ball into the middle and Burns was there to beat the keeper from a few yards out.

Celtic had an unexpected opportunity to get back on level terms five minutes later when Ross Glendinning went to collect the ball and it slipped through his hands and rolled wide of the goal.

The Hoops made a double substitution on 75 minutes with both Niall and Sean Devlin replacing Fitzpatrick and Conaty.

Linfield almost made it 2-0 on 78 minutes with O’Neill getting his hand to Waterworth’s effort. However, with ten minutes to go Linfield did get their second goal with a free kick from Lowry found unmarked Burns on the edge of the box and he drilled the ball home past a ruck of players.

Right at the death Burns secured his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Hutchinson had brought down Lowry.

So no all Lurgan final with Glenavon set to face Linfield on May 7.

Lurgan Celtic: O’Neill,Wilson, Rodgers, Hutchinson, Cochrane, Malone, Barton, McVeigh, Fitzpatrick, Haire, Conaty.

Subs: McCabe, N Devlin, S. Devlin, Seeley, O’Hara.