The Hoops returned to winning ways by beating high flying Intermediate A side Camlough Rovers 3-0 on Saturday in gale force conditions at Knockramer Park.
John Cochrane and Caolan Campbell were both suspended for this cup tie and Sam Marshall and Stephen McArdle were also missing so Stevie Magennis was drafted onto the starting line up.
Celtic started off playing into the wind and took the game to the visitors in a bid to impose their will on the game. The strong wind was causing havoc with both sides passing and the Camlough keeper made a clearance but the ball only travelled about 20 yards before turning back towards him and after it bounced in front of him he had to fingertip his own clearance over the bar and concede a corner.
Magennis then hit an overhead kick which was cleared. David Magee broke down the left and was awarded a free which he took and the over stretched Rovers defence cleared under pressure and minutes later Conor McAnallen fed Raymond Fitzpatrick who drove narrowly wide.
Magee the had a shot cleared and John Campbell narrowly missed with the rebound from a tight angle. Jason Rogers then sent over a cross which was cleared off the line and Campbell was unlucky to see his effort strike the post and get cleared. The visitors could scarcely get out of their own half and did themselves no favours by hitting high balls forward which were held up by the gale force wind. Finally on 15 minutes the Hoops pressure told when Rogers hit a fierce drive goalwards with Fitzpatrick getting a foot to it and sending the ball into the corner of the net.
After this Celtic turned the screw and after an attack was halted the Hoops keeper hit a long clearance downwind and two defenders were caught out by the bounce for Fitzpatrick to tuck the ball home to double the lead.
Despite having most of the possession the home side failed to add to the scoreline and when the sides went in for the half time break, the question the shivering spectators in the sparse crowd pondered was would two goals be enough as Camlough would then have the advantage of the elements in the second half.
The second period began with the visitors going at the Hoops and they gained a couple of free kicks but Celtic weathered the storm and started to dominate play with short low passing movements especially down the left where Magee was causing problems with direct running putting the Rovers back line under pressure and Campbell defied the years with plenty of good link up play as Celtic spread the ball about and ran the legs out of their opponents. Magennis then left after a punishing 50 minutes to make way for Paul McAnallen to take his place. The game effectively finished as a contest on 65 minutes when a ball played down the right saw Michael Toland latch onto it and leave two defenders trailing in his wake as he got to the byline and cut the ball across for Fitzpatrick to easily convert for his hat-trick.
Magee then went on a run and was unlucky to see his effort turned round the post for a corner. By now the conditions were taking a toll on both teams and Celtic safely saw the game out to proceed to the next round of the competition and this was a good win against a side who many people felt could cause an upset due to Celtic hitting a rocky spell in the previous two games.
Despite the conditions both teams deserve great credit for playing their part in a good cup tie and in spite of Fitzpatrick’s hat-trick the Celtic’s man of the match sponsored by McLeans bookmakers was awarded to veteran John Campbell who despite his advancing years played the full 90 minutes in extreme conditions.
This week the Hoops have a free date but resume league action with an away game against Annagh United on Saturday 28th December at 3.00pm.