Time will tell if draw is a good result


DUE to the untimely passing of Shea Hamill last Wednesday Lurgan Celtic’s Intermediate Cup tie with Chimney Corner was postponed late on Thursday evening.

The Hoops in conjunction with the IFA and Portstewart re-instated the league fixture between the clubs at very short notice with Celtic travelling up to the North West last Saturday where the game took place in cold, blustery and wet conditions.

The match kicked off with the Hoops playing into a swirling breeze and they weathered an early storm from the home side to put together a few dangerous attacks but already players were losing their footing on the slippy surface and this made passing very difficult. Celtic took the lead on 16 minutes after O’Hare cut down the right wing and sent a low cross into the six yard area and Raymond Fitzpatrick (right) came sliding in to drive the ball home but the lead only lasted five minutes when the Hoops defence could not clear the ball and the Portstewart striker slammed home when he found himself in space in front of the helpless Ciaran Fox.

Celtic then took the initiative and put Portstewart under pressure and Fitzpatrick found Ryan in a good position but as he shot he was blown up for offside. The Hoops regained the lead on 35 minutes after Portstewart conceded a free out on the left and Niall Lavery’s knee high delivery played in deep was met by Fitzpatrick’s deft header and the ball nestled in the corner before the home side knew what was happening. From this point it was all Celtic pressure and Declan McVeigh passed to Aaron Haire who slipped the ball through to Fitzpatrick who scored but as he was striking the ball was whistled for offside, a very tight decision. Ryan’s searing pace chasing after loose balls was causing panic in the home defence and just on the break Fitzpatrick cut in from the left and sent a rasping shot just wide and into the side netting. The home side were glad to hear the referee blow for half time as with a bit of luck the game could have been beyond them.

Within 10 minutes of the restart Haire hit the post with an effort as Celtic kept the home side under pressure and when Madison in the Portatewart goal hit a poor goal kick Fitzpatrick sent it straight back towards goal and inches wide. Portstewart tried to launch an attack of their own but Paul Donegan, Shannon Drainey aided by Steven Boyd and McVeigh on the flanks were alert to any danger and when Ryan broke free on a run he was crudely taken down, but Lavery sent the free kick well over. By this stage of the game players on both sides were showing the signs of weariness as the harsh conditions were taking their toll.

The Hoops should have extended the lead when Ryan latched onto a ball and bore down on the keeper but went too close and his shot was well saved. Portstewart came more into the picture halfway through the second period and both Haire and Conor McAnallen made good tackles to stop moves down the right and indeed McAnallen’s overall display was full off tremendous running and intercepting as he has now settled into the defensive role. Lavery and Ryan both came close with well hit efforts and when Portstewart broke upfield Fox saved well from a low shot, but it was mostly a case of Celtic pressure and some at times desperate defending from the home side. Ryan then took a free kick which Madison just tipped over and from the corner Haire had a great shot but it hit a defender on the shoulder and slowed the ball enough for the keeper to touch around the post. Lavery’s corner landed on top of the net courtesy of the wind. Several more attacks were repelled by Portstewart but with Celtic legs tiring they conceded an equaliser on 86 minutes when they were awarded a throw in near the half way line but lost possession to concede a corner and when it was cleared Haire was harshly adjudged to have fouled a Portstewart player.

From the free kick a furious goalmouth melee followed and the ball was sent past the Hoops rearguard for an unlikely equaliser. Stung by this reverse the Hoops went back at their opponents but ran out of time and a draw was a bitter pill to swallow given the chances the went begging. On the plus side this is the first point the Hoops have taken at this ground over the past five seasons.

This week Celtic are at home to Chimney Corner in the re-arranged Intermediate Cup fixture with a 1.30pm start.

Celtic: Fox, McVeigh, Donegan, Drainey, Boyd, Lavery, Haire, O’Hare, C. McAnallen, Fitzpatrick and Ryan.

Subs:P McAnallen, Conway, McKavanagh (on for Lavery) McCabe.

LURGAN Celtic’s Irish Cup replay at Larne was postponed on Tuesday night and will now be played on Monday, February 4. If that fails they will try Wednesday. Kick-off is 7.45pm.