AUL Jim Cullen Cup
Thursday, April 28th, 2005
Fantastic Win for Celtic against Local Rivals
The two teams started this game not knowing that the great servant of the AUL and Leinster football, John McDermott, would pass away during the first half. We are very saddened at this loss to football, and we send our sympathies to his family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
The wind was blowing strong in Celtic's favour in the first half. They had decided to vary their game between short passing and route one. They pressed hard, and it looked that they would get an early advantage after 15 minutes when Neil McAdam had his jersey pulled and the ref pointed to the spot. But the linesman flagged late for an offside, which was a great relief to Jonathon Ronan, the Whitestown manager. 10 minutes later, McAdam was threatening again, and this time his shot was well stopped by keeper Willie Maguire.
But after 30 minutes, Celtic got their reward for their pressure. A free kick was awarded and up stepped central defender, Shane Hennessy, who curled his shot into the bottom right corner. 1-0 to Celtic.
Then 5 minutes later, a throw-in by big Deco Cunningham was met by Alan O'Grady, who slotted home from close range. Half-time 2-0.
In true tradition, this was a game of 2 halves, with Whitestown coming to life in the second period. They soon brought out the best in Mick Flood in the Celtic goal as he punched clear from a corner.
Then inside a short few minutes, Whitestown were most unlucky. Firstly, Mark Weldon saw his deflected shot rebound off the right hand post. Then moments later, it was Paul Cheevers' turn to hit the woodwork. Then Richie Flanagan fell on the edge of the box, and Whitestown almost score. Despite all their pressure, 20 minutes into the second half, they were still 2-0 down.
After 22 minutes, Daniel Ronan went down in the box, and despite Celtic protests, the ref awarded the penalty. Up stepped Martin Mullarney and he shot firmly into the bottom left hand corner, giving Mick Flood no chance. 2-1 to Celtic and game very certainly on.
10 minutes from time, Whitestown were almost caught out. A through ball from Deco Cunningham to Marco Stevens looks like it could be the insurance score. But for once Marco is short with his effort as the keeper advances. Then the long ball beats the Whitestown defence, and Deco Cunningham misses probably the easiest chance he has had all season.
But penalty scorer Martin Mullarney got his marching orders in the final minutes after protesting too vehemently to the ref.
This was a great advert for junior football, played hard and no quarter asked or given. The commitment was evident from early on when after a clash between keeper Maguire and striker Cunningham, both resumed to play a full game after long treatment from the medics. Both sides had their heroes, but it is extremely difficult to pick a man of the match.
Celtic's roll-call. Keeper Flood was solid throughout, and stretched to catch a ball on one occasion, when it looked beyond his reach. Billy Dunne was never found wanting at right full. Shane Hennessy scored a vital goal, but also had his engine at full tilt throughout. He was given the man of the match award by his management team, which shows how well they all played as a team. This reporter gave the nod for man of the match to Al O'Grady. Snowey Battigan was magnificent yet again, and his parents flinched throughout as he put in one crunching tackle after another. Podge O'Donoghue was creative on the right of mid, Marco Stevens put in another top class performance, Marto Fleming was industrious on the left, while Alan O'Grady was superb, showing his experience at vital times, including his involvement in some magnificent moves. Martin Bando Thompson was a reliable substitute for Neil McAdam, who had run himself into the ground. Cormac O'Reilly put in a marvellous performance at full back to replace the battled-scarred Richie Flanagan, who had to be taken off injured. Ali Ayoob showed his skills when he came on, including one defence splitting pass to Al O'Grady. Finally, Big Deco Cunningham showed his commitment and skill throughout.
This is a team with skill, heart, commitment, and most of all togetherness. Hopefully that will stay with them. They deserve full credit for their efforts, and we wish them the best of luck in the Jim Cullen Cup and the Elastoplast Shield finals, and as they strive for the impossible dream Treble. Can Phil O'Sullivan and Steve Lawlor pull it off? We will know soon enough.