Greenfield set up semi with Stars
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Greenfield park 3 Cookstown Celtic 1.
GREENFIELD weathered the storm in Olympic Park on Saturday and saw off Cookstown in this Mid-Ulster Shield quarter-final to set up nicely a tasty semi-final meeting with neighbours Windmill Stars who beat Kilkeel simultaneously on the other Derryleckagh pitch.
Despite the miserable weather there were quite a few supporters out to watch - a few blue and white Orchard City umbrellas were also noticeable as their quarter-final match against Ballyoran was postponed.
Perhaps the pressure of their first Mid-Ulster quarter-final got to Greenfield a bit because they looked very nervous despite getting an early 2-0 lead against their Tyrone opponents. They let that lead dwindled to 2-1 before the break, but Greenfield increased the margin to two again when John Craven scored directly from a free taken from a long way out. That seemed to settle the home side as they prevented Celtic from responding by keeping the ball in the visitor's half and upped their possession percentage to hold on for victory.
Captain John Finnegan was delighted and relieved saying, "It was brilliant, we're delighted but it was very difficult. We got the two goals and then they put us under a lot of pressure. It was as if we were being beaten - that's the way it felt. In the first half we sat back and let them come at us and we were lucky to get the two goals. Our nerves were away when they got one back, so the next goal was vital and luckily we got it. Then our heads lifted and theirs dropped and our fitness levels showed through in the end."
The game began with both sides looking lively, there were saves made at both ends within the first five minutes. But it took only seven minutes for the wonderful Ronan Sexton to find the target and put Greenfield in front. He looped a long shot over the Cookstown keeper's head and it dropped in the back of the net.
Seven minutes later it was a mess-up at the back that gifted Sexton his second goal. Adain Hanna scuffed a clearance in front of the Cookstown goal, hindered by the mucky conditions. Sexton didn't hesitate when the ball fell to his feet and he stroked in from ten yards.
Greenfield didn't look overly confident however, even with a two-goal cushion and the Tyrone men continued to press forward. Darren McOscar created space for himself in the middle of the park and seemed to be a real threat.
On the half-hour the still-nimble Dusty O'Hagan made a terrific diving save from a strike across the goal-mouth by Ryan O'Neill. Five minutes later Adain Hanna watched his ten-yard effort skim inches past the far post as Celtic seemed to be edging ever closer to the target.
Greenfield were guilty of giving away too many corners and free kicks and seemed overly fearful that their opponents were going to stage a come-back.
Eventually the prophecy came to pass, when a long ball in was headed home by McOscar after 40 minutes.
Greenfield were determined however to get to the interval in front - and they did, almost increasing their lead again when a fantastic solo effort saw Anthony Fearon stave off two defenders and offload to Sexton who's shot flew wide.
Although Greenfield led 2-1 at the break however, one got the distinct feeling that there were more goals in this game and luckily it was John Craven who did the honours for Greenfield just three minutes after the re-start - and a beauty it was too. Craven launched a free kick from 35yards on the far right and watched as it sailed directly into the back of the net into the left corner.
Legendary old-timer , Keith Kelly was introduced in the second half and he certainly did his bit to keep the score as it was.
“Keith hasn't played a game in ten years, so it was great to have him here today and he played brilliantly - his touch was great," said Finnegan.
Cookstown kept plugging away and McOscar and O'Neill came close to pulling goals back. Craven made a brilliant clearance off the line but as the game wore on so too did the visitor's resolve, and Greenfield upped their game holding onto the ball far more often.
Greenfield looked increasingly more confident and as such were worthy winners in the end.
The new kids on the block will take on Windmill now in the semi-final and that promises to be an interesting derby match as there is plenty of history between the teams.
“I would have been a Windmill supporter for years and I'm friends with a lot of the players there," said Finnegan. "A lot of our players have played for Windmill at some stage. Keith Kelly was a Windmill legend. He scored about 30 goals a season for them. I remember watching him when I was a wee fella."
Kelly - at 46 is not exactly a pensioner yet but in football terms he is, as is the other old man O'Hagan. Sometimes however it's experience that keeps cool heads in big games and there are plenty of experienced players on Greenfield who, along with the youngsters, will relish taking on Windmill Stars in the Mid-Ulster Shield semi-final.
GREENFIELD PARK: Adrian O'Hagan, Rory Fallon, Paddy Heaney, Jerome Finnegan, John Craven, John Finnegan, Ronan Sexton, Peter McCaul, Anthony Fearon, Bruno Souza and Brian Heaney. Subs: Kevin McLoughlin, Keith Kelly, Kieran Coffee and Colm McKeown.
COOKSTOWN CELTIC: Brian O'Neill, Adain Hanna, Justin McCafferty, Stevie O'Hare, Barry Hughes, Connor O'Hare, Darren McOscar, Philip Muldoon, Dwyan McGucken, Ryan O'Neil and Lee McCluskey. Subs: Shay McGanon and Jarlath Hardy.
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