Town win Mid-Ulster Cup
Tuesday, 31 January 2017
IN an emotional evening at Stangmore Park, Warrenpoint Town crawled off the canvas to defeat Armagh City and win Mid-Ulster Cup. It was the first senior Cup the club had ever won but at one stage that scenario looked extremely unlikely.
Warrenpoint Town ...3
Armagh City ...2 (Aet)
Indeed with the score at nil-nil, and the game in injury time, Armagh's Conor Mullen latched onto a Paul Carvill free kick and, at the second attempt, squeezed the ball into the net past Town keeper Jonny Parr. And it seemed that after scoring, City's boat had finally come in. They had contested the final for the past three seasons and had been beaten in the previous two.
But Warrenpoint were to disappoint them, the Seasiders dragging themselves back up by their bootlaces and with mere seconds of injury time left, Man of the Match John McGuigan fired home a penalty to bring the final into extra time.
Even then things didn't run smoothly for the Point as Armagh again edged in front. Once more though the Seasiders grabbed a leveller, again via McGuigan and again via the penalty spot. And it was then left to substitute Josh Lynch to induct himself into the Warrenpoint Hall of Fame by slamming in the winner.
There was sadness before the kick-off, with the Warrenpoint team wearing black armbands and everyone standing for a minute's silence in respect of Warrenpoint committee-man Connaire McGreevy's beautiful sister Ciara who had died suddenly the evening before the match.
The game got of to a blistering start as in the opening minute Conor McMenamin raced down the left before setting up John McGuigan who blasted a drive off the City crossbar.
And the Town had further opportunities in the first period. On 15 minutes Liam McKenna was off target after a McGuigan corner on the left and then skipper Liam Bagnall played in the lively McGuigan but City's Newry based keeper Josh Connolly pulled off a fine save.
Armagh didn't really test the Warrenpoint defence in the first half but they did get the ball in the Town net on 36 minutes. However, referee Lee Tavinder ruled out Conor Mullen's effort for offside. The half ended with McGuigan narrowly failing to get a toe to a dangerous left-wing Murray cross.
The second half followed the same template as the first - Warrenpoint doing most of the pressing, playing most of the football but getting no reward on the scoreboard.
On 49 minutes McGuigan found Murray in space but the big man, who wasn't destined to net against his former club, left-footed past the target.
Meanwhile on the hour mark and at the other end, City's other Newry import (and Ballyholland teenager) Tiernan Rushe was crowded out by a determined Town rearguard.
But the Championship leaders came closest to scoring on 73 minutes; Murray did well on the right and picked out McGuigan who in turn swerved inside his marker before drilling a scorching drive off the base of the Armagh upright.
And three minutes later McGuigan's super chip over the top found substitute Lorcan Forde in space, but the 17-year-old couldn't control the ball with the grateful Connolly dropping to gather.
As the game moved into the final 10 minutes Armagh began to create a few chances. First Jordan Dane hacked a Mullan header off his goal-line and then Rushe played in City substitute Shea Campbell but the former Newry City striker was too high with a clear chance. Rushe too had an opportunity but Jonny Parr saved just inside his left-hand post.
The warnings were there though and after Mullen prodded home on 91 minutes it seemed Armagh were to be crowned Mid-Ulster Cup champions.
However, when left back Aaron Traynor jumped high in the box, a frantic City defender Dale Montgomery hauled him down with referee Lee Tavinder pointing to the penalty spot to the delight of the Town and despair of City.
And John McGuigan was coolness personified as with just seconds left of injury time he fired into the net past the left hand of Connolly.
Extra time. Forde had the ball in the Armagh onion bag but Connolly had been fouled while McMenamin fired a screamer inches over the bar. Still on 95 minutes Campbell drilled a Carvill free-kick low into the Town net. 2-1. And it could even have been 3-1 but Traynor nodded an Ultan Lennon header off the 'Point goal-line.
It was thrill-a-minute stuff at this stage and indeed just four minutes after that Campbell goal, the referee awarded Warrenpoint another penalty kick when the unfortunate Montgomery handled. Again there was no cooler man in Dungannon as McGuigan shot low into the opposite corner while Connolly went the other way.
Back on level terms and on 101 minutes Warrenpoint grabbed the cup-winning goal. Skipper Bagnall did marvellous work in this score. First he won the ball, then he played a one-two with McGuigan before unselfishly finding Josh Lynch who fired home from un-missable range at the back post.
Warrenpoint were worthy winners of the Mid-Ulster Cup but, as manager Matthew Tipton pointed out, it wasn't their best display of the season. Nonetheless there were some exceptional performers in the blue and white of the Town. John McGuigan was a popular choice as Man of the Match and he received his trophy from Mid-Ulster secretary (and another Newry man) Brian Larkin. John netted two penalties, played a part in the winner and came close to scoring on several other occasions. He also ran his legs off for the Town cause.
But was McGuigan any better than Dermot McVeigh, a colossus at the back for Warrenpoint, winning header after header, tackle after tackle and he was always in position when his team needed him?
Two more candidates for the Man of the Match trophy were the tenacious, terrier-like twins Liam Bagnall and Stephen Moan. Both men were magnificent. They each tackled as though their lives depended on the result and both played the shirts off their backs.
Warrenpoint were delighted to pick up their first trophy of the season. But were they happy at winning the Mid-Ulster Cup? The answer came from chairman Johnny Bird who told the Democrat: "It's only the first of three trophies. After the Mid-Ulster, we're aiming to add the League ... and the Irish Cup!"
WARRENPOINT TOWN: Jonny Parr, Daren King Aaron Traynor, Jordan Dane, Dermot McVeigh, John McGuigan, Stephen Moan, Liam McKenna, Liam Bagnall, Conor McMenamin and Stephen Murray with subs: Lorcan Forde for King (74), Josh Lynch for McKenna (79) and Ruairi Croskery for McGuigan (113). Stephen Maguire and Kurtis both not used.
ARMAGH CITY: Josh Connolly, Dale Montgomery, Paul Carvill, Ultan Lennon, Eoin Toal, Eamon Kelly, Matthew Hynds, Sean Mallon, Luke Grimley, Conor Mullen and Tiernan Rushe with subs: Shea Campbell for Grimley (77) and Thai Blevins for Hynds (90). Ben Rice, Robbie McQuaid and Stefan Graham not used.
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