Steel and Sons Semi-Final
Immaculata FC 0 - 0 Dunmurry Rec
Dunmurry win 5-4 on penalties
Inver Park, Larne
Immaculata lost out on their dream to reach the final of the Steel and Sons Cup last night in Larne after an intense game saw them lose out in a penalty shoot-out to fellow West Belfast side Dunmurry Rec.
The Mac were on the attack for most of the game, dominating possession and chances, but failed to see any of their chances succeed as the game pressed on into extra-time and then into penalties.
It was penalties again in which the Mac conceded defeat in an spectacle which was similar to how they went out of the Border Cup against Derriaghy, losing again by a single penalty.
The game opened with Immaculata firmly on point, getting some brilliant crosses in but their shots seemed to keep blasting over the bar, such as a brilliant 18 minute chance from Ben McCaul.
Dunmurry were firmly rooted in trying to stop Immaculata’s constant attacks and put up a brilliant defence, but it affected their own chances to reach out and make goal chances of their own, being so constantly busy with trying to stop Immaculata in their tracks. The Mac had three chances on goal between 23 and 31 minutes – two being saved by Dunmurry’s 'keeper Matthew McClurg, who put in a fantastic shift.
Mac came closest to a goal at 35 and 38 minutes when two brilliant chances came up from James Haughey and Brian Kennedy, the first saw Haughey nip the ball in close to Kennedy who took the shot on for it to be saved by McClurg. A few minutes later Haughey tried again with the header but it was again saved by McClurg.
The first half ended goalless, with Dunmurry getting a last minute free kick taken by Adam Brown, but it went over the bar.
The second half opened much in the same way as the first, with the Mac driving forward, and Dunmurry putting up a spirited defence. A free kick at 54 minutes saw Dunmurry’s Adam Brown go very close to the mark, and Mac’s ‘keeper Ruairi Murray had to dive to keep it from going in the back of the net.
Dunmurry made their first substitution at 58 minutes with Ross Murray coming off and Ryan Lambe coming on. Four minutes later Dunmurry earned a yellow card when Lambe tackled Mac’s captain Gary McVicker.
Mac pressed on in the fight, with Ben McCaul having a strong chance against ‘keeper Matthew McClurg, but McClurg was on top form and saved what was a very good shot.
Dunmurry had more fight back in the second half, and at 65 and 67 minutes they had two good chances taken by Ryan Lambe, but both were saved by Mac’s ‘keeper Ruairi Murray.
Mac made their first substation at 72 minutes, with Brian Kennedy coming off and Padraig Adams coming on. The remaining minutes of the game played out as before, Mac getting the ball, passing it up the right wing, looking for a cross, but they were being thwarted by some alert defending from Dunmurry.
Mac made another substitution at 85 minutes with Logan Brady coming off and Kevin McGovern coming on for the final few minutes of regular time, but as the minutes ticked on, it became apparent the game would indeed be going into extra-time.
Extra-time began with the rain beginning to fall, not helped by the late night chill. Play went on as much before for the first half, with both teams making another substitution each. For Dunmurry Andrew Carberry came off for Declan Donnelly and Michael Fisher came off for Sean McGovern for Immaculata.
The second half of extra-time saw the Mac furiously try and get a goal in to avoid the match going to penalties, and they had two good chances right in the last minute, with Sean and Kevin McGovern both making tries, with Kevin McGovern’s getting the closest and hitting off the top right of the post. Before the onslaught of penalties, Dunmurry made a final substitution with Rory Courtney coming off for Gareth Johnston.
Penalties loomed next, and while exciting for the strong contingent of Dunmurry and Immaculata fans who made their way up to Larne, it’s a prospect not relished as much by players themselves.
Ben McCaul went in first for the Mac, and scored easily, followed by Patrick Larkin for Dunmurry who also sank his into the back of the net.
The second penalty sealed Immaculata’s fate, and it was hard to watch the upset from Kevin McGovern when his chance went slightly wide of the post. Dunmurry’s next shot from Ryan Wilson went in, leaving the penalty scoreline on 2-1 to Dunmurry.
Mac’s next three penalties all went in, scored by Gary McVicker, Sean McGovern and Ben McCaul, and Dunmurry’s next two went in, scored by Gareth Johnston and Stephen McNeice, leaving everything on the shoulders of Dunmurry’s Adam Brown, who put the ball into the back of the net, and sealed Dunmurry’s victory.
With this victory on penalties, Dunmurry now will go ahead to face Bangor in the final, after they beat Ballymacash Rangers 1-0 last night also.
Speaking after the match, Dunmurry manager Dan Thornton praised his teams efforts, and also that of Immaculata for putting in a brilliant performance.
“We’re absolutely over the moon. I only came into the club three months ago, and what we’ve done in those three months has been remarkable. We’re through to the final and we only conceded two goals throughout the tournament.
“The boys went in with a game plan and stuck to it, and full credit has to go the players for their performance tonight. The Mac beat us last 5-0 during my second game in charge, and I think they were absolutely fantastic tonight, and are one of the best teams in the Ulster League.
“We worked hard, and we had three of four reserves playing for us tonight, so I’m happy to see the lads going in and giving it there all. I am a little shocked to see us in the final, our club was on its knees and ready to fold. We came in and brought in a great core of players in who are all great lads and we’re delighted.
“I’m very delighted myself but I’m more so delighted for the fans and everyone who was here before me, the players and committee who have been there through the last ten years of hardship, and it’s something to be able to give back to them. We’ll be getting ready now to give it our all against Bangor in the final.”
IMMACULATA FC: R Murray, B McCaul (penalty), M Fisher, E Begley, B McCaul (penalty), C O’Riordan, B Kennedy, G McVicker (penalty), L Brady, R McGinley, J Haughey
SUBS: B Kennedy for P Adams (72 mins), L Brady for K McGovern (85 mins), M Fisher for S McGovern (penalty) (extra time)
DUNMURRY REC: M McClurg, R Courtney, P Larkin (penalty), S Thornton, S McNeice (penalty), R Wilson (penalty), A Carberry, A Brown (penalty), L Bailie, R Murray, J Davis
SUBS: R Murray for R Lambe (58 mins), A Carberry for D Donnelly (extra time), R Courtney for G Johnston (penalty) (extra time)
REFEREE: Conor Murphy