IFA Intermediate Cup, Round Three

Crumlin Star 5-0 Ballynahinch Olympic

It was a timorous start from both sides in Saturday’s early kick-off between Crumlin Star and Ballynahinch Olympic, with both vying for a place in the fourth round of the McComb’s Coach Travel Intermediate Cup.

A slow start from both sides perhaps gave those in attendance the impression early on, that we were in for a long afternoon under the chilli north Belfast sky.

 

However, seven minutes in and the Ballynahinch back line had forgotten perhaps the first thing any young footballer is coached: play to the whistle.

A ball over the top from Barry McKervey for Joseph McNeill left the Ballynahinch backline rooted to the spot, with their collective hands in the air waiting for a whistle that never came.

The statuesque defencing from the visitors left McNeill one on one, with the relatively easy task of putting the ball past the Ballynahinch goalkeeper, a task which the midfielder executed beautifully. An audacious chip from the edge of the box left the Ballynahinch goalkeeper also now rooted to the spot and an early lead for Crumlin Star.

Following the opening goal, and all the early pressure was now coming from the home side, with every Crumlin attack being greeted by a chorus of groans for offside from the backline as well as the travelling supporters. Some, perhaps rather contentiously, were ignored by the referee.

Not long into the first half and an interesting battle was beginning to develop down the Crumlin left-hand side, between winger Finnbarr Brennan and the Ballynahinch right back, with the former more often than not getting the better of his man.

A hopeful ball in behind the Ballynahinch backline for Brennan to chase caused more problems for the visitors than the quality of the pass initially suggested it would. An awkward bounce allowed Brennan to steal the ball, before being one on one with defender Jack Roddy, who couldn’t get close to the elusive winger, however, his shot was just sliced wide.

Half an hour in and by now, it was all one-way traffic with Crumlin firmly in control.

Shortly after the opener, the home side added a second. Disaster at the back again as Ballynahinch failed to clear not one, but two blocked efforts from midfielder Stephen Smyth, leaving Kevin Lynch with a tap-in from six yards out. A two-goal lead for Crumlin at the interval would have flattered the visitors, in all honesty.

Minutes before the break and Crumlin got the third that they deserved. For what seemed like the 10th time of the half, the Ballynahinch defence was once again statuesque and appealing for offside following a ball over the top. This time it was Lynch who was the beneficiary of the visitors' lacklustre and naive defending. The striker raced through and had all the time in the world to pick his spot, before calmly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner.

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With qualification to the next round all but secured for Crumlin Star, and Ballynahinch resigned to elimination, both teams would have been forgiven for going through the motions in the second half.

However, Crumlin were not satisfied with just the three and looked hungry for more.

Midway through the second half and by this stage, left-back Aiden McNeill was now operating as an extra winger.

Ten minutes before the final whistle, the full-back moonlighting as a winger was rewarded for his efforts. A lovely passage of play out on the left side for Crumlin allowed McNeill to ghost in behind the right back and deliver a teasing ball across the six-yard box with Smyth nipping it at the back post to grab his first of the evening.

The performance was capped off minutes later as Smyth grabbed his second, and Crumlin’s fifth.

Once again, a culmination of poor defending from Ballynahinch and attacking poise from Crumlin saw Smyth nip in front of defender Noade following a cross from McBurney, before delicately lifting it over the onrushing Walsh, who was left picking the ball out from the back of his net for the fifth and last time of the afternoon.

5-0 to Crumlin the final score, and the North Belfast side now through to the fourth round with the possibility of winning their second McComb’s Coach Travel Intermediate Cup in five seasons, still on the cards.

CRUMLIN STAR: C McNeill, K McLaughlin, A McNeill, N Hawkins, M Lyons, J McNeill (P McConnell), F Brennan (S McBurney), K Trainor (P McIlkenny), K Lynch, S Smyth, B McKervey (B O’Neill).

Goals: J McNeill, 6, K Lynch 34 43, S Smyth 80 85

BALLYNAHINCH OLYMPIC: R Walsh, G McMullan, J Noade, A McClean (C Killen), R Molloy, J McClean (D Lyons), R Walsh, N Jones, C Burns (S King), L Burns.