Arch-grangel Michael helps Celtic to Cup final
MICHAEL GRANGEL illustrated his value to his side as he orchestrated this handsome New Ross Celtic victory over underdogs St. Leonards in the Wexford Cup semi-final played at Campile on Sunday last.
NEW ROSS CELTIC 4 ST LEONARDS 1
Grangel gave St. Leonards a wretched afternoon as he dictated this game from midfield. He was in possession of the ball more than any player, and his distribution and threatening runs put his opponents under considerable pressure. It was his work during the first-half when his side played into an almost gale-force wind that laid the foundations for this eventual three-goal victory.
It was a game too far for shock side St. Leonards. They were totally outplayed for lengthy stretches, while the second-half saw them pinned back on defence for the most part, and they were considerably lucky not to have conceded more than three goals during this 45 minutes.
It was a productive and passionate opening into the strong wind from the Barrowsiders as they pushed forward almost incessantly. With John Mullett, Anthony O'connor and Michael Grangel, in particular, laying claim to midfield control from the outset, they had St. Leonards under considerable pressure, with only desperate defending from Keith O'grady and Shane Molloy stemming the flow of attacks when the breakthrough threatened.
But it was no surprise when the New Ross boys took a 17th-minute lead when Stephen O'neill capitalised on a breaking ball to drive low past 'keeper Stuart Parker. Following this breakthrough it was no surprise that Celtic picked up the tempo of the game, with both Mark Lee and Grangel with his driving runs out of midfield causing considerable panic in the opposing back four.
St. Leonards did manage a couple of quick counter-attacks, with Seán Ryan having a leftfooted shot well held by 'keeper Aaron Deegan, while Fintan Ryan also tested Deegan with a 20metre drive, but the 'keeper capably dealt with his effort too.
Both Grangel and Lee went close with shots that were blocked to safety by desperate defending before they launched an attack of their own two minutes before the break. A long ball out of midfield was chased by Ken Cahill who managed to get his head to it and nod it over the head of Deegan, to leave it 1-1 at the interval.
New Ross Celtic, despite the concession of that late goal, must still have been happy, as they turned over with the elements at their back. Straight from the re-start they laid siege to the St. Leonards goal, so it came as no real surprise when they regained the lead in the 51st minute.
As so often in this game, it was the combined play of the experienced Grangel and Lee that led to the breakthrough. Grangel showed great first touch and control to play the ball into the path of Lee, who cut inside his marker before left-footing the ball high into the top right-hand corner of the net, making it 2-1.
With St. Leonards unable to get out of their own half, the third goal was always inevitable, putting the game out of the reach of their opponents when Johnny Mullett superbly headed home a Stephen O'leary free kick from the left which was accurately struck into the heart of the area, making it 3-1.
This was turning into a productive performance from New Ross Celtic who were totally dominating their opponents, so much so that they failed to get a single shot on Deegan's goal during this second period.
Fifteen minutes from the end it was superb finish from Lee that made it 4-1, capping an excellent display of clinical finishing.