Monday 19 March 2018

Murphy signing boosts Rock for tricky title run-in

Nathan Murphy, Dundalk. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Nathan Murphy, Dundalk. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

CORMAC McArdle scored direct from a corner kick to snatch a last-gasp draw as Kentstown made the MDL Premier tile race considerably more intriguing and enhanced the prospects of the two other main challengers Woodview and Duleek.

There was barely time for the ball to be centred after McArdle's goal which spared Rock from suffering a more damaging result as their poor run of form continued.

However, they have gained a fillip with the capture of former Dundalk first-team regular Nathan Murphy, although the signing just came a little too late for him to play in this game on Thursday night at Sandy Lane.

He will be available for what is the toughest run-in of all the contenders, with only one home game in their last six matches. They have to meet away all three of their main rivals - Woodview, Duleek and Navan Cosmos - plus the resurgent Trim Celtic and neighbours Quay Celtic, while their sole home game is against Trim.

Assistant manager David Hoey acknowledged that the Seasiders' form has dipped since their exit from the Leinster Junior Cup to Sherrif United.

'We haven't played well since. We have been fortunate to scrape wins which we didn't do tonight, but you have to be happy to take a point when you score with the last kick of the match,' he said.

He also took heart from the fact that while their finishing programme looks very tough on paper, 'we haven't lost a game away from home. We are better on the road than at home at the minute."'

The visitors experienced something like the heartbreak of earlier in the season when they were on the verge of a famous victory over Woodview Celtic. Leading in that game also just before the final whistle, they had a highly controversial penalty awarded against them that gave Woodview a draw, and to add salt to their wounds they had two players sent off because they protested so strongly over the decision.

Rock's penalty king Kevin McArdle added to his impressive tally from the spot, stroking the ball into the corner of the net as he tempted the Kentstown goalkeeper to dive to the other side for the goal to give Rock the lead. Derek Delany sent his partner David Ward clear of the visitors' defence with a lovely flick, for the latter to be taken down inside the box five minutes from the break.

But Kentstown struck back to equalise a few minutes later to go in level at the break when home goalkeeper John Rogers was pressurised from a corner kick and his punched clearance fell to one of their players who drilled a shot to the net in a packed goalmouth.

The visitors looked the more likely to score as the play resumed, and passed up three glorious clear-cut chances, from one of which home goalkeeper Rogers somehow parried a shot over the bar, but they couldn't hit the target from even closer to goal with the other two openings.

When they did take the lead 15 minutes from time as a penalty was awarded against the unlucky Hoey, there didn't look to be a way back for Rock - until, that is, McArdle - whose corner kicks had posed problems throughout the 90 minutes - secured what could be a vital point in deciding the destination of the title.

The Argus