Saturday 7 December 2019

Cup loss is 'Tarf to take for Portrane

Hockey, Neville Cup Semi-final: Portrane 2 Clontarf 4

Paul Byrne

Portrane's wait for a first-ever Neville Cup continues following a 4-2 defeat to fellow north Dubliners Clontarf.

This was a classic game of two halvesn with Clontarf dominating the opening two quarters, during which they scored all their goals, before Portrane came alive in the second half as they monopolised possession and just fell short of completing a miraculous comeback.

Portrane were dealt a blow before the game even began when it was confirmed that their three main attackers - Adam Agnew, Stephen Rogan and Sean Graham - were all unavailable for the semi-final. The loss of those three key players may have explained Portrane's lacklustre start to proceedings as Clontarf flew out of the blocks, scoring the game's opening goal after just seven minutes.

Portrane were still recovering from the loss of that early goal when they were dealt a second blow as a Clontarf attacker stole in behind a sleeping home defence to double his side's lead.

The Donabate side have been in decent form lately, but for some reason they were not at the races here as Clontarf continued to dominate all over the pitch.

The second quarter saw the visitors stretch their lead to three goals, albeit in controversial fashion as the ball was bundled into the Portrane net following what the home side felt was a clear foul on goalkeeper Dan Graham.

Just before half-time they piled on even more misery for Portrane with a fourth goal to leave the hosts with a mountain to climb.

Whatever was said in the Portrane dressing-room seemed to flick a switch in the heads of the home players as the game turned on its head in the second half.

The large crowd must have felt the tie was all but over as the teams came back out, but an early goal from Mukhtar Ahmed changed the atmosphere slightly as the home supporters finally had something to cheer about. Ahmed began the move himself in his own half before following the play and tucking the ball home after a good pass from Imran Khan.

Just before the end of the third quarter the home crowd were on their feet again as Ryan Sloane took a brilliant pass from Ahmed in his stride before finding the bottom corner of the net.

Suddenly it was game on and Clontarf were on the ropes, which was hard to believe given the dominance they displayed in the opening half.

Portrane came out for the final quarter with renewed belief and almost immediately they fashioned a glorious chance as Seamus Stone somehow contrived to miss when it looked easier to score.

Had that goal gone in Portrane would have had all the momentum going into the final 10 minutes, but unfortunately for the home side the miss regalvanised the visitors who regrouped and managed to weather the late storm to hang on and claim a place in the final.

Portrane: Dan Graham, Urdam Singh, Chris Neville, Brian McMahon, Mukhtar Ahmed, Ryan Sloane, Ossain Elmiger, Derek Ledwidge, John Skehan, Imran Khan, Rory McKeon, Seamus Stome, Shane Healy, Charl Best.

Fingal Independent