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o'neill stands tall for polished ross!

PARK HOTSPUR............................ 1

NEW ROSS CELTIc.......................... 3

NEW ROSS CELTIC stretched their lead at the top of the table with a hard-earned victory over battling Park Hotspur in this Wexford Football League Premier Division clash at Rosslare Strand yesterday morning.

The Barrowsiders bagged the three points with a composed display throughout the ninety minutes and it now looks odds on as if they are about to put back-to-back titles as they stretch clear at the top of the table. Really at this stage the league is theirs to be lost - such is their dominance of the domestic scene.

Having made a shock exit from the Cup, New Ross Celtic are not in the mood for slipping up a second time, for this committed and stylish performance saw them dominate for lengthy stretches, although it must be said that Park Hotspur never gave up battling, although the three points were always destined for Barrowside.

The reigning champions got off to the ideal start. Having pushed forward with a number of promising attacks they eventually opened their account as early as the nineth minute. It was centre-back Matt O'Neill who gathered possession some twenty-five metres from goal before unleashing a superb shot to the top right hand corner of the net leaving keeper Ciaran O'Leary helpless.

It was to become an uphill battle for Park Hotspur who find it difficult to find any real space in front of goal despite some threatening runs from both Peter Marsden and David Hayes.

New Ross came close to increasing their lead in the fortieth minute. Paul Phelan knocked a Paddy Kinsella cross back into the path of Philip Drohan but his effort was knocked off the line by Jason Malone, while keeper O'Leary kept out the return from Grangell.

Four minutes before the break Celtic managed to double their lead. Grangell broke down the right played the ball across the face of the goal leaving Paul Phelan with a simple tap-in, with the holders taking a deserved 2-0 lead in at the break.

Park Hotspur who seemed to be lacking options through the first half sparked to life on the resumption. Inside nine minutes of the restart it was Peter Marsden who drilled a low ball to the net to make it 2-1. The game had turned right around at this stage but Hotspur were unable to create an equaliser as both Celtic centre-backs Johnny Mullett and Matt O'Neill were superb in face of incessant pressure through the opening twenty minutes of the second period.

While New Ross Celtic had chances to extend their lead they had to wait until the eighty-eight minute for their third goal. a Sean Culleton effort was deflected onto the post but the rebound struck a defender in the crowded goalmouth to find its way to the net securing all three point.

Hotspur in one late attack could have had a penalty when Matt O'Neill seemed to handle a goalbound shot on the line but unsighted Referee Damien Donovan waved on play. But even a goal would have mattered little at that stage as New Ross Celtic were well on their way to taking all three points.

Park Hotspur: Ciaran O'Leary; Jason Malone, Harry Kavanagh, Paul Dempsey, Lee smith; Tony O'Leary, Fran Cleary, David Hayes, Peter Marsden, Robbie Mullins, Warren Murphy. Subs: Kenny Kavanagh, Gary Cousins, Fran Dempsey.

New Ross Celtic: Aaron Deegan; Paddy Kinsella, Johnny Mullett, Matt O'Neill, Danny Conway, Mark Lee, Anthony O'Connor, Sean Culleton, Philip Drohan, Michael Grangell, Paul Phelan. Subs: Brian Mullett, Stephen O'Leary, Gary O'Connor, Tom Lee.

Referee: Damien Donovan.