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Controversy as Rock knocked out of FAI Junior Cup

Evergreen 3 Rock Celtic 1



Two late goals ended Rock Celtic’s run in the Leinster Junior Cup with a defeat that was marked by controversy when the Seasiders made the long journey to Kilkenny for the fifth round tie on Sunday afternoon.

Rock, who ended with 10 players, took an early lead and then Barry O’Hare looked set to extend it but was fouled with no action taken as he was put clear. The tie then swung the way of Evergreen, equalising before the break and effectively their decisive goal three minutes from time, was, as far as Rock was concerned, a clear case of offside.

However, ultimately, it was an encouraging start to his reign for manager Shane O’Callaghan and his team of assistants. He expressed his pride and congratulated his charges on a “magnificent performance” against a team packed with top level experience and who are unbeaten – lead their league – with a record of six wins and draw from their seven outings.

As many as a half dozen of their players have playing experience across channel, including striker Mickey Drennan who spent time at Aston Villa, and lined out in recent times with St Patrick’s Athletic. He also was with Waterford, whose assistant manager was reported to be trying to persuade him to return to the Blues.

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Underlining the calibre of the opposition is the fact that Evergreen, three years ago, reached the final of the FAI Junior Cup.

By contrast, it was a largely callow Rock side, featuring two 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old who never had played at this level, and combined had one appearance in the North East League.

The team signed off on a high from that league before Christmas, winning the Kilmessan Shield with a strong finish to the season, but were shorn of key and experienced performers like the new manager and Martin Smith who have decided to hang up the boots, along with Jason Mok, while goalkeeper John Rogers and striker Aaron Comerford were not available, along with others.

O’Callaghan, backed by Mok, and long-time goalkeeping and striking stars Paul Scanlon and Derek Delany respectively, along with long-serving player Ed Maguire, have taken charge after Gary Lennon and Paddy Reilly stepped down at the successful conclusion to the North East campaign.

In the circumstances, it was a tall order for the new set-up to topple such formidable opponents, and faced into the bargain with making a two-and-a-half hour journey to the venue.

The Seasiders have decided to put their faith in youth players, and that posed additional problems in that the club couldn’t obtain clearance and sign several such players in time for Sunday. So the playing travelling party consisted of 13 players, with the manager and assistant Mok named as unused substitutes.

Nevertheless, an upset was on the cards when Seán Hand put Rock ahead after four minutes.

It looked even more of a possibility when striker O’Hare was sent clear and taken down 25 yards out from goal. Play seemed to freeze as Rock definitely expected action from the official. But as the ball rolled to, and was picked up by, the home goalkeeper, the whistler didn’t stop play.

It was the big turning point as Evergreen made the most of the escape to equalise on the half hour.

Goalscorer Hand struck the Evergreen post and the ball went wide during an even second half.

The next big incident in the match occurred with the harsh sending off of Rock debutant Adam Hoban with 15 minutes of normal time left.

Rock’s tale of woe was crowned three minutes from time when Evergreen went ahead with the visitors maintaining that the scorer was yards offside.

The referee proceeded to play seven minutes of extra-time, which was a mystery as there were only a few substitutes used and no big hold up.

In any event, Evergreen scored in the last minute of added time to put the outcome beyond doubt.

Rock: David Hayes, Liam O’Callaghan, Adam Hoban, Conor Soraghan, Cathal Bellew, Seán Hand, Oisin Meegan, Ed Maguire, Rory Kirk (Craig Colgan), Barry O’Hare, Aaron McQuillan (Oran O’Hanlon).