Four red cards and five goals
Castlebar Celtic 3
R O’Boyle 11, 75, S Moran 68
Westport Utd 2
P Fitzgerald 1, M Geraghty 64
GAME of the year? Certainly a contender on the basis of sheer drama and excitement. Ronan O’Boyle ensured Celtic went home with the three points after a real humdinger in Celtic Park, on Saturday night.
With so many key moments, one could write a short novel about this game. It pushed the limits of excitement to a new high. With eight yellow cards, four reds and five goals, it certainly lived up to the pre-match hype.
Within a minute Westport took the lead through Pat Fitzgerald after a pinpoint cross from James O’Donnell. That set the tone early on. Celtic soon started to settle and Ronan O’Boyle, who was in magnificent form on his return from America, drew Celtic level on 11 minutes when his hopeful shot evaded the grasp of Gary Cunningham and trickled over the line.
Westport never lost their composure and James McDonnell’s free-kick was punched clear by Derek O’Sullivan. Celtic’s Stevie Ryan can count himself lucky that he didn’t head for an early shower following a reckless challenge on Westport goalkeeper Gary Cunningham. Ronan O’Boyle put the ball into space for Ryan to run onto. Cunningham raced from his line, only to be upended and left badly injured.
It was turning very scrappy and borderline dangerous. Westport’s Phil Keegan was given a straight red for an unsavoury gesture towards the crowd. David Horkan nearly gave Westport the initiative, but his 25 yard drive whizzed wide.
Gerry McLoughlin and Gerard O’Boyle blazed their efforts high and wide as both sides tried to force matters. Ronan O’Boyle tried his luck with a rasper of a free-kick, but Gary Cunningham punched it to safety. With Celtic marginally the better side at this point. Cunningham produced a brilliant finger-tip save to deny James McGauran.
Westport front-man James O’Donnell let fly from the edge of the box and Derek O’Sullivan pushed the ball out for a corner. David Horkan was then denied by the width of the crossbar on 48 minutes. Pat Fitzgerald’s effort fizzed agonisingly wide as Westport went in search of a second goal. That elusive score arrived on 64 minutes when a powerful Martin Geraghty header rippled the net.
It was as if Celtic were playing with ten men, yet they gained parity four minutes later when towering centre-half Shane Moran headed in from a Gerard O’Boyle corner. The intensity levels went up a couple of notches but Celtic used their extra man effectively on 75 minutes.
Gareth Dunne slipped the ball to Mark Rowland, who added a lively presence. His precision through ball split the Westport defence and Ronan O’Boyle slotted the ball home. The tempestuous nature of the game continued as Stevie Ryan picked up a second yellow card.
Celtic needed calm heads to see this one out, but they also lost Andrew Shally to a second yellow after an over-zealous challenge on 86 minutes. Westport went full throttle in search of the equaliser, only for Derek O’Sullivan to deny Michael O’Rourke. In the meantime, David Hoban was required in goal as Gary Cunningham was forced to exit the fray.
The madness continued to unfold as goalkeeper Dave Hoban also headed for an early shower after his reckless challenge on Ronan O’Boyle. A crazy evening in Castlebar where Celtic grabbed the victory.
D O’Sullivan; M Roache, A Shally, S Moran, A Neary; S Ryan, G O’Boyle, C McDonnell, R O’Boyle; J McGauran, G Dunne.
Subs used: M Rowland for M McDonnell; A McDonnell for J McGauran; J Ivers for G Dunne.
G Cunningham; S Tagg, K Joyce, J Lawless, M Geraghty; G McLoughlin, P Fitzgerald, D Horkan, D Hoban; P Keegan, J McDonnell.
Subs used: J Smith for S Tagg; M O’Rourke for G McLoughlin; JP O’Gorman for G Cunningham.
Referee: D McGrath