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Big guns misfire in Cup

Big guns misfire in Cup

Padraig Burns

THE chances of a Mayo team winning the FAI Junior Cup were dealt a major blow at the weekend when Mayo’s big two, Castlebar Celtic and Westport United, were sent crashing out of the competition.
Westport travelled to face Portmarnock of Dublin, one of the best known Junior teams in the country and more than paid their way in Dublin, coming back from a goal behind to force extra-time and created enough chances to win in normal time.
However, heartbreak was in store when Portmarnock struck the winner two minutes from the end. Westport players and supporters were incredibly frustrated though with the decision of the referee not to award a clear penalty to Westport’s David Hoban in the first period of extra time.
‘’I asked him why he didn’t give us the penalty and he just said, ‘no way, it was never one’“ admitted Westport player/manager Brendan O’Connor last night. “We couldn’t believe it and from their reaction afterwards, their players couldn’t believe it either, they knew they had got out of jail. Dave was taken down by two of them just as he had put the ball around the ‘keeper and all we got was a corner. It was hard to take and it will hurt for some time. It was an incredible decision and I think it cost us the game. If we had taken the lead then I think we’d have won,’’ said O’Connor, who scored United’s goal.
Despite the disappointment and the obvious hurt that goes along with going out in such controversial circumstances, O’Connor was still proud of his players and the huge effort they put in. “I really feel for the lads, they worked their socks off and we couldn’t have asked for any more. We had some outstanding performances and personally I thought that the best players on the pitch were on our team,’’ he said.
Westport’s performance was all the more remarkable when a list of their absentees is revealed.
“We went up to Dublin without Martin Geraghty, Brian Kennedy and Seamus Higgins and we have already lost Danny Scahill and Gerry McLoughlin. Then, Eoghan’s (McHale) shoulder went on Saturday at training and we lost Dave Cam (Cameron) in the first half. Any team would suffer from withdrawals like that but our lads really dug in and I think that apart from a while in the second half we had the upper hand throughout. It’s frustrating, because if we had won, I think we’d have really built on it,’’ he said.
All thoughts now turn to the Connacht Cup and O’Connor is anxious that his team make their mark on the competition. “On the bus on the way home on Sunday night, Martin McGreal (goalkeeper) said to me that there wasn’t one player on the bus with a Connacht Cup medal and it was something that needed to be put right. So, that’s our aim and we’ll take this week off and regroup after Christmas for the match against Heatmerchants.’’
For Castlebar Celtic there could be no finger pointing at officials, they had nobody to blame but themselves. Leading 1-0 at half-time away to Wembley Rovers of Limerick, Celtic looked on course for victory but an inexplicable second half collapse put pay to any hopes Gavin Dykes had of bringing Celtic to Junior Cup glory in 2007.

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