GMIT Castlebar V GMIT Galway- Bragging rights, wet Wednesday in November-,heavy pitch, full blooded tackles, goals galore and the underdogs emerging triumphant -a classic cup tie.
When the two GMIT names came out of the hat together in the draw for the CFAI Umbro Cup the prospect was relished by the Castlebar men, solid underdogs with nothing to lose and a chance to test their emerging team against an outfit from a higher division, (Galway ply their trade in the Premier division while Castlebar work out of division 1), they eagerly anticipated the challenge.
This anticipation was evident form the moment the whistle blew as it was the Castlebar men who were quickest out of the traps, and laid down a marker with some crunching challenges as well as some neat passing moves. Galway were struggling to settle but showed that they had class in their side as well as no lack of pace when one of a trio of Castlebar Men in the Galway side Shane Hynes, (Tom King & Peter Drevins being the others), split the Castlebar defence with a lovely through ball and the pace on the left wing had the defenders chasing shadows only for a fine interception by Westport United’s Seamus Higgins to snuff out the danger.
Punches were traded at this stage and King was looking like providing Galway’s biggest threat with menacing runs and clever play. But it was Castlebar that took the early lead with an exceptional goal. Breaking up a Galway attack Daniel Bourke found his Ballyglass teammate Kevin bourke in midfield. This triggered a neat exchange of passes which culminated in slipping Castlebar Celtics Chris Rowland in behind the left full, his electrifying pace put him clear of the trailing defenders allowing him the time to pick out a measured cross which Glenisland’s Paul McLoughlin , arriving into the box at pace from deep, met with power and precision to head a glorious opener past a helpless Galway keeper. If The Galway boys were in any doubt of the seriousness of Castlebar’s intentions it was dispelled at this juncture.
Castlebar steeled themselves for the immediate backlash, but the expected jolt into life never came, and when it didn’t Castlebar smelt blood and went for the jugular. Snugboro’s Jonathan Maloney was ploughing a lone furrow up front but he managed to put the Galway rearguard under immense pressure, in one such instance he forced a throw in, from the long delivery there was a bit of head tennis and failed efforts to clear and when a chance fell to Augsutine Ademoye he kept a cool head to stab the ball home from close range.
Castlebar were firmly in control at this stage and would have remained so but for an unfortunate injury to Aidan Ferguson from Killala. When he was forced to leave the field the previously rock solid rearguard starting to show weaknesses and it was no surprise that it was in the left full area that Galway exploited his absence. The experienced Tom King mindful that he was fast running out of pitch tempted the defender into a challenge he would have been best to avoid and as he tumbled to the ground the penalty was given amid an avalanche of complaint from the Castlebar players.
Tom duly dispatched the penalty to drag the Galway men back into the tie. If they had hoped to press for an equaliser and go in to half time level their hopes were short lived as Castlebar were not about to see their advantage eroded. Keiran Cummins stopped an attack coming down his wing and reminiscent of the first goal but slightly more direct, he found “Gus” Admeoye who neatly played Darren O Grady in behind the right full to allow him to take the ball into his stride and whip in an excellent cross which Kevin Bourke met with a diving header to restore the two goal cushion which they took into the half time break.
Despite the lack of conviction Galway displayed in the first half they managed to rectify their problems at half time and within 10 minutes of the restart were back on level terms first Peter Drevins who got behind the back four and slotted the ball past the advancing Keeper Paul Martin and second Rob Timoney with a header from a corner that need not have been conceded and was poorly defended.
At this stage the signs were not good, Castlebar knew they would have a battle on their hands but the plan for survival was based on keeping it tight at the start, with that plan out the window immediately they had to open up and try to reassert themselves. Jonathan Maloney led the way and the workload he got through in his lone role up front was incredible. Kevin and Gus were getting to grips with midfield again and Chris Rowland on the right wing was causing the Galway full back untold problem with his pace and skill.
When Daniel Bourke gathered the ball after another thwarted attack, rather than clear his lines aimlessly he kept his head rounded the onrushing Galway midfielder and threaded the ball coolly through to Chris who with the deftest of flicks took out the defender and proceeded to glide past him. The Galway man frustrated at being beaten yet again decided Chris was not going successfully complete this manoeuvre and unceremoniously hacked him to the ground.
with the resulting free being over 30 yards out and off to the right the majority of players were lined up anticipating the delivery into the box, like wise everyone on the sideline was inclined to think this was the sensible plan and as it transpired the galway keeper was certainly of a similar mind. He was positioned to deal with this threat but Gus was thinking otherwise and unleashed an explosive shot which, extremely fortunately it must be said, struck a Galway defender to leave the keeper powerless as he looked across and watched the ball cross the line.
4-3 now but a glance at the clock showed nearly 20 minutes to go. Galway were not going to let this slip away and the mammoth effort was starting to take its toll on some of the Castlebar players. The first and obvious victim was Jonathan who had ran himself into the ground, he was replaced by Paul Ruane who was given a similar brief and played it to perfection – almost snatching the security goal. But Galway came in droves in a relentless onslaught, time and again they came but each time they were repelled. The rock they floundered on most was Colin McDonnnell from Manulla who was outstanding at the heart of the defence and with his partner Seamus Higgins ensured nothing would come through the middle. The full backs Daniel Bourke and Kieran Cummins were playing their part to perfection but such was the weight of the attack, there were several hearts in the mouth moments. Only for some wayward finishing from the tribesmen and some heroics in goal from Paul Martin,(we wont mention his OTT efforts to run down the clock!!), the game might have been headed to extra time. But with Chris and Darren taking turns at relieving the pressure by carrying the ball down the wings, as well as bodies on the line last gasp defending from Paul Mcloughlin they managed to hold out.
The celebrations that greeted the final whistle showed how much it meant and this as much as anything could have pinpointed the difference between the two teams on the day. This was a mighty scalp to take but Victory has handed the lads even bigger fish to fry with Dublin Institute Of technology due to visit ST Mary’s in the new year. The lads will be in no way daunted by the task and indeed were not even entertaining the prospect afterwards as their collective thoughts were turned to next Wednesday when they travel to I.T. Sligo knowing that a victory will see them crowned champions of Division 1 West of the colleges & universities football league.
Coach Brian Coffey, was thrilled with the performance and the outcome and proud of how far the side have progressed in a few short months, (Brian Came to the college as a mature student in September). Indeed it is worth noting that all but 3 of the players involved on Wednesday were first years who have brought GMIT Castlebar one of its finest days on the soccer field in a recent years as well as presenting a very bright picture of the future.