Dunmurry Rec from the Premier Division of the NI Amateur League were knocked out at the first round stage of the Irish Cup for the first time in twenty years on Saturday when they were beaten one nil by Newry City AFC.
This was the reformed Newry side’s first venture in the premier cup completion in N Ireland and this victory against one of the top junior teams speaks volumes for the progress the club has made this season.
Having done their homework on the Dunmurry side the Newry management started with a defensively minded formation with five men in midfield and Chris Smyth, on paper, playing a lone role up front. However, the Newry lads were on the front foot from the kick off and it would soon have been evident to the home team that they were in an even match.
In a game played at a ferocious pace which was matched by many of the tackles, the few clear goal chances that developed all came in the first fifteen minutes. The first of these came five minutes in when Lonnie Larkin came out best in a midfield challenge and fed Gareth Hughes who’s slide rule pass gave Smyth a clear sight of goal only for his effort to skid low on the wrong side of the keepers far post.
On the 10th minute Dunmurry had their best chance of the game when a mix up in the Newry defence resulted in a clearance cannoning into a fellow defender and looping high into the box. The bouncing ball was latched onto by Dunmurry centre forward Ricky Rutherford who with the open net in sight was forced to blaze the ball high over the bar by Joel Annett’s last ditch challenge.
Dunmurry paid the ultimate price for this miss minutes later when Conor McCaul controlled a long throw in inside the box and in the act of turning was taken down by a defender for a clear penalty which Larkin smashed high into the net.
The second quarter of the game was an epic midfield battle between two sets of players where no quarter was asked nor given and where the referee, who got all the major decisions correct, may have rightly felt overworked.
The second half was played on much the same theme. Although, obviously content with a one goal lead, Newry pressed forward at every opportunity. Shortly after the restart McCaul picked up a Dunmurry clearance just inside the Newry half and strode forward before firing narrowly wide from thirty yards. Gareth Hughes was the fulcrum for many of Newrys attacks as he made himself available for the ball to be played into his feet inside the Dunmurry box from where he set up shots from the edge of the area, twice for Graeme Edgar and then for David Anderson. Unfortunately neither player’s effort troubled the Dunmurry keeper. At the other end the Newry rear guard of Niall Crilly, Annett, McElroy and Anderson were superbly marshalled by Peter Murphy in goal allowing Dunmurry only long range speculative crosses which were mopped up with aplomb by Murphy. As the final whistle beckoned both sides became more frantic, Dunmurry keen to preserve their cup status and Newry hoping to beat a team who had held Linfield to a draw only two seasons ago. With no further chances created injury time came and went and the final whistle sounded with Newry winning by that solitary Larkin goal.
In a game where all fourteen players used played a full part it would be harsh to single out anybody in what was complete team performance. However, Joel Annett and Paul McElroy were both outstanding as they held the Dunmurry talisman Rutherford scoreless and the Newry team spirit was epitomised by captain Chris McMahon and his vice-captain Niall Crilly, both of whom shone brightest in a game of crunching full blooded tackles with McMahon perhaps shading the Man of the Match award for one classy back heel pass which bamboozled the entire home midfield.
Newry City now look forward to taking on Hanover at the Showgrounds on Friday night, in the second round of the Bob Radcliffe cup, 7.30pm KO.
Newry City AFC Team: Peter Murphy, Niall Crilly, Joel Annett, Paul McElroy, David Anderson, Conor McCaul, Graeme Edgar, Chris Smyth, Lonnie Larkin (1), Gareth Hughes, Chris McMahon ©. Subs used: Peter Thompson, Ian Curran, Neil Barr. Sub not used: Paul Daly.