Newry City AFC Reserves put league positions to one side when they entertained Armagh City Reserves in Wednesday night’s Wilmor Johnston Cup semi- final game at the Showgrounds. Against a side sitting fourth in the table and who had recently beaten them 3-0 but now only 90 minutes away from a cup final the Newry lads produced a sterling performance to win 3-1 and book their final spot against Banbridge Rangers Reserves
Speaking after the game Newry manager Gary Redpath was obviously delighted with the win naming Sean Hand as his Man of the Match whom he described as “outstanding from start to finish.” Manager Redpath however was also keen to heap praise on all his players who gave a full 90 minute performance and who he felt were full value for their win.
This was far from a one sided match as Newry went a goal down on the half hour mark when Armagh’s James Nesbitt broke down the right wing and when most expected a crossed ball Nesbitt shot low and hard to Gary Murphy’s near post, the ball clipping of the inside of the post on its way into the net giving Murphy no chance to save.
Newry replied quickly however Joe Campbell turning his man just outside the box forcing his marker to stop his run on goal by fouling. Retribution was taken by Sean Hand who curled the resulting free kick into the top corner of the Armagh net for the equalizing goal.
Playing with a back three of Ian Curran, Micky Hastewell and the imperious Joel Annett Newry continued to play all the football and had a great chance to take the lead on 40 minutes when once again Campbell, who gave the Armagh defence a torrid time throughout, was upended on the edge of the box. This time Andy McLarty stepped up with a fierce drive which John Daly in the Armagh goal performed heroics to save.
Perceived wisdom is that a good time to score is just before half time and that’s just what Newry did with Campbell again involved taking a quick short corner to Sean Hand. Hand in turn fizzed a cross along the ground to the edge of the box where it was met by McLarty who curled a perfect shot to the top corner of the Armagh net to put Newry 2-1 up at half time.
Newry took up where they left off from the restart with their five man midfield of Hand, Stefan Martin, Graeme Edgar, Cian Feehan and Sean Mooney all working hard, hunting in packs and breaking forward at every opportunity.
The situation went from bad to worse for the visitors when Cathal Judge was shown a red card for an off the ball incident with Joe Campbell, an incident which forced Campbell’s subsequent substitution with a gashed leg.
With Armagh reduced to ten men a third goal was always going to seal victory for Newry and it duly came when Stefan Martin won the ball on the half way line and found Shane Lundy wide on the left. Lundy picked out Mark Lowry with a pin point cross, Lowry displaying his class to effortlessly slide the ball past Daly to put Newry 3-1 up, a lead which they never relinquished.
Delighted both with his Man of the Match and helping his team reach their first final Hand stated after the game “We were confident that we would win and in the end we were disappointed we didn’t score more. But the lads put in a great shift on the night. I am delighted I got the goal but more so with the win and the performance from the lads. Now for the final we just have to keep doing what we’re doing, let our football do the talking and hopefully come away with the trophy
Gary Redpath was also keen to praise all of his players, “The boys and especially Graeme Edgar worked hard and deserved their result, in fact we had a lot more chances that we should have capitalised on and could have got a few more goals but we are happy to be in the final. Tonight we had a very youthful squad with four under 17 players on the bench, Finn Campbell, Ronan McGrath, Stephen King and Lee Courtney. Micheál Hastewell, Cian Feehan and Sean Mooney are all 18 years old and Joel Annett, Stefan Martin and Andy McLarty all 19. So I am very pleased with how the team have improved throughout the year, especially with how the younger players have progressed which is what it is all about and the final is just a bonus”.
The final will be played at Holm Park, Armagh on Friday 28th March @ 19:30hrs.
Newry City AFC Team: Gary Murphy, Joel Annett, Micheál Hastewell, Ian Curran, Sean Hand, Stefan Martin, Graeme Edgar, Cian Feehan, Sean Mooney, Joe Campbell and Andy McLarty. Subs: Mark Lowry, Shane Lundy, Lee Courtney, Christopher Hughes, Stephen King, Finn Campbell, Ronan McGrath.