With an Irish Cup tie scheduled for Saturday Newry manager Darren Mullen was presented with the difficult task of lifting his players spirits with the dark cloud caused by the passing of club stalwart Tommy O’Hanlon hanging over The Showgrounds. And while Newry did secure their passage into the third round this game was perfectly summed up by Mullen after the match “The best I can say is that it‘s a win. It was a very emotional day for the club and maybe that affected our first half performance. Whilst we were solid at the back we struggled to create much against a decent and physical Donard Hospital side” Mullen’s words encapsulated a first half of stop start football which was punctuated by sloppy passing and poor decision making with neither goal keeper getting seriously involved in the opening 45 minutes.
Indeed it took a full 50 minutes before Newry threatened the Donard goal. Aaron Brilly worked hard to win the ball in the middle of the park and immediately looked for Newry playmaker Jimmy Walker who from just outside the box forced a decent save from the Donard keeper. Alas, that chance did not kick start the Newry offence and it was the away team who almost took the lead, Newry saved by captain Chris McMahon who scrambled back to clear a goal bound effort from the Newry line. This proved to be a turning point in the game as shortly after this scare, in a bid to add some impetus, Newry introduced Mark Lowry and Mark Patton from the bench.
With the Donard side tiring Lowry’s speed was sure to cause trouble, the first example of which came on the hour mark when he was scythed down on the edge of the Donard penalty area. Walker who was becoming more of an attacking influence on the game stepped up to curl his effort inches wide of the top corner of the Donard net. Newry’s task was made a little easier minutes later when the referee finally brandished his red card to a Donard midfielder for what had become repetitive fouling. With the Donard attacking threat now virtually nonexistent Newry pressed forward to secure the win they so dearly wanted on the day.
The elusive goal which eventually came on the 75th minute was out of keeping with what had gone before. Niall Crilly picked the ball up in his defensive area. After making ground Crilly picked out Patton with a sweet pass midway inside the Donard half. The big man spun on the spot and ran at the Donard penalty area. With everyone expecting a shot from outside the box Patton, who had spied the overlapping Lowry, played a reverse pass into the winger’s path. Lowry continued his run taking the ball to the by line from where he whipped in a low cross which was met inside the six yard box by Neil Barr who turned the ball into the net to put the home side one goal up.
Newry appeared content to win by the solitary goal passing the ball about as they counted down the minutes. With Crilly now free to push forward the home side were also able to pick their moment to attack and with minutes remaining Crilly roamed into the opposing half from where he released Lowry. With his first touch Lowry swung over a high cross which Patton did well to win beyond the back post nodding the ball back across the goal line. With the Donard defence struggling to get any distance on the clearance the ball fell to Walker on the edge of the box, the midfielder unfortunate to see his low shot skim the post.
With this the final scoring opportunity Newry progressed to the third round with the final score 1-0. Content to have progressed Mullen continued ”The introduction of Lowry and Patton gave us the attacking threat which we needed and apart from the chance which Chris McMahon cleared from our goal line we never looked overly troubled. We now look forward to the next round draw”
Newry City AFC: Murphy, Crilly, Edgar, McMahon, Donegan, Brilly, Quinn, Walker, McMullan, Barr, Fay Subs: Patton, Lowry, Moan, Davison.