John Cooke Cup v Watergrasshill United in Ballyadam Park on Sunday 15th April 2018
Carrigtwohill United 2 Watergrasshill United 2 (lost on pens)
Scores: Anesh Swani, Evan Donnelly
Carrigtwohill faced a difficult home Cup tie in Ballyadam against Watergrasshill on a wet and windy Sunday morning last. Overnight rain had made the pitch very soft but it managed to pass a pitch inspection after some good work in the goalmouth with a sweeping brush !
It was a difficult first half for the home side. Having played just 40 hours beforehand, Carrigtwohill were playing into a stiff breeze found the going tough. They were restricted to half chances and set-pieces as the fresher Watergrasshill side played a long high tempo style of football which kept Carrigtwohill under constant pressure. Good work in defence by Ronan Ymedi and especially Ebe Imoh were nullifying the Watergrasshill attacks but it was the visitors who had the territory
The second half was a different ball game. Ronan moved to midfield alongside Abdul and Rob Adam and Alex Canty came on as striker and it was now Carrigtwohill who dominated possession. Rob carved out a neat opening for himself, Evan Donnelly went close from a direct free and Abdul shot narrowly wide as the home side pushed for an opening score. Sure enough it came in the 72nd minute when after some lovely interplay between Alex and Evan on the wing, Alex crossed for Anesh to score at the far post.
The lead was short lived however, as back came Watergrasshill with just 3 minutes remaining. They won a free just outside the box and hit a thunderous shot which somehow came through the Carrigtwohill wall and wrong-footed Darren Flynn in goals. It would be a frantic last 10 minutes, with both teams creating chances, but there would be no separating them in normal time.
So, into extra time and all present were treated to a truly sublime goal in the 5th minute. Picking up the ball on the right wing and 3 yards from the outer corner of the penalty box, Evan Donnelly struck a superb shot using the outside of his right foot which curled into the top left hand corner of the goal – a wonder strike !
Ballyadam was hoping but there was more drama to come as the visitors came back once again to tie the match. They won a corner and scored with a header, so the lead only lasted 4 minutes.
Both teams have to be credited with the effort and energy in very difficult conditions – playing 100 minutes of soccer in windy, wet, cold conditions on a heavy soft pitch, but there always has to be a winner and so it was to a penalty shoot-out.
Again, it was difficult to separate the sides – with both scoring their first 5 penalties, so it would now go to sudden death and this is when the pressure really starts to mount on the young shoulders. The shoot-out was very tense and was ratcheted up another notch when Carrigtwohill missed their first. Watergrasshill needed to score to win, but Darren had other ideas and dived to his right to save.
Again, Carrigtwohill looked to push ahead, but this time the shot went over the bar and Darren was faced with needing to make another save. Again he dived to his right and expertly saved with his legs. However, to the amazement of the supporters, the referee had spotted a technical infringement and ordered this penalty to be re-taken. This was a cruel twist. The striker did not make any mistake the second time around scored the winning penalty for Watergrasshill
Some superb performances on the day especially Ronan, Rob and Anesh in midfield and James O’Shaughnessy who was commanding at right back. However, Man of the Match was Darren Flynn for his efforts especially during the shoot-out.
Neither team deserved to lose but the lads gave it their all. Well done to both teams.
Player of the Match; Darren Flynn