National Cup v Blarney United A in Ballyadam Park on Sunday 29th October 2017
Carrigtwohill United 3 Blarney United A 4 AET
Scorers: Alex Canty, Ebe Imoh, Evan Donnelly.

Blarney United were the visitors to Ballyadam Park in the third round of the National Cup. Although just one division separated the sides on paper, this was a formidable Blarney outfit having dispatched Carrigtwohill a couple seasons ago on their way to an impressive unbeaten season.

Despite this, it was the home side who had the most of the opening half of the match – with Evan Donnelly and Darragh Hoare both going very close to opening the scoring. At the other end, the pairing of Sean deBurca and Darragh Crowley were reasonably comfortable and Blarney only able to threaten on counter attacks. As is often the case when a team does not score when on top, it was the visitors who were to score against the run of play. Following a Carrigtwohill free on the edge of the box, the Blarney keeper took possession and sent the ball high and long which was not well dealt with by the defence, allowing the striker to latch on to it and stroke the ball home beyond the onrushing keeper. In fact, a very similar goal to that scored at Old Trafford the day before.

After the break at half-time, Blarney quickly increased their lead to two goals following neat work on the right wing. In previous years, this would have been a cue for a slide as to be fair, there was not much realistic hope of a Cup victory at this point. However, it is a huge credit to the team the manner in which they turned this game on its head ! Alex Canty was first to strike when he used his skill and strength to hold off the defenders tackle to nail a cool finish into the net – 2-1 and game on. With 25 minutes left to play, Ballyadam Park was rocked by a wonder strike from Ebe Imoh. This player has been superb all season, and more so when his team really needed it as he was an inspiration for his team mates all day. Playing at left back, he was pushing up on the wing when the ball came to him – and he struck a ferocious volley from approximately 50 yards which bullet like found the top right hand corner of the net. The pitch erupted in celebration – not only the spectacular nature of the shot but the timing as it levelled the cup tie with all to play for. To those of a certain vintage – it reminded of a certain Tony Yeboah goal for Leeds United against Liverpool in 1995

It would be easy to think that it was all Carrigtwohill at this point, but Blarney were threatening. This was a team effort along the back line and in truth there were several close ones – with Evan heading off the line and their striker hitting the post at one point. Bartek Stepaniuk in goals was having a superb match – his handling and catching were sure and in truth one particular save was worth coming to see on its own. After a clever break down the left wing, the Blarney winger floated the ball in to be volleyed home. Bartek made a point blank save, then raced across the small square to block the rebound. However the ball spilled to the Blarney player near the post who had the whole goal gaping in front of him but again Bartek somehow managed to save the third shot. Brilliant.

With just 8 minutes left on the clock, it was Carrigtwohill who were to stun the Division 1 side by going ahead from a free. Evan Donnelly, having a superb match, struck the free which found the bottom lefthand corner of the net. It was now all hands to the deck as Blarney piled forward and with minutes left to play, the referee blew for a seemingly innocuous foul near the edge of the box. In fact, he was pointing the penalty spot as he judged the trip to be inside the box. Blarney made no mistake from the spot and we were all set for extra time.

This was to be 10 minutes each way, but in truth Carrigtwohill could not get re-energised. They conceded almost from the kick-off and although they had the lions share of the possession for the remainder of the match, they could not create clear cut openings as Blarney played a clever match by pulling players back and slowing down the pace when they could. So near yet so far – but it was Blarney who would go forward to the next round. The Carrigtwohill players and coaches were disappointed but also happy to have played in such a titanic struggle and if this level of performance can be maintained it is a good sign for the season ahead.

All 15 players involved were exhausted and on a high after the match ended and Ebe’s wonder-strike and the dubious penalty was all the talk as they trotted back to the dressing room. This was a most enjoyable Cup-tie and entertaining for those who had come to watch.

Player of the Match; Ebe Imoh