A first minute penalty save from Robert Samson wasn’t enough to help Ardee Celtic extend their FAI Junior Cup run beyond the last 64 on Sunday as Clonmel Town ran out 1-0 extra time winners over the Deesiders in Tipperary.
Having travelled 250 kilometres on the latest step on their cup journey in 2017, Celtic went the distance on the field too. It was only after a scoreless first 90 minutes that the hosts found an eventual winner. Keith Guiry proved the matchwinner.
Nine days earlier, centre back Niall Sharkey had proved the extra time hero in a fourth round tie against Collinstown in Lucan but there was to be no dream finish this time around. The Aviva Stadium dream is over for another year at least.
There remains some North East Football League interest in the cup though. Newfoundwell travelled to Cork to face Bandon this afternoon and return home to Drogheda with a 2-0 win and a place in the last 32 secured.
In this game. Clonmel’s winner arrived near the death but they could have scored after the very first attack of the game. Robbie Reynolds upended Cillian Crowe in the area. Referee John Hadnett pointed to the spot but Keith Browne was denied by Samson.
The home side had the better of things in the first half. Browne and then his namesake Keith Cashman went close while Celtic’s only glimpses towards goal were via two Ross Gaynor free kicks.
Samson, in the nets with now Declan Butler and Stuart Reynolds involved, had more work to do before the break. Meanwhile the opposite netminder Eoin Power had little to be worried about as Celtic failed to carve out anything resembling a meaningful chance.
As they did in the first, Clonmel again looked more likely to break the deadlock after half time. As the clock ticked towards full time, substitute David McGrath went close, as did left back Kyle Farrell and Guiry.
McGrath in particular was thankful by full time that he needn’t regret his miss. His failed to connect for a seemingly simple finish. Samson denied another sub – Aidan McGrath – and Reynolds had to be alert to clear off his own goal line.
Celtic’s best opportunity arrived when Power produced a stunning save to deny Darryn Gaynor. From the corner that followed, the excellent Paul Matondo headed wide.
Just five minutes were on the clock in an additional 30 of extra time when Clonmel hit the front. There was dismay in the Celtic ranks that referee Hadnett did not blow his whistle for a free kick up the field.
However, Clonmel produced a sweeping move involving both McGraths ended in David picking out midfielder Guiry at the back post. He finished well to seal the win. To the Font’s credit, they didn’t fold and went close to forcing a dramatic penalty shoot-out at the Cashel Road venue.
Niall Sharkey’s header was straight at the goalkeeper, Gareth Kane shot wide and, perhaps with the best chance of them all, Matondo shot over with just minutes remaining.
The result means Ardee Celtic suffer a first cup defeat of the season but they remain in the hunt on three fronts, plus Conor Lynch’s side will be looking to move up the league table with just four fixtures played in a truncated season to date.