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Junior A, Div 1B Playoff, Hill Celtic 2-1 Newport Town AFC

Saturday, May 25 2019 (Hogan Park)

Scorer: Seán Ryan

Having already won the Calvert Cup and secured promotion, the fairytale ending to the Junior ‘A’ side’s season failed to come to pass on Saturday evening, when they narrowly lost the Div 1B League Playoff Final to Hill Celtic in Hogan Park on a 1-2 scoreline. Newport lost the toss for home advantage and it was Hill Celtic who didn’t give their visitors a very hospitable welcome when they led 2-0 after just 25 minutes.

It was the worst possible start for Newport as in the 12th minute, our top-scorer, Christy Doyle suffered a nasty knee injury and had to be replaced by U17 player, Jack O’Carroll. Then just 5 minutes later, right-back James Lynch, had to leave the field of play due to an ankle injury and was replaced by Kevin O’Brien, who went on to play a great game and in turn produced two brilliant pieces of defending in the second half when the Limerick side seemed destined to score.

The early changes seemed to upset Newport’s rhythm as they adjusted to the new personnel on the field and it was in this short interval that the damage was done. In the 20th minute Celtic picked up the ball on the left end-line and crossed the ball into the 6 yard box and Aaron Dawson’s header hit the cross-bar, came straight down but was deemed by the assistant referee, Jackie Curran, to have crossed the line. Some of the Newport players weren’t convinced but without the use of VAR, referee John McNamara awarded the goal. Then just 5 minutes later Newport failed to deal with a corner and Alex Mitchell scrambled the ball home from a yard out to make it 2-0 to the home side.

Even though, there was still a long way to go, Newport were shell-shocked and a comeback didn’t look on the cards. However this side have shown a lot of character during the season and after the half hour mark began to settle into the game and began to put some patterns into their play. In the 33rd minute we had a claim for handball in the box waved away and then a minute later, Jack O’Carroll’s shot on target was well saved by Robert Power in the Celtic goal. He then followed this up with a save from a Seán Ryan shot one minute later. Then within 60 seconds, Clemy’s header from a Mark McGuire cross just went the wrong side of the post. At this stage, it was all Newport and Hill Celtic were hanging on at the back. Newport’s pressure finally paid off in the 42nd minute when Sean Ryan fired home inside the box to leave the score 2-1 to Hill Celtic.Just 2 minutes later, Paul Ryan had a great chance in front of goal to level the game but he didn’t connect cleanly and the ball went wide.

The ref indicated there would be 6 minutes of injury time. Newport were now dominating the game and the city side were desperate for the half-time whistle. 3 minutes into injury time, Seán Ryan, stretched to get on a great low cross into the danger area but despite making contact the power just wasn’t enough to steer the ball past the keeper. 2-1 down at half-time but Newport were well in the game. Continue reading