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Seniors Mayo FA Cup Champions

December 16, 2016

FOLLOWING their bitterly disappointing last-minute exit from the FAI Junior Cup, Castlebar Celtic claimed the final spoils of the Mayo League season at Milebush Park on Sunday last.
Even without the services of Gerry Hunt, Imoa Atoi and James Minogue – all influential figures  in last week’s dramatic encounter – Celtic’s strength in depth proved too strong for a Ballyglass side hampered by injuries. It was a point not missed by Celtic manager Ciaran Kelly.
“Football is always about squads,” he told The Mayo News. “These players know how to play the game. Jordan Loftus obviously came back today and one thing he offers us is the ability to score goals. They win football games and that was the difference between the two sides today.”
Indeed, the ex-Finn Harps striker indeed looked in razor sharp form from the outset and was denied after seven minutes by a fine Niall Gallagher block. Ballyglass went close themselves five minutes later when Keelan McDonell’s inch-perfect crossfield ball found Conor Heneghan on the edge of the area. The winger’s effort was destined for the top right corner but for an heroic one-handed save by Mark Benson.
Celtic’s high line continued to frustrate Ballyglass, and the Candystripes found themselves 1-0 down on 20 minutes. An inch-perfect ball from Jose Sola found Loftus, who side-footed home from 12 yards. Celtic quickly pressed for a second and were duly rewarded just five minutes later. This time, the opportunistic Loftus capitalised on indecision in the Ballyglass defence following a corner  to fire home a half-volley, doubling Celtic’s advantage.
Liam Hughes, JP O’Gorman and Conor Heneghan continued to toil and engineer opportunities for Ballyglass, but they failed to make any significant inroads for the remainder of the half.  Celtic put real distance between the sides on 36 minutes when  Jordan Loftus completed his hat-trick with arguably the goal of the game. A beautifully lofted ball from full back Mark Howley found Loftus, whose sublime first touch afforded him the time and space to rifle home and leave Celtic three up at the break.
As with all of Tom Connolly’s sides, Ballyglass certainly didn’t lack heart and courage, which was  epitomised by the attitude shown on the resumption. From the restart, Conor Heneghan expertly found Liam Hughes, who brought a smart save from Benson. Keelan McDonnell and JP O’Gorman were coming more and more into the game, but in their efforts to get back into the tie, Ballyglass were left vulnerable on the counter.
Niall Gallagher made another fine stop from Anthony Johnston on 56 minutes, and the introduction of Alan McHugh breathed new life into the Ballyglass midfield moments later. McHugh was instrumental in Ballyglass’s first goal, with Liam Hughes tapping in from close range following a Conor Heneghan strike, but the revival – and optimism – were short-lived.
It was that man Loftus again who found the top right corner on 70 minutes from a Colm Nevin assist, brilliantly placing his effort past the outstretched hand of Niall Gallagher.  Gallagher did thwart Celtic on two further occasions, the second of which a marvellous reaction save to deny substitute Rory Nevin. Ballyglass pulled back a second in injury time, with Hughes and Heneghan again combining for the latter to coolly finish to the bottom right corner, but it proved to be mere consolation. It was a deserved victory for the Hoops in the end with skipper Ioseph O’Reilly lifting the Connacht Gold Super Cup, much to the delight of the Celtic faithful.

CASTLEBAR CELTIC
M Benson, I O’Reilly, M Howley, W Hanney, S Ryan, C Nevin, J Ivers, G O’Boyle, J Loftus, A Johnston, J Sola.
Subs used: C Griffin for A Johnston (74 mins); J Curran for M Howley (85 mins); R McTigue for J Sola (86 mins).

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