PADRAIG Hearty’s 86th minute equaliser against Rock Celtic on Wednesday night means that Woodview Celtic will retain the MDL Premier Division title if they beat Duleek in the final game of the season.
Hearty’s late effort means that Woodview sit top of the table on 44 points with just one game to play. For the Seasiders, this was their final game of the campaign and the point for Shane Reddish’s men leaves them stranded on 43 points.
A further point behind are Duleek, managed by former Dundalk and Woodview Celtic player Dave Rogers. As things stand, they could still be crowned champions but they must beat Woodview in the final game of the season for that to happen.
Those are the permutations at the moment. However all that could change when the Meath and District League meet tonight (Tuesday) to discuss a protest lodged by Rock Celtic concerning the eligibility of a Duleek player in the fixture between the sides on Sunday April 28.
If, as the Rock Celtic camp expect, the Seasiders are awarded three points for Duleek’s alleged misdemeanour, that would put them back on top of the pile and put an end to Duleek’s hopes.
What is certain, though, is that Woodview Celtic have their fate in their own hands and the reaction of Gavin McKeever’s men to referee Brendan Gillespie’s final whistle in Glenmuir on Wednesday night showed how precious this point could be when the curtain finally comes down on the season.
Many in the large attendance would have agreed that the result was probably the right outcome.
Woodview dominated the first-half, scoring after four minutes through Billy Smith, and never allowed the Rock to settle into their stride.
The second-half saw a complete turnaround as Reddish’s tactics of going direct and exploiting David Ward’s pace in behind the Woodview defence reaped rewards.
Ward scored a stunning goal to haul Rock Celtic level in the 62nd minute before substitute Cormac McArdle, who made a huge impact on proceedings, put the visitors ahead 11 minutes later.
Woodview, though, are famed for their battling qualities and where many teams would have wilted, McKeever’s men responded. And with just four minutes to go Hearty’s sliced effort went in off the helpless John Rogers’ post to give Woodview the edge approaching the photo finish.
On a bobbly pitch which didn’t help both teams, it was the reigning champions who started on the front foot, taking an early lead.
Ray McCann, a constant menace for Rock Celtic’s young right-back Conor McDonnell, got to the byline and cut the ball back perfectly for Smith to drive a rasping effort past Rogers.
Rock, missing the likes of Sean Watters and Mark McGeown, couldn’t settle and it took a last ditch Ross Quigley tackle to stop Hearty from putting the home side two goals to the good after 14 minutes.
Rogers then showed good agility to claw a dangerous Owen Armstrong effort away before the big keeper did well to hold McCann’s curling free-kick in the 37th minute.
The Seasiders gradually showed signs of coming into the game but Woodview goalkeeper Padraig Gorham was able to deal with two Paddy Quinn efforts without too much fuss.
The visitors’ best opening of the half was a half chance in the 39th minute that saw Quigley shoot just wide after David McGeough’s initial effort had bounced off the back of Mickey O’Kane.
Woodview captain O’Kane was deployed at centre-back by his manager with Hearty and Smith in attack. And Hearty caused more trouble for the Rock defence on the stroke of half-time, cutting in brilliantly from the right, only to be stopped by a fine Paddy Reilly tackle.
Rock’s approach completely changed in the second-half as Reddish introduced McArdle on the left wing at half-time. This allowed Quinn to move into the centre of the park where he started to dictate the play.
Ward’s pace was the key to Rock’s thinking and the former Dundalk star gave O’Kane and Chris Caulfield plenty to think about with his running in behind.
It led to a great chance for the equaliser in the 58th minute. A neat move involving Gerry McSorley, Derek Delany and Quinn set Ward in behind the Woodview back four but he could only lift his effort over the top as Gorham advanced to meet him.
Undeterred, Rock kept at it and they got their reward four minutes later when Ward held off O’Kane to turn away and drive a ferocious low drive past Gorham at his near post.
The Sandy Lane side sensed that victory was in the offing and they continued to hold the upper hand. Gorham and Caulfield had to scramble the ball clear in the 65th minute with Ward ready to pounce.
The Woodview goal continued to come under attack and four minutes later McArdle and Derek Delany both saw efforts crash off the underside of the crossbar in quick succession.
Rock Celtic’s pressure finally paid off in the 73rd minute. A corner from the right fell kindly to McSorley on the edge of the penalty area and his scuffed effort was turned home from close range by McArdle.
The Woodview camp were up in arms about the decision to award the corner for the goal. They say decisions even themselves out over a season but they cancelled each other out on the night as there was a stroke of good fortune attached to Woodview’s equaliser.
Before that, Ward hit the top of the crossbar with a looping effort while Smith was lucky to stay on the pitch following a hefty tackle on Rogers as the home side’s frustrations grew.
Frustration turned to celebration soon after when, after what looked like a foul on Paddy Reilly, the ball dropped kindly for Hearty and he left Rogers with no chance to secure the champions a point.
WOODVIEW CELTIC: Padraig Gorham; Alan McCartney, Chris Caulfield, Mickey O’Kane ©, Drew Duffy (Keith Finnegan 83); Owen Armstrong, Stephen Grimes, Paul McArdle, Ray McCann; Billy Smith (Anto Reily 79), Padraig Hearty. Unused subs: Alan Larkin, Conor Murphy.
ROCK CELTIC: John Rogers; Conor McDonnell, Paddy Reilly, Ross Quigley, Nathan Murphy; Gerry McSorley, David McGeough © (Cormac McArdle HT), Paul Gore, Paddy Quinn; David Ward, Derek Delany. Unused subs: John Sharkey,
REFEREE: Brendan Gillespie.