WOODVIEW Celtic’s hopes of making it three MDL Premier Division titles in a row came to an end on Sunday last as Gavin McKeever’s side lost 4-2 at the Tollstone to a Duleek team who believe they will be crowned champions.
The Dundalk outfit twice held the lead only to be pegged back by Dave Rogers’ side to leave the score 2-2 at the break. And despite playing down the hill with the advantage of a stiff breeze in the second-half, Woodview only showed patches of the form that have made them the team to beat for the past two seasons, having no answer to goals from Brian Murphy and an injury time effort by Tony Grant.
The result sparked wild celebrations back in Blackrock with Rock Celtic - beneficiaries of an MDL ruling that saw Duleek stripped of three points earlier in the week - believing that they are the new champions.
However those festivities may have been premature as Duleek have lodged an appeal with the Leinster FA. If they win that, the league trophy is heading for Meath.
McKeever raised a few eyebrows with his team selection for Woodview’s biggest game of the season.
There was no place for the combative Paul McArdle in the centre of the park while Billy Smith was entrusted with helping his full-back Alan McCartney on the right flank; a move that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster as Duleek exploited Smith’s reluctance to track back and defend.
It had all started so well for the reigning champions. They took the lead in the 4th minute when McCartney’s pass found Padraig Hearty in the penalty area and his cut back from the right was tapped home by John Smyth.
They say in football that you are at your most vulnerable just after scoring and it proved to be the case for Woodview as Duleek pulled level within seconds of the restart.
A throw in on the Woodview right caught McCartney and goalkeeper Padraig Gorham napping and Barry Kavanagh raced in to slide the ball home for the equaliser.
Woodview responded like champions, pulling back in front after just 10 minutes. A slip by a Duleek defender allowed Smyth to seize possession. His pass to Mickey O’Kane looked to have driven the Woodview skipper too wide but O’Kane showed why he is the deadliest striker in the locality with a cracking left footed drive past Tommy Melia.
Woodview pressed for a third and they were denied a stonewall penalty in the 13th minute when referee Sjrdan Bozic waved play on after Billy Smith was clearly hauled down by a Duleek defender.
The woodwork denied Woodview five minutes later. Hearty’s cross from the left found O’Kane at the back post but his header came back off the upright and Paul Martin was in the right place at the right time to block the striker’s subsequent follow up on the line.
Duleek were limited to counter attacks for most of the first-half and they again took advantage of the space vacated by Smith for their equaliser in the 40th minute.
Paul Mantando set Tony Grant away on the left flank and he made Chris Caulfield pay for the lack of a challenge by floating the ball over Gorham and into the far corner.
Bit between the teeth
Knowing that only a win would do, Woodview emerged for the second-half with the bit between their teeth and both Warnock and Smyth tested the suspect Melia with long range efforts.
That was all they could muster though as too many of McKeever’s charges didn’t perform to their capabilities and it was no surprise when the Woodview boss took Smith off in the 66th minute.
At that stage, Duleek were ahead for the first time in the game when Brian Murphy’s thumping header from a Paul Martin corner left Gorham with no chance.
With their title slipping away, Woodview needed two goals to rescue themselves but their only real chance came in the 75th minute when Stephen Grimes - another who disappointed on the day - screwed an Armstrong lay-off badly wide with the goal at his mercy.
Caulfield saw a blistering half volley deflected wide as the visitors threw men forward but they were caught in stoppage time when the excellent Mantando picked out Grant to put the seal on Duleek’s victory and the final nail in Woodview’s coffin.
Woodview’s day was summed up when Grimes was shown a straight red just before the final whistle.
All eyes are now on the Leinster FA to see whether the MDL Premier Division trophy will reside in Blackrock or Duleek for the next 12 months.