Quay Celtic blew the MDL Premier Division title race wide open when they beat Rock Celtic 3-2 at a bitterly cold wind and rain lashed Clancy Park on Thursday night thanks to a superb hat-trick from striker Stephen Fisher.
The result leaves the Sandy Lane outfit in 2nd place, two points behind reigning champions Woodview Celtic who top the table. Rock, though, still have a game in hand over the leaders.
Playing with the advantage of the elements at their back in the first-half, Paul O’Connell’s side opened the scoring on 20 minutes when Gavin Donnelly threaded a ball through to Fisher and he drilled the ball to the bottom corner of John Rogers’ net from a tight angle.
The home side kept up the pressure as they made full use of the gale on their backs. In contrast, Rock’s rare chances of causing danger were snuffed out.
With five minutes to go until half time the home side made it 2-0 when Emmet O’Brien burst through the centre of the Rock defence before unloading the ball to Fisher who, despite still having a lot of work to do, once again powered the ball past Rogers.
The second half opened with the home side under the cosh as the Rock camped in the Quay half. And as the intensity of the wind rose so did the Seasiders’ attacks.
Shane Reddish’s men looked favourite to get the next goal but the careless concession of a free-kick on 55 minutes saw Quay Celtic skipper Gavin Toner float the ball into the heart of the Rock defence and once again Fisher found time and space to make it 3-0 with a cool finish.
The visitors responded by laying siege to the Quay defence that stood tall under the onslaught with the vastly experienced duo of Daithi Maher and Toner excellent for the home side.
The Blackrock outfit finally found a way through in the 65th minute when a throw-in from Chris Ward fell kindly to Mark McGeown 25-yards from goal and he immediately drilled the ball through a forest of legs and past Seamus Quigley.
With the benefit of the goal Rock raised their game and ten minutes later, from another throw-in that caught in the wind and caused panic in the Quay defence, Kevin McArdle pounced to fire home and it was game on.
With ten minutes left to play a free-kick from Cormac McArdle was brilliantly tipped to safety by Quigley for a fruitless corner kick.
For the remainder of the match the visitors remained camped in the final third as they continued to pulverise the home goals but calm and assured defending by the resolute Quay defence, aided by the safe hands of Quigley ensured there was no equaliser for the stuttering Seasiders.
Quay Celtic: Seamus Quigley, Gavin Toner, Robbie Farrell, Liam McLaughlin, Daithi Maher, Emmett O’Brien, Sean O’Connor, Conor Gorman (Martin Dullaghan), Thomas McShane, Stephen Fisher, Niall Donnelly, Paddy McShane, Michael Clarke.
Rock Celtic: John Rogers, Ross Quigley, Kevin McArdle, Paul Gore, Mark McGeown, Chris Ward, Gerard McSorley (David McGeough), Paddy Quinn, Derek Delany, David Ward, Cormac McArdle. Unused subs: Ciaran Clarke, Conor McDonnell, David Hoey.