Bellurgan United's Ciarán Sheelan and Adrian Rafferty of Muirhevna Mor. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
NEFL Premier Division
Bellurgan United 3 Muirhevna Mor 2
Colm McConville’s reign at the helm of Bellurgan United got off to the best possible start on Sunday morning with goals from Brian White, Shane Finnegan and a late Ciarán Sheelan finish enough to put an end to Muirhevna Mor’s five-game unbeaten run.
Billy Smith twice cut the gap to the minimum from the spot, however, the champions were always chasing this game having caused self-inflicted wounds at an early stage. Losing two-goals in a crazy five-minute spell effectively put paid to their chances of doing the double over a Bellurgan side who finished the match with 10-men following the late dismissal of centre-back Darren O’Hanlon.
The defender looked to have just stood his ground as ‘Mor striker Micky O’Kane jostled for position on the edge of the area, but referee Daryl Carolan – who dished out eight yellow-cards over the 90-minutes – adjudged O’Hanlon to have fouled O’Kane who lay stricken on the turf. And to compound matters, a penalty was awarded when the incident looked to have taken place outside the box.
Coincidentally, ‘Mor’s unbeaten run began with a 1-0 victory over today’s hosts. Brendan Hughes separated the sides on that occasion with an early strike as the Blues reaped reward for a strong start. They arguably opened Sunday’s encounter the brighter too with Hughes having an effort at goal.
But, while playing most of the football with Colin Hoey and Thomas McShane dictating from midfield, Bellurgan looked the likelier on the attacking front. A great ball from the right by Brian White caused panic in the visitor’s defence and led to Paddy Keenan getting a shot on target.
The move seemed to alter the tide in Bellurgan’s favour and they made their dominance count. White put them ahead with a tidy side-footed finish beneath Cooney after Aoghan McGuinness’ pinpoint delivery narrowly evaded Keenan and Sheelan on the six-yard line.
Tensions were running high in the away camp at this point with discipline levels temporarily waning. Right-back Wayne Robinson, booked for a coming together with Shane Finnegan, was tried on the opposite flank prior to being replaced by Stephen Smith. This, not before Bellurgan’s second goal arrived in comedic circumstances. A throw-in by Aoghan McGuinness was miscued by Robinson, however, despite the ball running on, everyone bar Sheelan stood still, allowing the striker to race on and tee up Finnegan for the Flynn Park side’s second.
The closing 15-minutes of the opening-half were the most enjoyable with chances at either end. The other Smith, Billy, cut the deficit from 12-yards after O’Hanlon had upended Tiarnan Mulvenna and the striker passed up three further openings, while setting up O’Kane for another, before the interval.
Smith again went close to levelling the tie for the first time, nodding a cross from McShane inches by the post eight-minutes after the break and the rangy winger got a fifth clear-cut opportunity midway through the second-half, seeing his low effort across goal being tipped away by Bellurgan ‘skipper Robbie Arthur.
And those chances would prove ultra-costly as the hosts registered the insurance strike with six-minutes to play. This time Finnegan turned provider for Sheelan who diverted past Cooney at the dressing room end.
Keenan came perilously close to a fourth for Bellurgan with a back-post header as the game looked likely to peter out. But there was still drama to come as the official deemed O’Hanlon to have been overly aggressive with O’Kane despite there being no ‘Mor calls for foul. Controversial as it was, Smith buried the penalty despite Arthur getting a hand on it.
The Blues mounted two further attacks in a bid for parity, both of which were cleared as Bellurgan deservedly prevailed; a result which has them further clear of the danger zone.
Bellurgan United: Robbie Arthur; Aoghan McGuinness, Darren O’Hanlon, Ray Finnegan, Emmet Rogan; Danny O’Connor, Stephen Finnegan, Brian White, Shane Finnegan; Ciarán Sheelan, Paddy Keenan
Subs: Owen Armstrong for Stephen Finnegan (65), Owen Traynor for Rogan (79), Tadhg O’Connor for Shane Finnegan
Muirhevna Mor: Michael Cooney; Wayne Robinson, Philip Duffy, Adrian Rafferty, Conal Mulvenna; Brendan Hughes, Colin Hoey, Thomas McShane, Billy Smith; Micky O’Kane, Tiarnan Mulvenna
Subs: Stephen Smith for Robinson (22), Anto McLaughlin for McShane (78), Seán Dixon for Conal Mulvenna (83)
Referee: Daryl Carolan