East United advanced to the third round of the Connacht Cup on Sunday morning thanks to a relatively comfortable victory over Division 4A side Cois Farraige at Castlepark. The Third Division leaders had to wait until Mark Dowling’s header seven minutes from time to make the game safe, as the Connemara side’s combativeness in the unpleasant conditions made life difficult for the eventual winners.
Autumnal splendour this most certainly was not as an icy wind cut briskly across the Castlepark pitch and driving rain also added to the elemental nastiness. A day for slick, passing, creative football this was not, but credit must go to both sides for their application and effort in at least trying to do the simple things right.
The gusting wind’s first involvement in the tie came in the seventh minute when an attempted clearance by Sean Lydon blew back into his own penalty area and Peadar Geoghegan almost profited but could only head wide.
It took until the 20th minute for East to get a sight on goal – Martin McDonagh shot left and wide following good work from striker Patsy McDonagh. Sean Lydon got forward to whip in a dangerous cross from the left two minutes later but ‘keeper Richard McDonagh did well to cling onto the greasy ball as a number of players surrounded him.
Donal Kelly was proving the visitors’ most potent threat, and he had a great duel throughout with East centre half Denis Lydon. In fact, East owe a lot of credit for their clean sheet to Lydon, who defended tigerishly throughout, making a number of crucial interventions.
The first of these came on 24 minutes when Kelly was poised to shoot, only for Lydon to toe-poke the ball behind for a corner. Dowling had looked the liveliest for East in the opening stages and he, somewhat fortuitously, opened the scoring six minutes before half time. After chasing a long ball, Dowling looked up and attempted to cross to the far post.
‘Keeper McDonagh looked set to claim it at the near post, but failed to gather the ball cleanly and spun around in horror to see the ball nestle in the bottom corner. Donal Kelly almost restored parity within a minute but found Mark Philbin in the right position to block his shot.
With the last kick of the half, East had an amazing let off when Kelly’s corner hopped off the crossbar twice before falling to Keith Donoghue who couldn’t keep his shot down. Denis Lydon again came to his side’s rescue when blocking Kelly’s run on 52 minutes, before Patsy McDonagh and Dowling both wasted one-on-one opportunities in the space of three minutes for East.
East’s greater fitness levels, attributed to coach Mike Lydon’s intensive training sessions, came to the fore in the closing stages when they began to find gaps in the Cois Farraige back line. Christian Ryan and Sean Lydon were exposing space on either flank, and it was Ryan who supplied the cross near the end for Dowling to head home from close range and secure their place in the next round.
East United: Mark Philbin; Aidan Fahy (Michael Goonan, 60 ), Denis Lydon, Aaron McDonagh, Sean Lydon; Christian Ryan, Martin McDonagh, Philip Lydon, Emmet Shaw; Patsy McDonagh (Keith McDonagh, 72 ), Mark Dowling.
Cois Farraige: Richard McDonagh; John Conneely, Niall McDermott, Pearse O’Toole, Tommy Conneely; Keith Donoghue, Sean Comerford, Aonghus Donoghue, Peader Geoghegan, Donal Kelly, Leon McLoughlin.
Referee: Ger Cahill.