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Tuesday 30 Apr 2024
Murray the hero as ‘Mac win Intermediate Cup

Immaculata won the McComb’s Coach Travel Intermediate Cup for the first time in their history after a remarkable and gritty performance against Crumlin Star.

Tonight’s final at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park ended goalless after regulation time and added time but Immaculata prevailed in the penalty shootout.

Goalkeeper Ruairi Murray was the hero for Immaculata. The man of the match saved numerous shots during the game and then kept out two penalties in the shootout, which ’Mac won 4-3.

Immaculata played for over 75 minutes with only 10 men after Gary McVicker was red-carded in the first half.

But they defended resolutely as Star, who were looking to retain the trophy, mounted numerous attacks in front of 1316 spectators at the National Stadium.

The all Northern Amateur League Premier Division - and north v west Belfast - clash got off to a frantic start but then became a bit scrappy in the first half.

Nine of the players who started for north Belfast side Star were also in the starting line-up when they lifted the trophy after defeating another west Belfast team, St Oliver Plunkett, in last year’s final.

One of those nine players, centre forward Kevin Lynch, tested Murray early on with a decent header from an Aidan Lillis free-kick.

And down the other end during the opening exchanges Brian Kennedy went sprawling inside the area, however referee Niall Devlin waved the penalty appeals away.

Immaculata’s lively Conor Hand dragged a shot wide of the post, while Star tested Murray from a couple of corners.

Lynch fired a shot in from distance, however his effort did not trouble Murray, and then the Immaculata keeper raced off his line to clear the ball as Lynch’s lofted pass was about to reach Stephen Smyth.

Smyth tested the keeper with a shot from just outside the area. Murray spilled the ball in front of Lynch but he managed to grab it at the second attempt.

In the 36th minute Immaculata right back McVicker was sent off for blocking off Star’s Joe McNeill as he raced towards goal.

From the resulting free-kick Star left back Aidan McNeill rattled the post before Star midfielder Sam McBurney dragged a shot past the post.

’Mac’s Hand put a header just wide when he got on the end of a Brian McCaul free-kick.

Despite being a player short, Immaculata looked energised after the break. Hand almost got in but he was thwarted by Star keeper Ciaran McNeill.

Smyth screwed an effort wide, James Doyle was off target and Lillis hit the side netting as Star tried to make the extra man count.

Lynch headed against the bar from an Aidan McNeill corner on 61 minutes, while four minutes later McCaul fired in a dangerous free-kick which was headed out for a corner by Joe McNeill. ’Mac’s Brendan Shannon fired in a lovely corner which was almost turned in by James Haughey at the back post.

Another dangerous Shannon corner found the unmarked Haughey in the area but he steered his header wide.

Caomhan Slane did enough to put off Lynch as he received a crisp Doyle pass inside the six-yard box. The Star striker could only clip the ball over the top. It was another fine example of the ’Mac defence digging deep.

Substitute David Fearon flicked a header wide as Star piled on the pressure. Murray and ’Mac skipper Padraig Adams combined to keep out a well-struck shot from Star substitute Kevin Trainor and then Star full back Matthew Devine’s strike went past the post.

Murray produced an outstanding save to push away a Joe McNeill blaster.

Immaculata defended superbly in regulation time and they had to work overtime once again in extra time.

Murray kept out a powerful Trainor header as Crumlin Star kept the pressure on.

In the second period of extra time Murray produced a remarkable double save from Star substitute Noel Halfpenny after Fearon had headed the ball into the danger zone.

McCaul, who was imperious at the back alongside Adams and Shannon, produced a great block to keep out a Fearon shot as the penalty shootout loomed. And Fearon then shot wide from a tight angle.

Right at the death Murray pushed away a Halfpenny piledriver. It was another fabulous stop.

In the shootout McCaul, Shannon, substitute and futsal specialist Conor Glenholmes and Adams all scored for Immaculata, while Aidan McNeill, Joe McNeill and Kevin Trainor netted for Star, but Murray saved the spot kicks of Lynch and Fearon.

Crumlin Star: Ciaran McNeill, Matthew Devine, Aidan McNeill, Niall Hawkins (captain), Aidan Lillis, Joseph McNeill, Mark Lyons, Samuel McBurney, Kevin Lynch, James Doyle, Stephen Smyth.

Substitutes: (used) David Fearon, Kevin Trainor, Noel Halfpenny; (unused) Patrick McIlkenny, Eogan Corrigan, Paul Scullion, Paul Fisher.

Immaculata: Ruairi Murray, James Haughey, Caomhan Slane, Padraig Adams (captain), Brian McCaul, Emmett Templeton, Emmet Fallon, Gary McVicker, Brendan Shannon, Brian Kennedy, Conor Hand.

Substitutes: (used) Darren Bellew, Dylan Snoddon, Conor Glenholmes, Tairnan McGreevy; (unused) Daire McAuley (GK), Gavin Logan, Joseph McKee.