Waterford Premier League champions Carrick United turned on a truly brilliant display in Ozier Park on Sunday to book a final date with the holders Killester United at the RSC on May 4th.
The Co Mayo side, who are managed by the former Sligo Rovers and Finn Harps manager Gavin Dykes, tried very hard all through but it was the Carrick outfit who held all the aces throughout and they fully deserved their victory.
They are now back in the final once again for the first time since 2004. On that occasion they lost to Fairview Rangers and they will be very keen to bury that ghost on the May weekend.
That is one aspect of the final on Sunday fortnight. Another interesting fact is that Castlebar Celtic lost to Athenry in the 2006 semi-final and Waterford Crystal then defeated Athenry in the decider. No-one could have any doubt that Carrick were the far superior team on Sunday and even the Castlebar Celtic mentors could have no complaints.
Carrick took the lead after only four minutes. Brian Barry took a free kick from the right and the unmarked Wayne Fitzgerald, the current junior international, headed powerfully to the net past the stranded goalkeeper Mick Wallace from around 8 yards.
One minute later, however, Castlebar Celtic equalised. Niall Walsh, their right full-back, played the ball forward to Gerard Burke and he chipped over Adrian Walsh who was off his line. An amazing start to the game.
Back came Carrick with Keith Walsh playing the ball to Stephen Hahessy but the Carrick player simply tapped the ball into the arms of Mick Wallace as he was waiting for an offside flag which never came. Andrew Neary of Celtic sprayed a long ball from the left to Niall Walsh on 12 minutes but the full-back was unable to keep his shot on target. Anthony Power of Carrick played in Ian Cleary 3 minutes later but he was just wide with a shot on the run.
Brian Barry then played the ball on to the head of Ian Cleary after 22 minutes but he headed over the Castlebar crossbar. The action was coming thick and fast and Celtic’s John Maughan had a half chance on 25 minutes when he took a pass from Patrick Fitzgerald but from an acute angle he failed to trouble Adrian Walsh.
Ian Clear picked out Daryl Kavanagh shortly afterwards and the former Waterford United player turned inside the penalty area but he shot high over Mick Wallace’s crossbar. Stephen Hahessy then took the ball from Kavanagh on 32 minutes and after twisting and turning inside the penalty area he clipped the ball over the bar.
Castlebar fell behind to a magnificent goal after 39 minutes. James Walsh played the ball down the field. Ian Cleary picked up the ball before skipping past two defenders and then, rounding the goalkeeper, he slotted the ball into an empty net from 6 yards. A wonder goal if ever there was one.
Just before the break Adrian Walsh got down to save a low free kick taken by Gerard Burke.
Keane seals it
Eleven minutes into the second half Brian Barry cracked a free kick with his left foot from 40 yards but Mick Wallace tipped the ball over the crossbar. The resultant corner saw Daryl Kavanagh find the Castlebar net but the goal was ruled out as he was in an offside position.
Castlebar forced two corner kicks on the hour mark but the Carrick goalkeeper Adrian Walsh saved twice from Celtic strikers. Two minutes later Anthony Power picked out Keith Walsh from the left but the off-balance Walsh hooked the ball over the bar.
Substitute Joseph Moloney of Castlebar took a free kick on 70 minutes: Adrian Walsh parried but Brian Barry was in the right place to clear the danger. Alan Ryan, a Carrick replacement, brought a good save from Mick Wallace on 85 minutes and moments later another substitute Barry Murphy went close with a long range effort from the right.
The Waterford League champions were turning the screw at this stage and 3 minutes into injury-time another substitute, Glen Keane, wrapped up the result with a stunning strike from 30 yards following a pass from Anthony Power.
Carrick United. Adrian Walsh, James Walsh, Brian Barry, Anthony O’Donnell, John Walsh, Keith Walsh, Anthony Power, Wayne Fitzgerald, Daryl Kavanagh, Ian Cleary, Stephen Hahessy. Subs: Barry Murphy for Cleary (80 mins), Alan Ryan for Hahessy (82 mins), Glen Keane for Kavanagh (88 mins).
Castlebar Celtic: Mick Wallace, Niall Walsh, James Minogue, Simon Kelly, Sean Reilly, Sean McHale, Andrew Neary, Patrick Fitzgerald, Gary Price, Gerard Burke, John Maughan. Subs: Joseph Maloney for Fitzgerald (52 mins), Russell Gibbons for McHale (80 mins).
Referee: Jimmy McKee (Tipperary)