Enniskillen Town United’s three year love affair with the Mulhern Cup is officially over.
And like all good romances it ended bitterly as Town were basically hammered by Strathroy Harps at Ferney Park on Friday night last. It was a rout. It could have been more. It was, in truth, probably a game too far for Rory Judge’s young (and old) charges. Privately, the Town boss had previously expressed the opinion that his side have actually overachieved in what has been a turbulent season for all at the Club. Nevertheless it doesn’t change the fact that it was still a horror show and spades must be called spades. So here goes – hand me the scalpel please.
Town’s Cup Final preparations were dealt a hammer blow with the much publicised absence of regular netminder Pat Cadden. Town’s Number Thirteen and the Fermanagh and Western’s Number One, unavaialable due to his attendance as guest of honour at an official opening in Lanzarote. The net result saw a Mulhern Cup debut for seventeen year old ‘keeper Gary Doherty – he didn’t disappoint. Goalkeeping crisis aside tinkerman Rory Judge was again busy deploying a back three and also handing a late call up to young Thomas Owens in an effort to negate the influence of Harp’s talisman, Darren Teague. It was, undoubtedly, a team selection influenced more by the personnel at Strathroy Harps than the personnel at Enniskillen Town United.
The game started at a high tempo. Two minutes on the clock and teenage debutant Doherty dispelled any pre-match doubts about his selection confidently leaving his box to deny Ryan Mayse with a well timed sliding tackle. Chris Catterson then saved from Adam Breen following a Frank Wallace assist while a suspiciously offside looking Mayse missed a sitter with only Doherty to beat.
Catterson comfortably collected after Town skipper Wallace had twisted, turned and shot before a combination of Doherty and Conor Watson were required to deny our old friend Aidy McCaffrey. Indeed Watson was on hand with a number of timely interventions in an overworked back three, or five, depending on how you see it. One such clearance saw Town break the length of the pitch in a sweeping move. Wallace should have done better from Ryan Hanna’s final pass.
Thirty-four minutes and the Town resistance was finally broken. A partially cleared corner was returned to Teague . His centre was met by the head of Brendan Boyle for one nil. It was, in truth, only a matter of time. Town’s performance had lacked leadership, desire, confidence and probably the tactical nous required to play the selected formation. More often than not Strathroy waltzed out of defence unchallenged with all the time in the world to pick a pass and set up another attack. One saving grace was the profligacy of a wayward Harps attack that in all likelihood had more defensive headers in the Town box than the entire Town defence! And I say that with a straight face.
Mayse could have doubled the advantage but he fired wide as the half-time whistle approached. It was very much a case of heart versus head during the half-time break. The heart said that Town’s name must be on it after shipping so many chances and still only going in one goal down. The head said that the inevitable collapse was exactly that – pretty much inevitable. It took nine minutes.
A minute after the restart and Teague stole in between two Town defenders to head home Mark Sloan’s cross and end the game as a contest. Fifty-four minutes and Mayse ran onto Caolan McCrossan’s deft pass to slot past Doherty and end any lingering interest levels – my own included.
The introduction of Mathew McAuley and Ciaran Brough did provide some much needed impetus and another dimension. McAuley went close with two low efforts. One was excellently parried by Catterson, one fizzed narrowly wide. It was, essentially, too little too late though. Seventy odd minutes and Mayse grabbed his second and Strathroy’s fourth with an outrageous looping, long range effort from the left touchline. It was a contender for goal of the season – if he meant it! Did he? Not a chance (IMO)!!
Town did grab a late consolation. Breen, ever alert, stole in and headed a bouncing ball past the onrushing Catterson in the final minute. Unfortunately, it was to serve only as a footnote on a day when 530 was a lot closer than three.
The Town were cat.
The Town: G Doherty, C Watson, G Lynch, S Chambers, M Crawford, M Little, R Hanna, T Owens, G Beckett, A Breen, F Wallace.
Subs – C Brough for Beckett (50), M McAuley for T Owens (50) Johny Hoy made a splash when replacing Lynch with about twenty minutes to go.
Referee: Barry “Pepper” Monaghan – A quiet night rounded off a memorable week for the popular Irvinestown whistler.
Attendance: Unusually large for Ferney Park.
Top Townie: A toss-up between Byzie McNern and Paddy Beresford.
Comedy Moment: One sharp-witted Town supporter’s assertion that the surprise seventieth minute withdrawal of Aidy McCaffrey was purely tactical – “They wanted to get him off before the burger van shut…”
“So You Did Son Moment”: Ryan Mayse continues a recent and unwanted trend of overseas recipients for his second goal on the night. A cracking effort…if he meant it…
Words from a Song: Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.