No luck for Harps as Junior Cup dream ends
Thursday, 9 March 2017
Ahoghill Thistle 3
Strathroy Harps 2
JUDGING by the circumstances of the opening goal, it appeared Strathroy Harps' luck was out as they exited the Irish Junior Cup at the hands of Ahoghill Thistle on Saturday.
In the opening minutes of the game, as the ball looked to be running out over the line, it was stopped by a child's ball that had been kicked onto the field. The referee failed to see the incident and the Harps defence were caught out, allowing the Thistle winger to collect the ball, still in play, and fire past Tim Harney in the Harps' goal.
"It was probably one of the strangest goals I've ever witnessed, and I've been involved in football for a long time," said Harps manager Seamus Fanthorpe. "It was very fortuitous for them, and it was a bit of a stinker for us. You have to ask questions of the referee."
After the early setback, things went from bad to worse for the Omagh side when centre-back Benny Boyle was caught in possession in the back line, and the Ahoghill attacker was able to win the ball and double the home side's lead.
The poor condition of the pitch made it difficult for both teams to play attractive football, and 'route one' balls into the box were very much the order of the day. The tactic seamed to be paying off for Ahoghill as they scored goal number three.
Tony Quinn pulled one back for Harps with a spectacular long range lob just before the break, and for the second 45 minutes, Fanthorpe decided to fight fire with fire and pile defender Gareth McCrory and winger Darren Teague into the attack.
Harps lumped the ball into the box thereafter and their pressure paid off when Patrick Nugent perfectly met a Teague corner to take the game to 3-2 on 80 minutes. However, try as they might, Strathroy couldn't muster up the equalising goal however and exited the competition.
Aside from the bizarre opening goal, an aggrieved Fanthorpe also took issue with the condition of the pitch.
"The pitch we were playing on on Saturday, you wouldn't run cows on it. It was absolutely atrocious. There was no football being played on it, that the best way I can describe. It is what it is, and you have to adapt.
"We were well aware there was problems with the pitch, Lisbellaw and Beragh had told us about that. But it was not to the extent of what we encountered on Saturday. Ahoghill have had five home matches and by, so they knew how to play their pitch."
"We found ourselves 3-0 down, which is a position I don't think I've ever been in as Strathroy Harps manager. I still believed we could get something out of the game though.
"The opposition were doing what they had to to, lumping balls into the final third, and that was working for them.
"What is most frustrating is that we were beaten by an average team, We had beaten much better teams to get to that stage. We came there with high beliefs to win the game.
"It's disappointing, and we just didn't have the run of luck and we find ourselves out of the competition. We just have to knuckle down now and concentrate on our domestic competitions.
"Its a challenge I'll be putting out to the players now in the next few weeks. It'll be easy to play the victim card, but we will be making sure we step up to the next task, the Mulhern Cup against Killen Rangers on Saturday. I'll be expecting a response from the players."
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