Dundalk Sport
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Dundalk Sport

Danny O’Connor stabs home Bellurgan United’s equaliser against Quay Celtic at Tom Flynn Park. PICTURE: BEN MCSHANE

NEFL | Bellurgan and Quay share the points after scrappy derby affair

NEFL Premier Division | Bellurgan United 1–1 Quay Celtic

Danny O’Connor’s late equaliser secured Bellurgan United a deserved share of the spoils in Sunday’s NEFL Premier Division encounter with Quay Celtic at Tom Flynn Park.

The visitors controlled large parts of the first-half and took a well earned lead into the break thanks to player-manager Martin Smith’s 35th-minute opener.

They failed to get going after the break, however, and there was a feeling of inevitability when O’Connor stabbed home from close range to extend Bellurgan’s unbeaten run to four games under new manager Colm McConville.

Quay Celtic’s Sean Hand holds off Bellurgan’s Brian White. PICTURES: BEN MCSHANE
Left: Quay’s Stefan McKevitt is challenged by Bellurgan’s Shane Finnegan. Right: Bellurgan’s Diarmuid Murphy prepares for an Eanna McArdle challenge.

Knowing that a win would lift them back into third place, Quay started offensively with the busy Sean Hand smacking Robert Arthur’s crossbar with a ferocious drive after just six minutes.

The Clancy Park outfit were forced into an early change when midfielder Danny Coyle limped off after picking up a knock in a fifty-fifty with Bellurgan’s Diarmuid Murphy but his replacement, Niall McLaughlin, did a good job patrolling in front of his back four.

Hand should have done better in the 17th minute when he was slipped in by Vinny O’Connor on the right. ‘Go across the goalkeeper’ was the cry from the Quay bench but Hand went for the near post, pulling his effort harmlessly wide.

Quay Celtic goalkeeper John Rogers makes a great stop to deny Danny O’Connor. PICTURES: BEN MCSHANE

With Paddy Keenan absent, Bellurgan lacked physicality and they created very little in the opening half an hour with Ciaran Sheelan blazing over after a slip by Dennis Cholach.

The striker then directed a Shane Finnegan cross wide of the upright after peeling away to the back post to meet the winger’s delivery.

Quay’s superiority eventually told in the 35th minute when they hit the front with a superb team goal. Hand was again involved, his reverse pass finding Aaron Comerford on the inside right and the striker’s low cross was expertly flicked home by the incoming Smith.

Quay Celtic player-manager Martin Smith peels away in celebration after putting his side 1–0 up. PICTURES: BEN MCSHANE

The goal sparked Bellurgan into life and they almost restored parity within seconds of the restart but O’Connor was denied by John Rogers, the Quay goalkeeper spreading his sizeable frame to block the forward’s effort.

Quay lacked any sort of intensity after the break and O’Connor went close to making it 1–1 in the 47th minute when he latched onto Aoghan McGuinness’ lofted pass only to fire just wide of the far upright.

Veteran Diarmuid Murphy then squandered a golden opportunity to draw his side level when he somehow missed the target from a Shane Finnegan cross after the Quay backline had stopped dead in their tracks waiting for an offside flag that never arrived.

McConville’s side had the bit between their teeth at this stage and Rogers had to beat away a powerful Sheelan drive after the Quay defence struggled to get the ball out of their penalty area.

Smith turned to his bench, making all five available substitutes, and the third of those, Pairic Browne, almost inadvertently put the ball on a plate for Brian White just seconds after being introduced.

Browne’s fantastic last ditch tackle stopped Sheelan from pulling the trigger but the ball rolled kindly into White’s path; the midfielder lashing it over the bar, much to the frustration of the home bench.

Quay Celtic’s Niall McLaughlin beats Stephen Finnegan to this ball. PICTURES: BEN MCSHANE
Left: Vinny Smith of Quay Celtic and Stephen Finnegan of Bellurgan contest this ball. Right: Bellurgan’s Ciaran Sheelan gets away from Quay’s Gary Shevlin

Quay almost landed a sucker punch in the 67th minute when Comerford, who had a goal harshly chalked off for a foul on Ray Finnegan earlier in the half, rode a couple of challenges to hammer a shot towards the top corner bur Robbie Arthur somehow kept the ball out with a stunning save.

Bellurgan kept pushing and although they never really opened the Quay backline up, an equaliser came their way in the 80th minute when O’Connor stabbed home at the back post after White’s effort was blocked by a host of black and white shirts.

With all of their substitutes on the pitch, the Point Road side had to see the game out with 10 men when Comerford limped off with a bad looking hamstring injury but they held on for a point with Rogers turning a late Shane Finnegan free-kick over the top in the latter stages.

With the three teams above them all winning their matches over the weekend, a draw was not the outcome that either side would have really wanted. However, on the balance of play, it was what both probably deserved.

BELLURGAN UNITED: Robbie Arthur; Aoghan McGuinness, Ray Finnegan, Owen Traynor, Diarmuid Murphy; Owen Armstrong (Declan Sharkey 65), Brian White, Stephen Finnegan (Gavin Gregory 76), Shane Finnegan; Ciaran Sheelan, Danny O’Connor. Subs not used: Tag O’Connor, Chris Lawson, Barry Dunne.

QUAY CELTIC: John Rogers; Gary Shevlin, Dennis Cholach (Shaun O’Connor 73), Dean Sheil (Pairic Browne 65); Stefan McKevitt, Danny Coyle (Niall McLaughlin 10), Sean Hand (Sean Matthews 77), Vinny Smith; Martin Smith (David Redmond 60), Aaron Comerford. Sub not used: Drew Duffy.

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