FOOTBALL: Penalty drama as Clifton Villa win Gilfillan Cup

JOHN JOE, McGilloway emerged the hero as Clifton Villa were crowned 2014/15 Gilfillan Cup champions on St Stephen’s Day after a dramatic ‘sudden death’ penalty shoot-out victory over Creggan Swifts at Wilton Park.

The Villa goalkeeper had kept his side in the contest by saving a weak Darren McCready’s spot-kick after just two minutes of normal time.

WINNERS. . . . .Clifton Villa celebrate victory over Creggan Swifts in the Gilfillan Cup at Wilton Park on St. Stephen's Day. DER5214MC063

WINNERS. . . . .Clifton Villa celebrate victory over Creggan Swifts in the Gilfillan Cup at Wilton Park on St. Stephen's Day. DER5214MC063

Although the winning moment arrived when the experienced McGilloway came to the fore once again in the penalty shoot-out when stopping Darren Cassidy’s penalty to clinch a 6-5 win and the trophy for the Top of the Hill men.

It was a moment of undiluted ecstasy for Clifton Villa who had previously gone five years without silverware, but also it brought considerable relief for team boss, Paddy Tracey who became the first Villa man to win the Gilfillan Cup as both player and manager.

And Tracey, who played in eight Gilfillan Cup finals during his playing days, believes the win can prove to be the catalyst for further success this season.

Indeed, Tracey claims the win can be a defining moment for his team as they seek to build momentum in their challenge for the Premier Division title.

“I’ve played in eight Gilfillan Cup finals, lost five and won three but to win one as a manager is fantastic,” said the Villa boss.

“I’m over the moon. I thought the game was very scrappy with the pitch cutting up badly but we had our chances to win it in normal time when Jimmy Boyd went through on goal.

“But hopefully this is just the start of it and we can go and keep winning trophies now.”

Tensions began to simmer in the opening minute of the game following a rash challenge on Villa’s Jason Blackburn by Mark McElhinney.

However, referee, Mark McGarrigle quickly diffused the situation and showed McElhinney a deserved yellow card.

Creggan Swifts, the league leaders, came into the game as favourites to claim victory. With the experience and talent of former Derry City senior representatives, Darren McCready - who dictated the pace of the game for large periods from central midfield - winger Darren Cassidy and centre-half, Paddy McLaughlin, it was always going to be a tough test of Villa’s credentials.

And the Creggan men should have taken control of proceedings as early as the second minute when PJ Ward was brought crashing down by Villa keeper, McGilloway inside the area.

With the Villa striker correctly deemed to be moving away from goal, the referee pointed to the penalty spot and flashed a yellow card to the Villa keeper.

Up stepped McCready with the chance to give his side a quick-fire lead but his tame spot-kick was easily gathered in by McGilloway.

Gradually Clifton Villa began to venture into the Swifts’ half with skipper Pol Brown instrumental and it was midfielder, Colin Murray who was enjoying the best of the chances. The diminutive winger twice broke into promising positions inside the Swifts’ final third but he blasted over the crossbar on both occasions. As a tense first half drew to a close, Swifts were presented with a glorious chance to break the deadlock when awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

However, Cassidy’s free-kick sailed harmlessly over the crossbar as both defences remained on top going in at the interval.

Swifts began the second half on the front foot and two minutes after the restart Ward stooped low to send a glancing header towards goal from McElhinney’s corner but McGilloway saved well.

Dee McGee then drove his way past Seamus Ferry before drilling his shot towards goal and Swifts keeper, Paul McConway managed to get it under control at the second attempt. Villa were presented with a glorious chance to break the deadlock with 14 minutes remaining as Jimmy Boyd was played clean through on goal but McConway came quickly off his line and saved the striker’s shot with his feet.

For the final 10 minutes of normal time, Swifts laid siege on the Villa goal but to no avail. Not even the intervention of player/manager, Declan Divin from the bench could swing it Creggan’s way. In fact the closest the Creggan men came to breaching the Villa defence came in the second half of extra-time but the Top of the Hill men survived a goalmouth scramble and the match was to be decided on penalties.

And it was McGilloway who came out on top, saving that decisive penalty kick from Cassidy as the trophy went back to Gobnascale.