THERE WAS to be no shocks, no fairytale ending to the 2015 Terry Kelly Cup for Don Bosco’s on Sunday as sharp-shooter, Gavin McShane’s 12 minute brace clinched the trophy for Top of the Hill Celtic at Brandywell.
The scene was set for the late Terry Kelly’s former club to capture just their second victory since their 2003/04 triumph, as they battled against the odds to reach this season’s showpiece.
Bottom of the Premier Division table and missing SIX first team regulars on Sunday, they had controversially reached the final after Oxford were eliminated following a breach in the Association’s rules.
And once Caoimhin Bonner’s troops had weathered a tidal wave of attacks from Top of the Hill as they laid siege to the Boscos’ goal in the opening stages, Bosco’s stunned their opponents when Paul Carlisle’s strike put them in front on 19 minutes.
At that stage it seemed Bosco’s name was destined to be engraved on the coveted trophy and a major upset was on the cards.
However, after last season’s cup final defeat, Top of the Hill were in no mood for cup romance.
At full strength and with a strong bench which included ex-Derry City and Institute striker, Stephen Parkhouse, they were leaving little to chance.
While it wasn’t quite a ‘David vs Goliath’ affair, Bosco’s were huge underdogs against a Celtic side unbeaten in all competitions so far, but they will be pleased with their gallant efforts in what can be considered a respectable defeat.
Given their squad limitations they matched Celtic for large parts of the game but eventually the sustained pressure reaped its rewards and McShane (pictured left) was at hand to do the damage.
The Gobnascale men, who have their sights set on the Premier Division title this year showed true grit to claw their way back from that early set-back.
Despite Bosco’s brave attempts and some terrific individual performances, Celtic began to grind them down and after several chances went begging throughout a heavily one-sided first half, the prolific McShane produced two instinctive finishes during a 12 minute salvo to put Celtic into the driving seat.
And while Bosco’s pressed for an equaliser in the final minutes of a second half which neither club dominated, it just wasn’t to be.
Bosco’s had somehow withstood a barrage of attacks in the opening 15 minutes. And they were on the ropes as Jason Blackburn missed two golden opportunities in the first four minutes.
After 50 seconds the winger shot low towards goal at the near post after an impressive move but Gareth Muldoon saved bravely with his feet.
Blackburn then shot recklessly wide of the target shortly afterwards from a promising position just inside the penalty area after Gerard Kelly’s cross from the right. McShane saw his powerful header go just beyond the upright before the impressive Colin Murray’s strike on the half volley sailed safely into the arms of the keeper as the Top of the Hill attacks became more frequent.
Finally Bosco’s ventured into the Celtic final third and Caillin McLaughlin tried his luck from distance but directed his shot across goal and wide. Bosco’s were warming to the occasion and on 19 minutes they found the net from Jack King’s free-kick which was steered into the corner of the net by the out-stretched leg of Carlisle.
Six minutes later and Bosco’s could have added a second when striker Paul Moore’s clever header had beaten Celtic keeper John Joe McGilloway but it was cleared off the line by Brendan Elliott.
That chance awakened Celtic from their slumber and they came so close to an equaliser on 28 minutes when Dee McGhee crossed low across the face of goal and Murray poked the ball the wrong side of the post under pressure.
Two minutes later and from Blackburn’s inviting cross from the right, McShane pounced to place the ball past the keeper and into the far corner. Darren Harkin and Ryan Brown both had chances to add a second before McShane rose highest to head Murray’s cross into the back of the net three minutes before the interval.
That free-flowing, action-packed first half was contrasted with a dull, tense second period where chances were at a premium.
Bosco’s were presented with the best of those opportunities when substitute Emmett O’Hara found Moore after a jinking run, and the striker’s shot on the turn was turned past the post by McGilloway with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Bosco’s pressed for the equaliser in the dying embers of the game but Celtic held strong to secure a fifth Terry Kelly Cup final victory as their campaign grows with promise.
For Bosco’s, they will no doubt be proud of their efforts as they surpassed all reasonable expectations and they will be hopeful their display can ignite their stuttering season.