by Robert O'Reilly
A hat trick from Declan O’Brien was enough for Drogheda United to edge past a spirited Cockhill Celtic side 4-2 in the second round of the FAI Cup at United Park.
The veteran striker opened the scoring after only forty two seconds but a penalty from Gerry Gill and a header by Gerard McLaughlin put the Ulster Senior League side in front before O’Brien completed his treble with a Gavan Holohan strike sandwiched in-between.
Drogheda manager Robbie Horgan made four changes from the 6-0 drubbing to St. Patrick’s Athletic last Monday as Dylan Connolly, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes and Declan O’Brien all came into the starting eleven.
As for Cockhill, Mark Moran partnered Gerard McLaughlin up front with star striker Garbhain Friel unavailable.
United have struggled for results as of late but they got off to a dream start as they took the lead within the opening minute. A clever pass by Gary O’Neill released his strike partner down the right wing and O’Brien cut inside to finish across Gavin Cullen in the Cockhill goal.
The home side should have doubled their lead on seven minutes but O’Brien failed to keep his header on target from Grimes’ left wing cross.
Cockhill were awarded a penalty from practically their first attack of the game, McNally was adjudged by referee Neil Doyle to have upended Moran in the box. Drogheda goalkeeper Dylan Connolly guessed the right way but he was powerless to stop Gill’s spot kick.
Despite not playing at their best, the Boynesiders missed several chances to regain the lead. McNally played in O’Neill but the forward’s effort was smothered behind by Cullen on 27 minutes.
Michael Daly, operating in midfield for Drogheda, then sent a curling shot from 25-yards narrowly wide but it was the Hoops who came the closest to taking the lead before the interval as Moran dribbled by two Drogheda defenders in the penalty area before firing inches wide.
Cockhill hit the front a minute into the second half. Having won a free kick deep in the United half, Gill’s wicked delivery was only partially cleared by the United defence and the ball ricocheted off the head of Gerard McLaughlin to give Celtic a shock lead.
Robbie Horgan’s side were then twice denied by the impressive Cullen in goal; he first stopped O’Neill’s header from 12 yards and then reacted acrobatically to parry Brennan’s strike to safety.
Drogheda equalised on 72 minutes as intense goalmouth pressure saw the ball fall into the path of O’Brien and the poacher made no mistake.
The comeback was complete five minutes later as O’Neill’s strike from Brennan’s knockdown was blocked into the path of substitute Holohan, and the midfielder’s shot was too powerful to be stopped.
Cockjill pushed forward in the latter stages of the game looking to level matters but they were caught on the break as Brennan released O’Brien on the halfway line and he coolly picked out the bottom corner of the net for the match ball.
While Cockhill will feel aggrieved by the margin of defeat, progression to the third round of the FAI Cup should relive some of the pressure on Drogheda boss Robbie Horgan ahead of next Friday’s crucial clash against Athlone Town.
by Robert O'Reilly
Last year’s beaten finalists Drogheda United will return to FAI Cup action as they entertain Ulster Senior League side Cockhill Celtic at United Park, kick-off 8pm.
An injury time strike from Anthony Elding sealed a scintillating showpiece event last November in which Sligo Rovers came out on top 3-2 at United’s expense.
It is a much different story for the home side this time around as, after ten defeats in their last eleven games, the country’s major domestic competition will be seen as a welcome distraction from their league struggles.
Drogheda suffered a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of reigning champions St. Patrick’s Athletic on Monday, a result that leaves them in tenth position in the table with a vital clash against bottom side Athlone Town to come next Friday.
Before then United must face off against Cockhill and the 2013 Ulster Senior League champions will come into the game in good form having beaten Finn Harps reserves 1-0 ten days ago.
The Buncrana based club are managed by former Derry City and Finn Harps midfielder Donal O’Brien, the 45-year old having taken up the reigns in 2008.
In terms of team news, Stephen Maher and Michéal Schlingermann will be missing due to injury for Drogheda. Maher is recovering from an operation while Schlingermann should return for the Athlone game next Friday.
Ciaran McGuigan is also unavailable due to work commitments in America while Shane Grimes will return for selection after being suspended for the St. Patrick’s Athletic game.
Speaking on Thursday, Drogheda manager Robbie Horgan acknowledged that results have not been good enough and that his side have to show Cockhill the upmost respect if they are to advance to the third round of the FAI Cup.
“The major problem with the team at the moment is the concession of soft goals. We set ourselves up on Monday with a 4-1-4-1 formation to give ourselves protection but we knew that we would create opportunities. Everyone knew the jobs that they had to do and when you concede a goal after five minutes it certainly doesn’t help the situation. We did say that if Pat’s score early that nothing will change and we will keep our shape and discipline but that bit didn’t happen. We have had two rescheduled games put in as midweek fixtures which hasn’t helped us in any way but it is the manner of how we are getting beat rather than being beaten that is the most concerning aspect of all. Everyone needs to step up the plate now and be counted.
“I am relived that we can put the league to one side for the week but that doesn’t mean that we will be showing anything less than absolute respect for the FAI Cup. We are not in a position to underestimate any side at the moment and we know how good Cockhill Celtic can be. We will have to work hard for the win, as it will be like a Cup final for them. I know the manager and the goalkeeper have played for Finn Harps, and that they have a good record in the Ulster Senior League. We have our work cut out for ourselves but a positive result is a must.
“In a Cup competition, you are always looking for a home draw and we’ve got that. Certainly Cockhill Celtic could prove to be a banana skin for us but it is a knockout competition and anything can happen. It isn’t ideal to be playing a side that you aren’t entirely familiar with, I know what style of play they use but not enough as I would like on their personnel. Once we are professional and disciplined, we should have enough to progress.”
Shane Grimes (Gavan Holohan 63)
Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe 60)
Gerry Gill (Brendan McLaughlin 88)
Derek Doherty (Daniel Doherty 86)
Mark Moran (Aidan O’Donnell 73)
Tommy Lee McCarron
Declan O’Brien (1, 72, 90)
Gavan Holohan (79)
Gerry Gill (20)
Gerard McLaughlin (46)
Alan McNally (83)
James Bradley (42)