Irish Cup R5 – 07/01/23
By Phillip Bartlett
A ‘Swift’ cup exit for Ards
Premier league outfit prove too strong for the ‘Red and Blue’ despite valiant effort
League points put on the back burner for a week as focus switches to the 1st round proper of the Irish cup, the point where all the ‘big boys’ enter the competition. Ards initially drawn at home to Premier League strugglers Dungannon Swifts but due to a conflict with Bangor’s cup game our tie was switched to the recently recarpeted Stangmore Park. A brilliant surface to play on that will hopefully increase the desire to get back to playing these teams week in week out at the highest level. Inconsistent league results for Ards going into this one but it being a cup game anything can happen; the pressure lessened to some degree for this tie.
Ards have struck early in the transfer market bringing in midfielder Aidan Steele and defender Karl Hamill, both of whom are brought straight into the starting eleven. Hamill to partner with Ben Mullen in central defence with Steele slotting into the middle of the park between captain for the day Paddy Cafolla and Ethan Taggart. Conal Young finds himself in a more advanced role up top right of a three with Eamon Scannell wide left and, I’m happy to report, Adam Salley through the middle as agreement was reached for him to continue his loan spell at Ards rather than return to parent club Portadown in the window. Ross hunter misses out due to illness, replaced on the bench by Salou Jallow.
Ards' new defender Karl Hamill getting stuck in today against Dungannon Swifts.....
While the premier league class was evident for the majority of the game Ards were by no means here to make up the numbers, spurning several excellent chances that would have given Dungannon a real scare. A sucker punch right at the death of the first half was the difference on the score line at the break, 1-0 to the home side. Thinking we had done enough to get to the break unscathed Magee had other ideas, firing home from distance just before the whistle. Ards really should have turned the game on its head early in the second half with two fantastic chances but having passed them up Dungannon’s class in front of goal eventually saw them add to their tally, further goals from Ryan Mayse and ex Ards man Ben Cushnie making it more comfortable. At 2-0 Ards didn’t give up and got themselves back into the game, Ethan Taggart grabbing a goal midway through the second half to reduce the deficit, but they couldn’t find another goal to really increase the pressure on the home side in the latter stages. 3-1 the finish at the end, Dungannon into the hat for the next round.
Ards, probably to be expected, found themselves under pressure right from the off Dungannon getting on top right from the kick-off seeing an effort deflect off the cross bar as early as the second minute. Ben Cushnie was causing a lot of problems with his delivery from both sides of the pitch but Ards were doing enough to clear the danger in the early stages. It took until 18’ for Ards to muster any sort of attack, Greg Hall getting high up the pitch from right back, looking to cross into the box but it was deflected out for a corner. The dead ball was played back to the edge of the box to new man Steele who controlled and shot towards goal, but it hit a mass of players in the box allowing Dungannon to clear.
Ards had the cross bar to thank minutes later as Ryan Mayse connected well from 20 yards out curling an effort off the bar with Moore beaten. The deflection was kind taking it over the bar and out for an Ards ball. Minutes later Scannell went for the ambitious, a lofted effort some 45yards from goal. Having collected the ball in space he saw Dunne well off his line and tried to lift it over him. It was well struck but sailed wide of the mark. Had it been on target Dunne would have been in real trouble as he scrambled back to his goal line. That effort was quickly followed up by a very contentious point in the game as Ards had the ball in the back of the net, Conal Young with the last touch to put the ball under Dunne and in the back of the net. Ethan Taggart with the initial effort, turning and hitting a shot from just inside the box with Dunne in the Dungannon goal only able to palm it out. Both Adam Salley and Conal Young challenged for the second ball, Young getting the important touch to finish, but the near side officials flag was straight up for offside and it was chalked off. Question marks were raised as Young seemed to be well onside, the belief being that Salley was the one penalised despite not making contact with the ball. Disappointing decision for the travelling supporters, not the first and last on a day of questionable decisions from the officiating team.
Alex Moore doing his bit keeping out a Ben Cushnie effort in the 1st half
After an intense first 44 minutes it seemed likely that we would go into the break all square, but Dungannon’s Ethan McGee had other ideas, finishing inside the box in the 45th minute. A real body blow for Ards with the break so close and having defended so well up until then. There were chances to clear from the initial corner and again during a short scramble in the area before the ball broke to McGee, but we couldn’t get a meaningful boot on the ball and paid the price. The goal came just seconds after McGee had seen a previous effort tipped over the bar well by Moore, a great save by the Ards no1. Hard to take that so late on, the HT whistle coming as soon as the game restarted. Into the break 1-0.
There were no changes for either side at the break, Ards getting the game going again.
Restarting at 1-0 down by the 50th minute Ards could, and maybe should, have found themselves with a 2-1 lead Salley and Cafolla both missing gilt-edged chances to score. On 48’ Salley couldn’t find a finish at the back post, putting it the wrong side of the post when it seemed almost easier to score. Scannell had done really well wide right to get is cross in, new man Hamill attacked it in the middle of goal sending it towards Salley who just couldn't make up the ground to get the right contact and convert. Really positive from Ards early in the second half but the best chance came just 2 minutes later, Paddy Cafolla left completely unmarked at the back post but put his header over the bar. Conal Young played a delicious, lofted ball over everyone picking out Cafolla. It seemed a certain goal, but he’s somehow got under it and lifted just over the bar. Great chances for Ards early in the second half, not the kind you can miss against the top sides and expect to get a positive result.
Dungannon played themselves back into the game, Ards having to survive another goal mouth scramble before Dungannon did eventually double their lead on 67’, ex Ards man Ben Cushnie with the finish. Dungannon’s danger man Ryan Mayse had been causing us problems all day and this time he was there with a perfectly weighted ball round the corner picking out Cushnie’s run. He’d timed it right to avoid the offside trap and with only Moore to beat slid it to the keepers left into the back of the net. 2-0 Dungannon, Ards with it all to do with just over 20 minutes left.
Ards' full back Cricky Crane keeping his eye on the ball and the defence tight
Despite being 2-0 Ards didn’t give up, they kept trying to play football and got their rewards as Ethan Taggart grabbed himself a well-deserved goal on 72’. Steele and Scannell combined on a corner wide left, Scannell eventually sending the ball into the box. Salley met it at the near post forcing Dunne into a good save. Dungannon tried to clear but couldn’t get the ball up the pitch, Taggart picking it up right on the penalty spot before hitting a low shot towards goal. Dungannon had two men on the line who tried to combine to keep it out but were unable to stop it crossing the line. They tried to play on claiming it wasn’t over, but the ref awarded the goal and Ards were right back in it. Right decision as it was clearly over the line.
The joy was short-lived as Dungannon restored their 2-goal advantage 5 mins later, captain Ryan Mayse with a smart finish from a Ben Cushnie freekick. Hamill brought down McCready left of the penalty box, getting a yellow card for his troubles. Cushnie stepped up and played a square pass to the penalty spot where Mayse had made a clever run, he connected well finding the far corner of the net, nothing Moore could do with that one. Ards had switched off at the back and were caught out for not tracking the run. Very simple move by Dungannon and more or less game over with just over 10 mins to go. With time running out Ards made some attacking changes, Daniel Reynold and Salou Jallow being introduced replacing Conal Young and goal scorer Ethan Taggart. The pace of Salou Jallow was evident straight away down the right earning Ards a corner. It was sent in but a wasted delivery that was easily cleared.
Salou Jallow, introduced late on to inject some pace into the Ards attack
Into the last 5 mins of the game but there was still time for Ards to get something as both Scannell and Jallow had great chances to add to the score. Scannell was played in, a long ball over the top by Hamill, he reached it before McGee and got a shot off, it hit Dunne who spilled it but was able to gather at the second attempt diving at Scannell’s feet before he could finish. Jallow was next to try his luck hitting a shot from wide left. It was a really well hit strike and the ball crashed off the inside of the far post with Dunne well beat. Really unlucky for Jallow and Ards, had that gone in it would have been a very nervy last few moments for Dungannon. As it was it went to safety and the chance was gone. Dungannon themselves had chances to extend their lead, Michael O’Connor sent through one-on-one early in time added on, his shot was hit well over the bar when it seemed easier to score. There were also huge appeals for a penalty as McCready was challenged in the box. The ref certainly had a decision to make from where I was standing but with time running out and the score at 3-1 it was probably easier not to award to spot kick and play on.
That was the last action of the game, the ref blowing up after playing 3 additional minutes of time added on. It was a brave effort by Ards, pushing the hosts all the way. While the difference in class may well have been evident, there was little difference in the work rate and effort produced by those in the Ards colours. If a bit of luck goes our way early in the second half, who knows what might have been. At the time of writing the draw had been completed and today’s hosts have been drawn away to Championship side Knockbreda in R6. Ards can now focus on adding additional players to the squad, while also potentially losing some the other way, and get back to focusing on our promotion push so we get to play sides like this, at grounds like this, every week.
Moore, Crane, Mullen, Hamill, Hall, Cafolla (C), Steele, Taggart, Scannell, Salley, Young
Boyd, Calderwood, Jallow, Reynolds, Arthurs, Taylor, Murray