Sunday, July 31, 2011

Airtricity League XI 0-5 Glasgow Celtic 2pm Sunday 31st July 2011

On a warm sultry July Sunday, Dublin was treated to an entertaining, pacy affair at Lansdowne Road. Damien Richardson rang the changes from the encouraging if ultimately disappointing Man City clash the previous day. The Sunday selection contained only Ger Doherty in goal from the Saturday, and took some time to settle. They enjoyed the lion’s share  of ball, and though McCourt and co. in the middle were prominent, the League side brought the game to the Celts early on. A left-field drive with the right boot from Daniel Kearns stretch Dom Cervi in the Scots’ goal.

It was always going to be a ding-dong in the middle of the pitch between former Derry and Shamrock Rovers superstar Pat McCourt and Northern Ireland-born Dundalk midfielder Daniel Kearns.

Ger Doherty was well-guarded in the early stages, forcing Celtic to shoot from deep, one long shot from Victor Wanyama well wide to Doherty’s left. Owen Heary and Aidan Price, Bohemians’ strongmen contained any threat from Hooper and Stokes, while Gareth McGlynn and Jason Byrne looked menacing up front. McGlynn took a knock to his right knee on 20 minutes, and the question was whose fitness would make the difference as the game progressed.

Filip Twardsik was tested regularly for the Hoops as Gareth McGlynn and Byrne tried to fashion chances from the excellent possession won by Kearns and Sligo’s Danny Ventre. Derry midfielder Daniel Lafferty and Dean Bennett hooked up well to make things hot for Adam Matthews and captain Daniel Majstorovic. Meanwhile Stokes was beginning to make a nuisance of himself for Ryan McBride, and after frantic defending by Aidan Price and Heaary, stokes brought a huge left-top-corner save from Doherty.

McGlynn made way for John Dillon after his knee injury was exacerbated in the 33rd minute. Set pieces proved a problem for both sides as play got sloppy in the second quarter. The Glasgow side struck in the 39th minute when Darryl Murphy beat McBride to pull back for Stokes to slot home from the penalty spot. A minute later Doherty was quick to snuff out a break from Hooper to save further heartache for the Irish outfit.

McCourt drew a free on the right-hand corner of the box after obstruction was given against Heary but Twardsik lifted the dead-ball over wall and crossbar. 1-0 to Scotland’s finest at the break.

Barry Murphy made his Aviva stadium debut at half-time coming on for the obviously tired Ger Doherty.

The Airtricity XI kicked off aiming for the goal Anthony Stokes scored into in the first-half. However Celtic looked more like scoring with consistent raids from Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes but no goals were actually scored.

The aggressiveness of Celtic really kicked in as Hooper floored Danny Ventre but the Airtricity XI could make nothing from the long ball played.

The Airtricity XI’s Daniel Lafferty forced a brilliant Cervi save and Daniel Kearns’ deflected rebound won the Select a corner but as the games have gone nothing was to come from it.

Barry Murphy was called into his first period of action after his Bohs team-mate missed out on a long ball as Hooper found himself with yards of space but Murphy spread himself well to protect his net.

Airtricity really made the ball work with Heary and Lafferty down the right but nothing came of it as Sligo’s creative mastermind John Russell replaced Dundalk player Dean Bennett.

Kris Commons took over from Richie Towell for the Bhoys on 58 as Celtic tried to assert their superiority.  Stokes came in with a searing run from the right, but Price was equal to it and the danger was averted once again. Irish international Darren O’Dea is showing increased maturity in the Celtic defense, typified by his coolness with his back to goal. The LoI boys were similarly assured as the Celtic frontline threatened, Heary having an immense captain’s performance and justifying his extra responsibility.

Kearns took a more central as the final quarter approached, proving something of a menace. Stephen McLaughlin came in to give Jason Byrne a break before a blatant handball by Ventre gave Daryl Murphy a penalty which he coolly slotted to Barry Murphy’s left sending him the wrong way. As the previous day, Celtic displayed a confidence similar to Manchester City’s and that was proving the key as the League XI failed to break them down. Sean Maloney was introduced for scorer Murphy on 70 minutes and was immediately in the action in midfield.

The LoI’s hottest prospect, gaining considerable interest from Wigan, James McLean, man-of-the-match from Saturday replaced Daniel Kearns, himself the League XI’s best performer on the day. Joe Gamble, quiet for much of this contest, tricked his way in along the bye-line from the left, but McLean was unable to capitalise on his low cross. Gamble took a chance from 25 yards a minute later, but pulled it well wide of the mark.

Good Celtic pressure started by Sean Maloney, laying it off to McCourt whose cross was controlled with balletic grace by Stokes and his shot across the box screamed just outside the right post of Barry Murphy.  Daryl Kavanagh got another chance to show his considerable skills when coming in for Danny Ventre with 10 minutes on the clock. A sweet through-ball from Commons to the frustrated Hooper saw him stroke a beauty right-to-left past the sprawling Murphy. He added his second, Celtic’s fourth, two minutes later from sustained pressure to add to the misery for this spirited League of Ireland side.

On the 87th minute, as he was announced Man of the Match, Anthony Stokes added his own little piece of brilliance with a shot over Murphy’s head that completed the rout. As always, greater fitness was what undid the League side, but this was not a 5-0 performance. They can hold their heads high. Let’s focus on Europe in the coming week.

Jerome & Donagh Corby.

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