Newmarket Celtic’s dreams of contesting the FAI Junior Cup final for the first time in their 50th anniversary year ended in disappointment on Sunday when they succumbed to an extra time goal from Pike Rovers substitute Cian Power.

FAI Junior Challenge Cup semi final. After extra time.

Pike Rovers    3 Newmarket Celtic  2

Much to their credit, Newmarket Celtic had bravely recovered from a 2-0 deficit with two great Stephen Kelly goals to put the contest into extra time.
The large crowd was treated to an excellent spectacle in Limerick’s Pike Complex as both sides played skilful, fast-flowing football.
Stephen Kelly heads home the equaliser for Newmarket Celtic in the dying minutes of normal time

Stephen Kelly heads home the equaliser for Newmarket Celtic in the dying minutes of normal time

Newmarket took the game to the home side from the start and dominated possession throughout. Pike soaked up the pressure and hit the visitors on the counter-attack with two goals from Colin Daly by the one-hour mark leaving the visitors with all to do to get back on level terms.

A testament to Newmarket’s brand of attacking football was the fact that Pike goalkeeper Gary Neville was presented with the man of the match award by FAI officials having saved his side on numerous occasions.
Liam Murphy’s team had three appeals for penalties dismissed by referee John Hadnett who booked players from both teams and showed the red card to Pike manager Mike Shields in the final minute of normal time.
Tino Nzvaura gets around Steven McGann.

Tino Nzvaura gets around Steven McGann.

Pike first chance came in the opening minute when Eddie O’Donovan’s cross was headed goalwards by Eoin Hanrahan but goalkeeper Shane Cusack had it well covered.

In the 3rd minute, the Pike defence was put in disarray by goalkeeper Neville’s miss-kick, David McCarthy half-chance was cleared off the line by Wayne O’Donovan.
Minutes later Eoin Hayes tested the goalkeeper with a fine shot that deflected off Edward O’Donovan before Neville got a touch to send it over the bar for a corner.
As Newmarket pushed forward they were caught on the counter when Cian Collins sent Eoin Hanrahan’s on a run along the line before his cross was flicked to the net by Colin Daly at the back post.
Eoin Hayes’ superb ball control and attacking flair troubled the home defence, in the 32nd minute he found himself one-on-one with Neville but the goalkeeper managed to clear the ball for a throw.
Just before the interval, David Reidy supplied a perfect cross for Tino Nzvaura but his header was narrowly wide of the post.
Pike carried their 1-0 lead into the break and the Limerick side doubled their tally after just three minutes of the new half. The move began and ended with Colin Daly who won the ball after a poor clearance. He setting Cian Collins off on a run along the wing before returning the ball to Daly who slotted to the net past Cusack making it 2-0.
Throwing caution to the wind, Newmarket manager Liam Murphy replaced full-back Seamus Lawlor with substitute Daithi O’Connell in the 59th minute and it proved an inspired move.
O’Connell was only on the field a minute when he was involved in the move that won Colin Ryan a long throw-in which Eoin Hayes headed on for Stephen Kelly to score.
Three minutes later David McCarthy’s well-aimed shot was touched over the bar for a corner by goalkeeper Neville. At the other end, Cian Collins made a good break after Colin Ryan was caught in possession but the ball got tangled between his feet and he failed to get his shot on target.
Newmarket captain David McCarthy takes a shot past Shane Walsh.

Newmarket captain David McCarthy takes a shot past Shane Walsh.

Newmarket appeals for a penalty were brushed aside in the 72nd minute when Stephen Kelly was fouled inside the penalty area as he was about to take a shot.

Two minutes later Newmarket sent on Ian Collins for Colin Ryan while Pike made two substitutions, Cian Power for goal scorer Daly and David Ryan for Cian Collins.
Seven minutes before the end of normal time, Celtic had another penalty appeal dismissed by referee Hadnett when Daithi O’Connell was fouled inside the box.
With two minutes remaining, David McCarthy came close with a scorching shot that was just over the bar. As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes Eoin O’Brien won a free-kick 30 yards out. McCarthy floated in a cross that was headed home powerfully by Stephen Kelly for a dramatic last-minute equaliser to keep Newmarket hopes alive.
Celtic had another chance in injury time when Reidy’s shot was blocked and substitute Ian Collins went for goal from the rebound but once again Gary Neville came to Pike’s rescue.
Extra time was called with the game all square at 2-2. It took all of four minutes for the home side to gain the lead. A poor clearance by Newmarket was exploited to the full by Pike when Eoin Hanrahan’s shot was steered to the net at the back post by substitute Cian Power.
Now 3-2 in arrears, Newmarket went in search of another equaliser. At the start of the second period of extra time, Paddy Purcell’s bicycle kick from the edge of the area produced a superb save by Neville.
Two minutes later Neville denied Kelly a hat-trick when Purcell headed the ball on from a corner and the goalkeeper dived on the ball with Kelly ready to pounce.
With four minutes of extra time remaining, Newmarket had their third penalty claim rejected. A free kick was floated into the area from 30 yards and Pike Rovers captain appeared to handle the ball in the box but once again the referee was having none of it.
The game ended with Pike victorious on a 3-2 margin, the Limerick side will now meet North End United from Wexford in the final to be played in the Aviva Stadium.
Newmarket did themselves proud and clearly demonstrated that they can compete with the best. Celtic dominated possession throughout restricting Pike to just a few chances and were unlucky to see the game slip from their grasp having battled so hard for extra-time.
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville; Wayne O’Donovan, Edward O’Donovan, Darragh Carroll, Wayne Colbert (captain)Eoin Hanrahan, Stephen McGann, Shane Walsh, Cian Collins, Colin Daly, Paddy O’Malley. Subs: James Mullins for O’Malley; Brian O’Callaghan for Daly; David Ryan for Collins; Cian Power for Carroll.
Newmarket Celtic: Shane Cusack; Seamus Lawlor, Eoin O’Brien; Stephen Kelly, Paddy Purcell; Colin Ryan, Tino Nzvaura, Colin Smyth, Eoin Hayes, Dave McCarthy (captain), David Reidy. Subs: Daithi O’Connell for Lawlor; Ian Collins for Ryan.
Referee: John Hadnett (TSDL).