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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Morgan Treacy/INPHO Declan O'Brien was on target for Drogheda tonight (file pic).
# Winning
Late goals spare Drogheda's blushes against Cockhill Celtic
A Declan O’Brien hat-trick helped his side get out of jail.

Drogheda United 4

Cockhill Celtic 2

THE EARLY ROUNDS of the FAI Cup always throw up some memorable occasions, and for long periods, this looked like being a very memorable one indeed for the players and supporters of Cockhill Celtic. Making the second round of the competition for the very first time, the Ulster Senior League champions were drawn to face top flight opposition in Drogheda United.

As is customary in cup folklore, there was much more to the plucky underdogs than met the eye. Without their main striker because he was on holiday and missing several key first teamers because of Leaving Cert commitments, there was quite a story even before kick off.

Shortly after, 42 seconds to be precise, their dream cup day out looked like turning into a nightmare. Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien breached the Celtic defence to shoot across goalkeeper Gavin Cullen. This cup match was offering much-needed respite from dire league performances of late and it looked like Drogheda may have been unburdened by the absence of league pressures.

On the 20-minute mark however, the men from Donegal were level. When Alan McNally challenged diminutive forward Mark Moran in the penalty area, it seemed to be a fair tackle. Referee Neil Doyle had other ideas though and pointed to the spot before winger Gerry Gill slotted it past youngster Dylan Connollly.

Drogheda dominated the remainder of the first half, with McNally, Mick Daly and O’Brien going close but arguably the best chance to take the lead was squandered seconds before the interval when Moran showed great footwork but not-so-great finishing to blaze over.

That wrong was righted moments into the second half. Gill took a free kick on the left-hand side and although Connolly came out to punch, his clearance hit striker Ger McLaughlin and looped into the net for a second fortuitous goal. The non-leaguers though, didn’t care how they went in.

Drogheda United were to put their vistors to the sword, eventually. Two more from Declan O’Brien and a shot from sub Gavan Holohan that squirmed under the unlucky Celtic stopper Gavin Cullen put a sheen on the scoreline for the home side and ensured last year’s finalists were through to round three.

DROGHEDA UNITED: Dylan Connolly, Michael Daly, Shane Grimes (Gavan Holohan, 69), Alan McNally, Paul Crowley, Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe, 65), Gary O’Neill, Gavin Brennan, Sean O’Connor, Daire Doyle, Declan O’Brien.

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Substitutes: David Ryan, Paul Andrews, Gavan Holohan, Philly Hughes, Dominic Mahon, Carl Walshe, Eric Foley.

COCKHILL CELTIC: Gavin Cullen, Kieran McLaughlin, Conor Keddy, Jonny Havelin, William O’Connor, Derek Doherty (Paul McKinney, 86), James Bradley, Malachy McDermott, Gerard McLaughlin, Mark Moran (Aidan O’Donnell, 73), Gerry Gill (Brendan McLoughlin, 89).

Substitutes: Aidan O’Donnell, Paul McKinney, Brendan McLaughlin, Oisin McColgan, Michael Noone, Daniel Doherty, Lee McCarron.

REFEREE: Neil Doyle (Dublin)

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