Bluebell United battled against the odds to seal a 1-0 win against First Division side Cabinteely at Stradbrook on Friday evening in a game that was lacking in many clear-cut chances at either end.
Bluebell managed to hang on and secure their place in the next round of the FAI Cup, courtesy of a Shane Stritch strike in the first half as the forward made the most of a defensive mix-up between Sean Fitzpatrick and goalkeeper Mick Kelly.
There was little separating the sides in the opening exchanges, and in truth both had chances to go ahead in the first ten minutes.
Cabinteely, first, went close through Dean Casey, whose cross-turned-shot from the left wing deceived everyone and dipped onto the crossbar. Fortunately for Bluebell, the rebound fell for Ryan Swan with at an unfavourable angle, and the forward could do little but fire his attempt over.
Bluebell themselves went close shortly after, with Stritch working some space for himself inside the First Division side’s box. As he worked his way towards the byline, he drove a low effort across Kelly’s goal, only for his shot to drag narrowly wide of the far post.
The game continued to be end-to-end, and a moment of quality from Kieran Waters almost had the ball nestling in the top corner. Cabinteely’s leading goalscorer weaved some space 25-yards from goal before unleashing an excellent left-footed effort that dipped just wide.
Immediately after, Bluebell took the lead. As a ball fell between Sean Fitzpatrick and Mick Kelly, nobody took hold of the situation and the ball squirmed its way through both. Stritch was there to pounce on the mistake and found himself 12-yards in front of an open goal, making no mistake to tap home.
With neither side really taking control, there were chances at both ends as Conor Keeley headed over the crossbar from a corner.
Bluebell then could have doubled their lead with a couple of chances before the break. Tony Griffith came close first as he tried a long-range effort, only to see his strike go agonisingly wide of Kelly’s goal.
Dean Ebbe had a chance to double Bluebell’s lead. As he bore down on goal he hit his shot early, but Kelly was alert and reacted well to save with his right leg.
A series of five corners in the space of two minute then caused a host of problems for Bluebell, with Pat Devlin’s side threatening from each. The best of these chances fell to Keeley who rose well and headed downward only to see his shot cleared off the line. As Cabo’s players protested to the referee claiming the ball had crossed the line, the ball went behind for another corner.
In the early stages of the second half Cabinteely, looking to draw level, caused problems. Some excellent footwork from Swan bought him room at the edge of the box before he offloaded to Casey, who tried to find the bottom corner from 20-yards but just missed the target.
The game lost its pace as the second half progressed, with Cabinteely asserting their dominance over the non-league side. Swan went to ground under a clumsy challenge from Keith Griffith in the box, only for his penalty shouts to be waved away.
Swan continued to be at the centre of the action and he had the ball in the net moments later with a typical striker’s finish but was thwarted by the assistant referee’s flag.
Cabo couldn’t carve out any clear chances in the dying minutes and with Bluebell holding on to their narrow lead, ex-Ireland international Keith Fahey was given his marching orders for a second yellow card.
The numerical advantage was brief, however, and there was not enough time remaining for Cabinteely to make it count.
Bluebell: Andrew McNulty, Karl Russell, Tony Keeler, Dean Lawrence (83’ Jeff Flood), Brian Cullen, Keith Quinn, Gary Seary, Tony Griffith (75’ David Scully), Shane Stritch, Keith Fahey, Dean Ebbe (66’ Glenn Walsh).
Subs not Used: Gareth Corcoran, Stephen Larkin, Richard O’Hanlon, Gareth Cooney.
Booked: Karl Russell (52), Keith Fahey (63 & 93).
?Cabinteely: Mick Kelly, Aaron Robinson, Rob McGee, Conor Keeley, Sean Fitzpatrick, Christian Lotefa, Conor Earley, Daire Doyle (57’ Cory Galvin), Syan Swan, Kieran Waters, Dean Casey (72’ Michael Scott).
Subs not used: Jack Menton, Steven Ball, Evan Galvin, Gareth McCaffrey, Anto Dolan.
Booked: Ryan Swan (61)
Referee: Andrew Mullally
Attendance: 250 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Keith Quinn (Bluebell United).