With the mid-season break on the horizon, Burrin Celtic looked to bring some Christmas cheer to a league campaign which has not reflected the standard of play that this Celtic side has produced in recent weeks in what has proved to be a difficult season so far.
As the first away game this year, Burrin could scarcely have been blamed for needing to acclimatize to unfamiliar conditions. Thankfully, that did not materialize as Burrin rattled off three shots within the first five minutes with Joshua Fernandez, Conor Smyth and Shane Duffy all coming close early on. Dominating the play in the middle third, the go forward ball was relentless with Dylan Kane and Joey Pender mopping up the Bagenalstown threat from down the wing. However, as has been the way with this team, the possession did not translate into goals.
To be fair to Bagenalstown, they kept putting the foot in and defended stoutly, particularly during a series of throw-ins in advanced positions for the visitors. With the home-side pinned in and rushed into clearances, Conor Ruane was brilliant in picking up the second ball and resetting the play.
With the constant barrage came space. With space came shooting and no man was a trigger-happy all day than Joshua Fernandez whose shot from twelve yards out banged off the post. The rushed clearance fell to Conor Smyth who, having lagged behind the play, took the first time shot and chipped the keeper from all of 15 yards. A truly spectacular effort for 0-1.
The play continued with Burrin again dominating possession with runs from Shane Duffy keeping Bagenalstown pinned back; without producing the goal however to give the cushion required, although quicker runs off of the middle of the field might have led to this earlier, more decisive, lead had they been made.
To show how important this cushion was, Bagenalstown came very close with Joshua Fernandez pulling off 2 blocks from close range and Adam Murphy in the Burrin goal pulling off a first-class full stretch save. In truth it would have been an injustice if Burrin had been pegged back, but we all know how blind that individual can be. For details, see previous match-reports.
That scare was to prove the last time that the Burrin keeper had to touch the ball for the rest of the game as Burrin cranked up the pressure with Joey Pender breaking from the back and Conor Smyth putting himself about in the middle third, whose tackles proved important in breaking the 'Town play up. However, this could be seen throughout the team all game. To illustrate this work-rate, one tackle was made while on hands and knees and another was made after being inadvertently obstructed twice. A marked improvement in the contesting of second ball made these efforts all the more effective.
Continuing down the wings whenever possible, 'Town never really broke through with Dylan Kane mopping up across the back, giving a work-horse midfield the chance to get back.
So it went into half time with the visitors thoroughly deserving of, if a little fortunate to maintain, their lead of 0-1.
The second half saw a different approach from both sides. 'Town went for it a lot more and gave themselves more room to work with. This meant that the Burrin midfield had more work to do than would clear the live register as the game became very tough but maintained the positive spirit of the first half. With the now customary support play from Sean McHugh and Darragh Doyle, with both of whom acting as curbs and catalysts, the Burrin midfield did have a lot of ball but were not let do a lot with it as an early run from Adam Murphy proved the only line-break in the early going.
Then, slowly, but surely, the visitors retook the bridge as Jake O'Callaghan and Daniel Morahan put in a shift that would leave any foreman happy with their days work. Whether it was by a chest, foot, knee or big toe, the ball was always going forward with Andrew Synoradzki always posing a threat.
The pressure finally told as Bagenalstown started to concede set-piece ball close to their own goal, particularly corners. There was also a free-kick in the midst of these corners with Jake O'Callaghan unlucky not to score off a delivery from Synoradzki.
Now squeezing high up the pitch, Conor Ruane, who had an imperious day at centre-half in all aspects of the game, became more involved with general play, and it was his ball to Daniel Morahan which laid the foundations for the visitors' second goal.
Daniel gave the ball in early to Synoradzki who finally got a clean run at goal having rode two tackles to get in. The by now customary result of one-on-ones at this stage, this time a calm finish into the bottom corner, finishing the game as a contest in truth. 2-0
The last five minutes saw the clean sheet become the top priority, although Andrew was unlucky not to get his second with the outside of the post coming between him and a brace after a good ball from Ruane set him loose.
And so it ended 0-2. In truth, this game will be remembered for a number of things, but the most important thing will be the work-rate which, for players so early in their development, was probably the most pleasing aspect of the game.
Best for Burrin were Conor Ruane, Joshua Fernandez and Joey Pender.
Finally, as the season reaches half-time, a thank you to all players, especially those who came to the matches when sick or injured to support the squad, parents, especially those who have helped on match-day and behind the scenes, and lastly to anyone who has contributed to the squad in any way.
A Merry Christmas from the coaching staff to you all.