Promotion-relegation play-off report: Drogheda United 5 - 1 Cabinteely (Drogheda win 6-2 on aggregate)

Sat, Oct 26 2019

Luke McNally celebrates one of his three goals in the play-off win over Cabinteely. Credit: Larry McQuillan (ETPhotos)

Gerard Grimes reports from United Park

A stunning hat-trick from centre-back Luke McNally set Drogheda on their way to a 5-1 (6-2 aggregate) play-off semi-final win over Cabinteely at United Park on Friday.

Chris Lyons and Jamie Hollywood were also on target as Drogheda cut loose in the second half following Marty Waters’ equaliser seven minutes after the restart.

Drogheda started the side the quicker of the two, creating a number of chances in the opening ten minutes.

Adam Wixted was at the centre of the action in the early stages, seeing his strike, the first shot of the game, saved by Stephen McGuinness.

The winger then turned creator as he cut the ball back to Doyle from the right but the latter sliced his shot, with frontman Lyons unable to get a touch to turn it goalwards.

Doyle was the next to create as a great run on the left saw him find Brennan who found Lyons with a through-ball but that strike was well-saved by former Drogheda keeper McGuinness.

Cabinteely’s first chance came after 11 minutes as Blackbyrne found Paul Fox from a throw but his strike from distance was wide of the far post.

Drogheda’s next chance came a minute later through Doyle’s as he glided past players on the left and worked his way into box before firing across goal.

The visitors went close after 21 minutes as a corner was only half cleared by Drogheda. The ball was returned into the box and Cabinteely defender Jonathan Carlin headed just wide of the far post.

Six minutes later, at the other end of the pitch, Doyle was again the creator for Drogheda as he drilled a ball towards the six-yard box.

Lyons got a touch at the near post but saw his effort blocked before the second effort from Wixted was saved well by McGuinness.

The pressure paid off for the home side after 35 minutes as Brennan delivered a free into the box. McNally saw his header and then a shot saved before rifling his third effort in from close range to give Drogheda the lead.

Cabinteely had a chance to level just two minutes later as a corner to the back post was headed back across goal by Blackbyrne to Keeley but he headed straight at keeper Gratzer on the Drogheda goalline.

Cabinteely found the equaliser seven minutes into the second half as a corner was headed back into the danger zone by Aspil to Carlin.

Carlin’s header was saved by the outstretched hand of Gratzer but the ball fell kindly for Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters to nod the ball over the line from a yard out.

That lead lasted just five minutes though as Brennan’s corner was met by a towering leap by McNally, heading past McGuinness for his second of the game.

McNally’s stunning hat-trick would be complete two minutes later as Lyons kept the ball alive after McNally’s flick on from a free.

Lyons took it to the byline before cutting the ball back to McNally who produced a strikers finish to seal his hattrick with his ninth goal of the season.

Drogheda made it 4-1 on the night just three minutes later as Lyons turned 25 yards out and fired an effort into the corner past McGuinness to give Drogheda a three-goal lead in the tie.

The fifth for Drogheda came with 11 minutes to play as Meaney won the ball off two Cabinteely defenders in the box, played it to substitute Jamie Hollywood and he fired in from eight yards.

Cabinteely did have chances to get a goal back, with substitutes Yuta Sasaki and Keith Dalton at the centre of the action.

Sasaki first creating a chance for Waters who was denied at close range by Gratzer before Dalton cut a ball back for Sasaki who skied an effort over the bar from six yards out.

Drogheda could have had a sixth as James Brown’s cross found Meaney at the back post but he saw his header denied by another great save by McGuinness before failing to hit the target with his follow-up effort.

The Boynesiders now progress to the play-off final against ninth-placed Premier Division side Finn Harps, with the first leg in United Park on Monday at 7.45pm.

Drogheda United: Luca Gratzer; James Brown, Luke McNally, Kevin Farragher, Conor Kane (C); Luke Heeney, Mark Hughes, Sean Brennan (Jamie Hollywood 64); Adam Wixted, Mark Doyle (Stephen Meaney 67), Chris Lyons (Ryan O’Shea 80).

Subs not used: Paul Skinner (gk), Cian Kavanagh, Eoin McPhillips, James Clarke.

Booked: Luke McNally (65), Jamie Hollywood (79), Kevin Farragher (90+2).

Cabinteely: Stephen McGuinness (C); Kevin Knight (Keith Dalton 64), Jack Tuite, Jonathan Carlin, Daniel Blackbyrne; Alex Aspil, Paul Fox (Yuta Sasaki 67)., Jack Hudson, Eoin Massey; Conor Keeley, Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters.

Subs not used: Peter Quinlan (gk), Shane Barnes, Cian Lynch, Karl Manahan, Luke Clucas.

Booked: Alex Aspil (32), Jack Tuite (69).

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

Attendance: 1,300. Player of the Match: Luke McNally (Drogheda United).