Walsh saves Olympic dream to seal Border Cup

Walsh saves Olympic dream to seal Border Cup

8 January 2020

RYAN Walsh saved the best for last when Ballynahinch Olympic lifted the Border Cup after a sudden death penalty shoot-out at Seaview on New Year’s Day.

Victory was no more than Olympic deserved after a rip-roaring and refreshingly open game ended 2-2. The sides were still locked after extra-time and at the end of five penalties apiece when James McClean drilled Olympic 6-5 ahead.

It was then left to Walsh to break the deadlock when he kept out Ruairi Fitzpatrick’s well-struck spot kick to seal victory before he was mobbed by his delighted team-mates.

Rathfriland certainly looked the part early doors as they sprayed the ball to both flanks where Fitzpatrick and Thomas Lockhart took full advantage.

Fitzpatrick, in particular, ran at Dalton Tate at every opportunity, but Rathfriland failed to take advantage of his wing trickery.

The first real shot in anger came in the 10th minute when Olympic’s Anton McGrattan tested Parr, but the big custodian saved with ease.

Five minutes later at the other end Dalton Tate produced a telling tackle on the edge of the six yard box to deny Fitzpatrick a certain goal.

However, from the resulting corner, Stephen Hughes bundled the ball over the line when Lockhart’s delivery caused mayhem.

Rathfriland continued to play the ball methodically through the middle where Andy Kilmartin and Hughes were dominant and with 28 minutes gone they teamed up with Fitzpatrick to carve out another opening for Harry Campbell, but he shot straight at Walsh.

Ruairi Cunningham then created an opening for Fitzpatrick, but he was way off target as was Lockhart in the 37th minute. A minute later at the opposite end Jason Noade got on the end of a McGrattan corner, but headed over.

It looked as if Rathfriland were going to take their 1-0 lead into the break as the game entered the 40th minute and good value they were for their lead.

However, with 43 minutes gone Stefan Mason exploded into life. The rangy striker took on two Rathfriland defenders after picking up a long ball out of defence.

He headed down the left flank and looked destined for the by-line, but stopped in his tracks, checked back, turned his markers and curled a ‘worldy’ into the top corner of the net, giving Parr no chance. 

Two minutes later it was 2-1 Olympic and again Mason was involved. When his attempted cross was blocked, McGrattan headed the ball into Nathan Jones’ path. 

Nothing looked on when Jones got the ball centrally, just inside the box, but he managed to get the ball from under his feet and beat Parr all ends up with a stunning finish and turn the game on its head.

The second half was every bit as competitive, but Olympic seemed to have the measure of Rathfriland and were playing well within themselves until Peter Telford was given the freedom of the box and allowed to head in a Lockhart free kick to make it 2-2 in the 63rd minute.

Jason Noade then headed a Jones free kick at ‘keeper Parr and with 68 minutes played the busy McGrattan fired over after a nice build-up.

Another searing run and cross from Fitzpatrick begged to be put away, but Rathfriland lacked a fox in the box and the chance was gone.

Chances continued to be created at either end and with the respective ‘keepers earning their corn with brilliant saves. 

However, the game was in the 92nd minute when Walsh came to Olympic’s rescue when he somehow kept out an effort from Marty Havern when the former Glenavon striker seemed certain to win the game for Rathfriland.   

Two periods of extra-time came and went before the dreaded penalty shoot-out took centre stage.

Jones, Stevie and Jason Noade, McGrattan, Tate and James McClean netted for Olympic with Kilmartin, Johnny Roy, Nigel Prentice, Ruari Cunningham and Daryll Evans replying for Rathfriland before Walsh saved the day when he beat away Fitzpatrick’s penalty.

Ballynahinch Olympic: Ryan Walsh, Dalton Tate, Paul Dickson, Jason Noade, Anton McGrattan, Nathan Jones, Stevie Noade, Chris McNamara, Stefan Mason, Conor Reid, Ryan Molloy. Subs: James McClean, Aaron McClean, Shane Murray. 

Rathfriland Rangers: Jonathan Parr, Graeme Edgar, Ruari Cunningham, Peter Telford, Ruairi Fitzpatrick, Andy Kilmartin, Harry Campbell, Stephen Hughes, Thomas Lockhart, Jonny Roy, Daryll Evans. Subs: Nigel Prentice, Marty Havern, Jonathan Scannell.  

Ballynahinch Olympic 8

Rathfriland Rangers 7

(2-2 after extra-time)