Match report – St. James Swifts 2 v Lisburn Distillery 4 (Irish Cup First round – 12th Aug 2023)
Lisburn Distillery started the 2023/2024 season with a trip to Donegal Celtic Park to face St. James Swifts in the opening round of this season’s Irish Cup, the Swifts of course being no strangers to Whites manager Barry Johnston who had a spell as manager there before moving to Ballyskeagh.
A number of summer recruits made their full debuts for Distillery with only Ethan Carry, Josh Lynch, Johnny Newell and Carter Savage in the starting eleven who ended the 2022/2023 season at New Grosvenor.
Things could not have got off to a better start for the visitors as debutant Ryan McNickle won the ball back for Distillery in the home sides half and slipped the ball to Newell to his right. Swifts ‘keeper Conan Russell got a hand to the midfielders shot but could not keep the ball from crossing the line and the Whites had the lead with less than 30 seconds on the clock.
There was a nervy moment for the visiting supporters in the 8th minute when the Whites struggled to clear a corner into their box, with the ball scrambling around for a few moments before the danger was eventually cleared.
After the great start to the game there was a sour point in the 10th minute when Distillery’s Josh Lynch was shown a straight red card by the referee following an off the ball incident with a Swifts player, leaving Distillery with a man short for the remaining 80 plus minutes of the game.
Despite the red card, it was Distillery who had the next opportunity to add to the scoreline in the 12th minute. McNickle showed good perseverance to chase the ball down but it looked like Russell had snuffed out the danger only for the ‘keeper to catch the Distillery attacker as he tried to gather the ball and gave the referee little choice but to point to the penalty spot. Another debutant in the shape of Joe Tully stepped up to take responsibility but could only watch as his effort struck the ‘keepers right hand post and bounced away to safety.
After this the home side began to gain the upper hand in terms of possession though Carry in the Distillery goal remained untested and it was McNickle and the returning Justin Grattan who had further efforts on the Swifts goal but neither could find the target.
The Swifts were handed a way back into the game with just over 30 minutes played when Savage was adjudged to have fouled an opposing player inside the box and Keith Halliday awarded the second penalty of the game, this time for the home side. Eugene Gallagher stepped up for the Swifts and although Carry guessed the right way he could do little to stop the spot kick from crossing the line and the scores were now level.
After this, the home side well and truly began to up the ante and Gallagher had two excellent chances to score but will likely be disappointed that he was unable to get these on target and there was also an effort on goal from range but Carry was equal to this.
St. James would come to regret these missed chances, as it was the Whites who scored next, against the run of play, to regain the lead just before the break. A free kick was won out on the left and Kyle Flynn sent a good ball towards the back post to Conor McDermott who sent the ball goalwards were McNickle had the easy job of nodding home from just a couple of yards out.
The goal came at a promising time for Johnston’s side who now went in at the break with the wind in their sails and hoping to push on.
Half-Time: St. James Swifts 1-2 Lisburn Distillery
Distillery had the first sight of goal of the second 45 minutes, three minutes after the break, Dean Lewis broke into the St. James box and did well to retain possession but was crowded out by defenders and when he did get a shot off it went behind for a goal kick.
The Whites fans did not have long to wait to celebrate again though because in the 55th minute Grattan headed a corner from the left goalwards were Newell controlled the ball with his chest and turned to hammer past Russell to score his second, and Distillery’s third, goal of the game and give the Ballyskeah men some breathing space.
Distillery were well on top at this point and had chances to add to their lead, McNickle saw an effort saved by Russell after being played in by Grattan and Tully tried his luck with a diving header from another corner only for it to be impressively cleared away by a defender.
Goal number four did come for Distillery with just over ten minutes left on the clock, Tully making up for his earlier penalty to miss to impressively score directly from a free kick 25 yards away from goal, opening his goalscoring account in a white shirt in the process.
After the fourth the Whites may have been guilty of taking their foot off the gas and the home side did manage to pull a goal back through a Daniel Wilson shot from outside the box but all in all it was an impressive win and performance from Distillery in a game that could have been made difficult following the red card.
The Whites reward for winnig this game saw them given a home tie against junior side Newmills In the second round of this seasons competition.
Full Time: St. James Swifts 2-4 Lisburn Distillery
Carry ©, Lewis, McDermott, Flynn, Lynch Hoy, Newell, McNickle, Tully, Grattan,
Lisburn Distillery substitutions;
Gallagher (for McNickle, 60 mins), McKee (for Flynn, 60 mins), Lyttle,
Magill (for Hoy, 70 mins), Devenny (for Grattan, 85 mins), Geddis, Johnston
David Hunter’s picture gallery from this game can be found @ https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAR4dc