RAPHOE scraped their way past Bangor and into the quarter-finals of the Irish Hockey Trophy.
Bangor 2 Raphoe 3
Criminal first-half wastefulness threatened to come back to cost Raphoe in a error filled display by the Donegal men.
The last 16 tie of the Irish Hockey Trophy, the second-tier completion, was the Raphoe team’s first outing in three weeks, but they sprang out of the blocks at the seaside venue.
Bangor, who have entered a transitional phase with numerous players moving on or stepping down, where extremely fortunate not to find themselves a goal down in the first 40 seconds of the match.
Raphoe exerted a high press on Bangor from the get-go with George Patterson intercepting a Bangor pass high in their ’25.
Patterson exchanged passes with Gavin Lecky before drawing a save from Bangor goalkeeper Andy Seay. The rebound fell kindly to Lecky who inexplicably fluffed his lines.
The first of six chances that went a-begging for the Raphoe forward, but the worst was yet to come.
Raphoe continued to press high with some degree of success for the first 10 minutes, however they lacked the correct pass or mis-controlled the ball on the lively pitch.
Lecky fired wide from a narrow angle after being played through by Lee Stewart. Bangor withheld the Raphoe onslaught and struck with a counter punch goal on 12 minutes.
From a swift move Raphoe’s Tom Eaton conceded a penalty corner when swiping for a loose ball in the defensive circle, connecting with the attackers stick just before the ball.
Raphoe were unable to clear the first set piece and from the following penalty corner they conceded from a right-hand side deflection for the fifth time in three games. No doubt a going concern for the team.
For the remainder of the first quarter Raphoe again applied the pressure.
The Donegal men found the equaliser when Keith Meehan drove with the ball from left midfield before placing a strong pass to the back post where George Patterson swivelled brilliantly to apply the finishing touch.
The second quarter began in the same manner as the first finished with Raphoe exerting a lot of pressure on the Bangor backline.
Keith Meehan brought Raphoe into a deserved lead on 21 minutes when again he made room and scored a pinpoint accurate shot that clipped the inside of the post leaving the ‘keeper no chance on his near post.
Five minutes later the Raphoe team looked on expecting the net to bulge when Jonny Long drew a diving save from Seay in the Bangor net leaving the keeper stranded the ball rolled gently into Lecky’s path with merely a defender on the line to beat Lecky blasted over when it was certainly easier to score. Not one to look back on for a forward who was looking to extend his scoring run to three games.
For the rest of the half Bangor grew into the game more but Raphoe’s backline of Eaton, Ian McGonigle, captain Evan Lyttle and Simon Goudie held firm and enjoyed possession, especially with Goudie finding room to advance at left back.
The second half was a different story as Bangor completely dominated the 3rd quarter. Raphoe’s defensive shape and tactical discipline was found wanting on several occasions. Along side this Raphoe found it increasingly difficult to retain possession in midfield.
Relying heavily on overhead aerial balls to relieve pressure on the Raphoe defence with McGonigle and Goudie at the forefront of executing this plan.
James Wilson and Zack West work hard in the forward lines showing more composure than the majority of their more experienced teammates in this phase of the game. Wilson doing well on numerous occasions as an out ball for the Raphoe defence.
Bangor’s maintained effort paid off as fatigue grew in the Raphoe camp.
A cheap turnover in centre midfield lead to Bangor finishing off a quick counter attack eliminating Davy Moore in the Raphoe nets before passing calmly into the goals.
When the match moved into the final quarter tied the Raphoe men looked the less likely to grab the winner. Even less likely when they were reduced to 10 men when McGonigle picked up a green card, two minute suspension, for an intentional foul on a breaking Bangor attacker.
Despite this a brilliantly taken Jonny Long goal saw Raphoe retake the lead completely against the run of play. Simon Goudie, playing in central defence, launched an aerial over the heads of the Bangor defence who were stepping high to squeeze the Raphoe players.
Long reached high above his head to control the dropping aerial ball. His touch was perfect sending him on a 30-metre sprint one-on-one with the Bangor net minder.
Long edge over to the right-hand side of the circle before calmly slotting the ball past ‘keeper Seay who had misjudged his angles.
Raphoe saw out the remaining minutes with Bangor reduced to 10 men for a yellow card offence for a nervy and somewhat fortunate victory.
The draw will take place for the next round of the all-Ireland competition shortly with the quarter final likely to be in early February.
Next up for Raphoe is their second league game of the season against Newry at home next Saturday at 2:30 in what promises to be a close encounter.
Raphoe: D. Moore, T. Eaton, E. Lyttle, I. McGonigle, S. Goudie, Z. West, J. Wilson, L. Stewart, K. Meehan, J. Long, G. Patterson, G. Lecky. Coach: Richard Eaton.