RATHFRILAND Swifts hosted Mid Ulster Division One team Armagh Celtic in the first round of the Mid Ulster Shield and after a series of missed gilt edge chances the home side were left wondering how they did not progress to the second round of this competition.
Rathfriland were strong right from the off and could have been a goal up early on had Lee Mackin put his shot anywhere else inside the goal frame.
David Hollingsworth then blazed over from inside the box after a great headed pull back by Paul Gibbons. Mark Connolly then went close from a great free kick but on the half hour the visitors broke away and what appeared to be a lack of communication on the Swifts' part was capitalised on by a great flowing Celtic move which they finished neatly with a low shot to make it 1-0.
The home side then lost Niall Fitzpatrick after two bookings but William Morrison could have levelled it if he had shot instead of pulling back after a great run. Armagh Celtic were big and strong and could have had another but for a brilliant tip over by Rippon leaving the half time score 1–0.
In the second half one would have struggled to tell which of the sides were operating with a man less such was Rathfriland`s workrate and effort.
Rathfriland forced a few corners with Paul Gibbons scooping just over from close in while Connolly again fired over from a free kick after the Celtic `keeper completely levelled Lee Mackin with a high reckless scythe on the edge of the box – needless to say he saw red for his challenge.
Rathfriland suffered a real kick in the teeth when a second lapse allowed the bustling Celtic strikers to break away and score from close range.
Within five minutes the home side pulled a goal back when Paul Campbell scored from 10 yards with a low shot after a rebound from a another corner kick. Rathfriland continued to push but in the end they just fell short of taking the game into extra time.
Overall a decent performance by the Swifts – good attitude, effort and workrate especially playing for an hour or so with a man down but they will rue their missed chances which ultimately was the difference between the two sides.
TEAM: Connor Rippon, Simon Groves, William Morrison, Alan Murray, Brian Magennis, Paul Gibbons, Niall Fitzpatrick, Ryan Monaghan, Lee Mackin, David Hollingsworth, Mark Connolly. Subs: Philip Johnston, Paul Campbell, Connell Jackson.