IRISH CUP: Bizarre opener splits opinion as holders Glenavon stay on course

Armagh keeper John Connolly confronts referee Arnold Hunter after the controversial opening goal at Holm Park
Armagh keeper John Connolly confronts referee Arnold Hunter after the controversial opening goal at Holm Park

Cup holders Glenavon saw off Armagh City 2-0 at Holm Park but the main talking point was a bizarre opening goal that left eveyone at the ground scratching their heads.

With 30 minutes gone, City keeper John Connolly collected a free kick and as he ran out to clear, Glenavon’s Rhys Marshall brushed past him and dislodged the ball.

With Connolly appealing to the referee, Glenavon’s James Gray reacted quickest, collected the loose ball, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball into an empty net.

As he celebrated, Armagh City players and management berated the officials.

“Cup games are all about getting through to the next round and we did that today, that was the most important thing,” said Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton.

“Armagh gave us a good game but it was all about us getting through to the next round and thankfully we did that.

“I didn’t see the opening goal, I don’t think anyone seen it but we went in and watched it a halftime and there is no intention in it whatsoever.

“I don’t know what the rules are – when you run out on the pitch and knock into somebody it’s not always given as a free kick if it’s accidental.

“When you look at Rhys and look at his eyes he is just running out, focused on getting back. At no stage does he throw his arm out or look to see what he is doing.

“It is one of those ones, it could have been given, it could not have been given.

“I think it is very, very difficult for the referee after watching it back. For me there is not enough in that to give a free kick.”

Naturally, Armagh boss Marty Rice viewed the incident differently and on emerging from the changing rooms he was still visably angry.

“We set out to frustrate Glenavon and we had done everything we had planned to do,” said Rice.

“Our keeper really hadn’t needed to make a save, but the game was turned on its head. It was a moment of madness.

“If you have played football you know by how players react, The Glenavon forward stopped, he actually said to one of our boys that he was going to knock it back to the keeper until everyone started screaming and then he decided to play on. How you can have three officials and a fourth official and no-one sees what happened to the ball?”

Opening goal aside, Glenavon dominated the game in terms of possession and chances but they lacked a cutting edge up front and that gave Armagh hope of nicking an equaliser.

In fact, after Grey hit the woodwork midway through the second half, Armagh’s Conor Mullan also struck the upright, one of two gilt edged chances that could have changed the outcome.

Instead, Glenavon dominated the closing quarter of the game and wrapped things up late on when Rhys Marshall went down in the box under a challenge from Eamon Kelly and Greg Moorhouse finished from the penalty spot.

Hamilton added; “We created a few chances and didn’t take them and then Armagh created a couple of their own.

“Young Mullan possibly should have scored with a header at the back post but that is cup football. It is difficult but we have performed and got through to the next round and that’s all we wanted to do at the start of the game.”