Galway United came from behind at Eamonn Deacy Park to secure a well deserved passage into the next round of the EA SPORTS Cup.
The visitors, Cockhill Celtic, took the lead in spectacular fashion when midfielder Jimmy Bradley spotted United keeper’ Ger Hanley off his line and his audacious 40 yard effort gave the away side a dream start.
United responded through their man-of-the-match, Padraic Cunningham. Ryan Connolly delivered an inviting cross into the Cockhill box and Cunningham glanced the ball goalwards but he failed to trouble Gavin Cullen between the posts.
A direct ball out of defence lead to Galway United drawing level in the 22nd minute. Centre half Kevin Garcia launched the ball up the pitch and Andy O’Connell peeled away behind the Cockhill defence and expertly lobbed the ball over the advancing Gavin Cullen.
Ger Hanley, who was making his first appearance of the season, had to be alert just before the half-hour mark to deny Aidan O’Donnell who was clean through on goal.
Padraic Cunningham was desperately unlucky not to register a second goal 5 minutes before the interval when his volley from outside the box cannoned off the crossbar with Cullen rooted to the spot. A minute later, Cunningham went close again. This time, Cullen got a strong hand to Cunningham’s shot from outside the box.
In the 41st minute, United goalscorer Andy O’Connell was chopped down in the Cockhill Celtic box and referee Robert Hennessey pointed to the spot. O’Connell, who picked up an injury from the challenge, was unable to continue and skipper Paul Sinnott took his place from the bench. Ryan Connolly assumed the responsibility but his penalty lacked the power to trouble Cullen and he gathered easily.
Padraic Cunningham was cursing his luck 10 minutes into the second half when he crashed another effort off the woodwork. The Headford native smashed a shot off the side of the post from a difficult angle as United upped the intensity in search of a second goal.
In the 58th minute, Cunningham deservedly got on the scoresheet when Ryan Connolly caught the Cockhill defence out, trying to use the offside trap and Cunningham scampered through on goal and coolly fired past Gavin Cullen.
Five minutes later, Cunningham had the ball in the net again when he headed past Cullen at the back post but the referee gave a free out for an apparent push.
Cockhill Celtic defender Peter Doherty pulled off a fantastic challenge to deny Gary Shanahan the simple task of finishing at the back post but the pressure was building from the home side.
Undeterred by his disallowed goal, Cunningham sealed a brace in the 68th minute when he latched onto a long ball behind the Cockhill defence. His initial shot was saved by Cullen but Cunningham pounced again and at the second time of asking he looped a header over the head of the former Finn Harps goalkeeper.
In the 71st minute, Cunningham turned provider for United’s 4th goal of the evening when he hooked a cross to the back post for Gary Shanahan, whose header was adjudged to have crossed the line.
Cunningham almost sealed his hat-trick when he rounded Gavin Cullen but he dragged the ball wide of the goal.
Cockhill Celtic finished the game with a bang when substitute Mark Moran showed neat footwork before rifling an effort into the top corner to beat Ger Hanley.
Next up for Galway United is a huge league game against Sligo Rovers at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday evening.
REFEREE: Robert Hennessey.
GALWAY UNITED (4-2-3-1): Hanley; Horgan, Garcia, Walsh, Ludden; Byrne, O’Connell (Sinnott 44); Shanahan (Barry 73), Connolly, Keegan (O’Laoi 70); Cunningham.
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Gleeson (GK), Curran, Raftery.
SCORERS: O’Connell 22, Cunningham 58 & 66, Shanahan 71.
COCKHILL CELTIC (4-5-1): Cullen; McDermott, P. Doherty, Havlin, McLaughlin (McKinney 49), Bradley (M. Doherty), Varma, D. Doherty, O’Donnell (Moran 64), Henry, Gill.
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: L. O’Donnell, D. Doherty.
SCORERS: Bradley 4, Moran 91.
BOOKED: Henry 21, D Doherty 67.