Ballymena 2 - 1 Belfast Celtic

Irish Cup - Final
Saturday, March 30th, 1929, 3:00 PM at Solitude
Referee: W. McClean (Belfast)
Ballymena  Belfast Celtic

Goalscorers
Jamie Shiels (40)
James McCambridge (47)
Jack Mahood* (70)

Team Managers
Selection Committee
Austin Donnelly

Starting Eleven
John Gough
William Clarke
Gordon McDairmid
John McNinch
David Reid
John Reid
Sidney Howard
James McCambridge
James Mitchell
Jamie Shiels
Joseph Cassidy
Jack Diffin*
J. Wallace
Bertie Fulton
Samuel Moore
Mick Hamill
William Pollock
Peter Gallagher
Jimmy Ferris
Samuel Curran
Stanley Mahood*
Jack Mahood*

All roads led to the Cliftonville ground on Saturday, here a crowd round about 15,000 saw Ballymena, the season's Babes, smite Celtic, the League Champions, in the final stage of the Irish Cup.

Two special trains carried hundreds of enthusiastic Light Blue supporters from Ballymena, Ballymoney and Cullybackey, and besides these Ballymena were cheered to victory by thousands of Belfast sympathisers. The day was a glorious one - too summer-like, in fact, for the strenuous game of soccer, being more suitable for cricket.

On the hard-baked Solitude ground the ball was as keen as mustard. The trek to the scene of battle presented a wonderful sight. Long lines of tramcars, heavily laden, moved up the Cliftonville Road unceasingly, and the footpaths were black with pedestrians hurrying to see the most important tit-bit of the year. The fact that Ballymena, who had only entered the football arena at the beginning of the present season, had fought their way into the final of this coveted trophy, had caught the popular imagination.

It was a wonderful achievement for a new team, even if they did not gain the height of their ambition and annex the cup. There was a great speculation as to which team would win the day, with the odds slightly in favour of Celtic, whose unbeaten record in the League marked them as possible winners of the cup. But in Ballymena a different feeling prevailed.

Six or seven weeks ago the Champions lost two valuable points in the City Cup competition. That match was fairly and squarely won by Ballymena on their merits. There was every reason to believe that Ballymena could repeat the performance, and as it turned out the Light Blues won by exactly the same margin - 2-1.

The result was hailed with delight by the sporting public, who realise that for a country team to win the cup is all the good of the game. Amongst the first to congratulate Mr. A.L. McClelland (chairman of the directors of the Ballymena club), was Austin Donnelly (chairman of Celtic), who gave a warm handshake, like a good sport he is. It was unfortunate for Shaw, Ballymena's outside left, that was unable to play, being confined to bed with the 'flu. His place was taken by Joe Cassidy, who fitted in splendidly and led the Celtic defence a dance.

Music by the Edenderry Band whiled away the time before the math. After the presentation of mascots to the respective captains, the coin was spun in the air and fell in Ballymena's favour. Ballymena started with a sun and slight wind advantage. The first minute of the game brought an unexpected interruption, the referee getting a hard knock with the ball which caused a cessation of hostilities for a minute or two. He was greeted with a sympathetic cheer on resuming his duties.

A free to Celtic let them away, but McCambridge trapped and passed out to Cassidy who placed the ball in front of goal where Shiels sent it forward, but Diffen picked up. A free for 'hands' gave Ballymena an opportunity to make ground, but afterwards the Celtic forwards carried play to the other end where J. Mahood shot wide by about a foot.

Wallace stopped a run on the Ballymena left and allowed his forwards away to force a corner, after which Gough saved from Gallagher. The goalie was active again in the next minute when Gallagher had crossed into J. Mahood and the latter returned, but Gough was again at his post. Play swung to the Ballymena left, where Cassidy manoeuvred adroitly and lifted the ball in for Shiels to force a corner, from which D. Reid headed over. From a 'free' McNinch placed the ball well up into the danger zone and Howard fired a shot over the bar.

Pressure by Celtic found McNinch in difficulties and he attempted to pass back to his partner, but Gallagher got possession and kicked the ball against Gough, who had run out to meet him. The Celts had a grand chance in the next attack when the ball was sent across an undefended goal and J. Mahood sent wide. An attack led by Curran brought further danger, which was relieved when Gough kicked clear at the expense of a corner. It was now Ballymena's turn to attack, and they had an innings which kept the Celtic defence active. McCambridge led up towards goal, and things looked lively when Wallace missed, but Diffen won a race against time with Shiels. Then Cassidy got possession from a throw-in and lobbed a great shot just over the bar. Two corners to Celtic passed without mishap, and a couple more shortly afterwards met with the same fate.

Further forward work by Ballymena found McCambridge missing narrowly with a header. At the other end McDiarmid was none to safe once and put past for a corner when he might have allowed Gough to gather the ball. With only five minutes to go before the interval whistle the game took an unexpected turn when McCambridge came into centre and lobbed a pass out to Clarke, who lost no time in landing the ball into centre, where Shiels pounced on it and had it in the net before Diffin knew what was happening. This was the signal for a tremendous outburst of applause from the Ballymena supporters, who were frantic with glee. Before the interval Diffen had to handle again.

Resuming against a strong sun, Ballymena were going well when Gallagher stopped the attack at the expense of a 'free'. Afterwards a neat piece of combination between the brothers Reid opened up a brilliant attack in which J. Reid crossed the ball into McCambridge, who placed it from one foot to the other and drove it straight and strong into the net to give Ballymena a further lead. IT was one of the best goals McCambridge has ever scored - and he has scored some good ones. The splendid effort was lustily cheered by a large section of the crowd, but the Celtic supporters were wearing glum faces, now what that the champions were two goals down.

Now thoroughly on their mettle, the Celts strove hard for a goal and forced a corner. Hard on the heels of this Howard gave away a 'free' for hands a few feet outside the penalty line, but the ball was cleared out of the ruck of players. A run by Ballymena was followed by a counter-attack by Celtic, and Gallagher crossed in for Ferris to balloon over the bar from a good position. Shiels broke away on a solo run and passed out to Cassidy, whose shot went across goal and went past about a foot on the wrong side of the post.

Exchanges were livelier than ever now. Both teams were making dangerous dashes, but the defences always came out on top. Celtic forced a couple of corners, and from the second one Hamill had a beautiful pot for goal which just failed. The Celts continued to be pushful and at long last had their efforts rewarded when J. Mahood accepted a pass from the extreme right and flashed the ball into the net. This had the effect of putting new life into them, but the Ballymena defence was defiant and defeated further efforts to overcome them.

For a spell after this the Light Blues were very much in the picture, making attack after attack and generally giving Wallace and Fulton a very anxious time. Clarke dropped in a lovely shot from which the left winger turned the ball in the side net. A further effort by Clarke was neatly caught by Diffen, and then Cassidy opened up the way for Mitchell, who headeded over.

Celtic were now playing an entirely defensive game, the Ballymena forwards playing lively football which greatly harassed the backs, who were well beaten on occasions and had to rely on Diffen, their last line of defence. The Celtic goalie caught another dropping shot from Clarke which all but beat him. Ultimately the Stripes carried play to the other end, but in spite of all their manoeuvring McNinch and McDiarmid kept them out. A further attack by Ballymena was followed by a final rally by Celtic, and Gough was called on to rise to a shot which he put over the bar. It was only a matter of seconds now until the final whistle, which when it sounded was hailed with satisfaction by Ballymena and their supporters.

Match report written by Ballymena Observer (5 April 1929)



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