Celtic land plum home tie in FAI Junior Cup

Stephen McCarthy: Snapped up by Kerry FC

Killarney Celtic’s reward for overcoming a fancied Tallaght United in Dublin in the last 16 of the FAI Junior Cup is a quarter-final home tie against Ballynanty Rovers of Limerick on the weekend of March 4/5.

That game should attract a bumper crowd to Celtic Park and the hoops will be quite familiar with the opposition as they beat them away from home a few seasons ago but lost on penalties when they last met in Killarney.

In the last round, Celtic registered a terrific victory away to Tallaght United in a game played at the VEC grounds in Terenure last weekend and they were really in control on their way to an impressive 3-0 victory.

They will, however, have to face Ballynanty without the services of star striker Stephen McCarthy who has been snapped up by Kerry FC for their League of Ireland Division 1 campaign which starts on Friday.

Celtic manager Neilus Hayes (right) with chairman Tim Jones

The lethal McCarthy, who was good for over 20 goals per season at KDL level, scored the first against Tallaght from the penalty spot and he was also on target in the previous round against Peake Villa.

But Kerry FC came calling and Celtic will be deprived of the services of their main scoring threat from now on.

Capitalising on Celtic’s almost total control of the domestic game in the county over the past four years, Kerry FC have also signed Croatian Trpimir Vrljicak and Ryan Kelliiher from the reigning league and cup holders as well as former Celtic star midfielder Matt Keane who joins from Treaty United.

In McCarthy’s absence, manager Neilus Hayes and his assistant Mikey Daly will look to the likes of Wayne Sparking and Lee Downing to provide the finishing touches in their campaign to get to the last four of the FAI Junior Cup which is now just 90 minutes away.

Should they overcome the Limerick side, Celtic will face either Newmarket Celtic FC, Crumlin United FC from Dublin or Sandygillshangan FC, also from the capital.

On the other side of the draw are Gorey Rangers from Wexford, Colga FC from Galway, Buncrana Hearts from Donegal and Tipperary’s St Michael’s AFC.

Despite the loss of key players, Celtic will still be hoping to advance to the semi-finals which is a feat they haven’t achieved since losing out to Sheriff United in 2017.

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