LSL Metropolitan Cup
Wayside Celtic 0
Bluebell United 1
Andy Noonan toasted a priceless clean sheet as his Bluebell United side edged past Wayside Celtic at Jackson Park to reach the third round of the Metropolitan Cup on Sunday afternoon.
Veteran Sean Byrne scored the only goal as a new-look Bluebell side saw off the challenge of Peter Lennon’s similarly youthful, newly-promoted Wayside outfit.
It’s just the second clean sheet the Bell have kept all season as they’ve rather uncharacteristically shipped 18 goals in eight league games, including three against Liffey Wanderers last week.
Noonan’s title-winning sides of 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2017/18 were built on a miserly defence and the ruthlessness to take the chances they’d inevitably create.
This season, a squad Noonan describes as the youngest he’s managed at the club, have taken time to get that balance in their game but a shut-out in Kilternan is a step in the right direction.
“We’ve been scoring a lot of goals lately but we just haven’t been able to keep a clean sheet,” the Tallaght native tells the Dublin Gazette.
“The focus was a clean sheet and we’d have taken a 1-0 all day long. The last game was 6-3, and the grey hair is going to start creeping in if we keep getting games like that.”
Byrne showed a calm head to score the only goal of the game with an assist from striker Jordan Payne, who has already courted attention from league sides in England.
Payne showed strength and composure to find space between the lines and thread a ball through for Byrne breaking from midfield, who neatly sidestepped the goalkeeper and slotted home.
Bluebell were wasteful elsewhere, however, and Noonan admits his side were lucky to come away with the win after Wayside were denied what he considers a clear penalty.
“The way the chances fell, if we’d had three or four on the board, I don’t think Wayside would have complained based on the chances we created.
“But they deserved to get something out of the game because, I’ll hold my hands up, they had what I thought was a stonewall penalty denied to them.
“There’s been one or two of those that have gone against us this season so it evens things up. We got the rub of the green at the end, but Wayside should have kicked a stinker.”
With the Saturday side topping their league unbeaten, and the Sunday side also undefeated, the future is bright, although Noonan admits he’s in somewhat uncharted territory.
“We’re a very, very young side. We’ve had a complete rebuild over the last number of years. The average age is about 20.
“They’re probably the youngest Bluebell side I’ve ever managed, but there’s a lot of quality and a of talent in amongst it. It’s an exciting time.”