ROCK Celtic prevailed in this tepid Challenge Cup tie which lacked the vigour associated with encounters between these two near neighbours and was devoid of the traditional bite of a knockout game.

Quay, runners-up in this competition last year, quickly equalised after Cormac McArdle had given the Seasiders the lead in the first half under the floodlights at Sandy Lane on Friday night, Robbie Farrell heading home Sean O’Connor’s cross.

But the tempo of the play and mood of the players remained subdued and was only lifted by two marvellously crafted goals that were worthy of gracing any match and clinched Rock’s place in the second round.

Gerard McSorley splendidly created the first early in the second half with a sharp turn and quick change of pace to beat the Quay full-back on the right touchline and deliver an inch-perfect cross onto the head of the unmarked Mark McGeown. Goalkeeper Craig McKenna dived the right way into the air and seemed to have the ball covered, but it eluded him and Rock were ahead.

McKenna’s opposite number John Rogers then pulled off an instinctive one-handed save, reaching high into the air to prevent Quay equalising for a second time, and that was to prove the crucial point in the game.

Almost immediately after, Paul Gore instigated a move close to his own endline on the left that culminated in a goal that would be worthy of goal of the season. His strength allowed him emerge from a tussle, and he played the ball down the line to substitute Conor Smith who skipped quickly into the Quay half and cut inside.

Spotting the run of McSorley on the right, Smith struck a perfectly timed pass into his path and the winger didn’t break stride as he drilled an angled shot low into the opposite corner of the net from more than 20 yards.

Quay had at least two good scoring opportunities after that to perhaps force extra time, but Rock looked content that they had the measure of their neighbours and so it proved. ROCK: John Rogers, Ross Quigley, Shane O’Callaghan, Sean Watters, Ciaran Clarke (Conor Smith), Cormac McArdle (Conor McDonnell), Paddy Reilly, Paul Gore, Gerard McSorley, David Ward, Mark McGeown.

QUAY: Craig McKenna, Niall McLaughlin (John McArdle), Paddy McShane (Chris Mullen), Daithi Maher, Gavin Donnelly, Emmet O’Brien, Paul Hoey, Sean O’Connor (David Hughes), Robbie Farrell, Thomas McShane.

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