Man Utd Legends XI 2 Glasgow Celtic/Republic of Ireland XI 2 (Man Utd win 3-2 on penalties)
As sporting spectacles, the Man Utd Legends XIvs Glasgow Celtic/Republic of Ireland XI was never likely to set Páirc Uí Chaoimh ablaze in the way that a Cork-v Tipp hurling clash might do but it did provide an intriguing afternoon’s sporting entertainment nonetheless.
Players on both sides showed differing sides of ageing with some looking as trim if not as fleet of foot as in their heyday while others looked distinctly leggy if not chunky. But it all made for an absorbing encounter that held the attention of the 42,878 until the end.
Martin O'Neill's Celtic/Ireland combo started brightly with record Irish goalscorer, Robbie Keane looking as sharp and tricky as ever while outside on the right wing, Damian Duff and Stephen Carr combined well to cause some problems for Cork's own Denis Irwin.
Stiliyan Petrov was industrious in the middle of the park as was Shaun Maloney but it was Man Utd with Paul Scholes growing into the role beside the impressively tidy Nicky Butt that took the lead after 20 minutes when Irwin slotted home a penalty after Johan Mjallby brought down Butt.
The chance had been created by the nimble Louis Saha whose silky touches were causing problems for the Celtic/Ireland defence and he put Man Utd 2-0 when he used his strength to hold off Richard Dunne and slot past David Forde after 27 minutes.
The Celtic/Ireland side were still creating but spurning chances and Kevin Kilbane, coming in off the left wing, was guilty of a couple of misses but with Petrov still showing some nice touches, they hauled themselves back into the game when Keane smashed home from close range in the 44th minute.
O'Neill made a number of changes for the second half with Kenny Cunningham, Andy Reid, Kevin Doyle and Colin Healy among those to come in and Keane set up Kelly for a great chance only for guest United keeper, Cork City's Mark McNulty to pull off a fine save.
Although Roy Keane came on for Butt midway through the half, Man Utd began to tire and it took some late tackles from Quentin Fortune and Michael Clegg to preserve their lead but Celtic/Ireland were not to be denied with the equaliser appropriately coming from Healy.
Duff, who had gone off but come back on, fired over a perfect cross from the right, Doyle got out in front of the Utd defence to chest it on to Healy who showed his class by smashing it past McNulty from 10 yards to level affairs with 10 minutes remaining.
Man Utd were hanging on for those last 10 minutes as the crowd broke into a Mexican wave but it was Roy Keane’s side who were to prevail when the game went to a penalty shoot-out that proved just as absorbing as the game itself.
The shoot-out started poorly for the Boys in Green when Robbie Keane saw his effort well saved by McNulty and things went from bad to worse for O'Neill's men when, after David May slotted home for Man Utd, Reid skied his effort into the City End.
David Forde retrieved the situation for the Celtic/Ireland combo when he stopped Roy Keane’s effort and Doyle squared things with a Panenka-type penalty and the balance appeared to shift when Forde saved from Butt and Maloney blasted home to put his side 2-1 up.
ButSaha coolly slotted home to level affairs and when McNulty performed further heroics to deny Ian Harte, it fell to Dion Dublin to stroke it home to seal a 3-2 win for the Man Utd Legends before taking the acclaim of the fans at the City End of the stadium.
Man Utd: K Pilkington, G Neville, D Irwin, W Brown, M Silvestre, J O'Shea, N Butt, P Scholes, A Smith, R Giggs, L Saha. Subs used: D May, Roy Keane, M Clegg, Q Fortune, D Dublin and M McNulty.
Glasgow Celtic/Republic of Ireland: D Forde, S Carr, I Harte, R Dunne, J Mjallby, S Petrov, S Maloney, P Lambert, K Kilbane, Robbie Keane, D Duff. Subs used: K Cunningham, S McPhail, A Reid, K Doyle, G Kavanagh, S Kelly, C Healy, S McManus and T McKinlay.
Referee: G Kelly