Shelbourne caused an upset by overcoming Dublin rivals Shamrock Rovers in the Leinster Senior Cup on Monday night by three goals to one.
It was a beautiful night for football in Tallaght on Monday night as Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne took a break from League action and faced each other in the quarter-finals of the Leinster Senior Cup.
As expected both managers, Michael O’Neill and Dermot Keely, took the opportunity to give some game time to their less used squad players, though one notable exception was the presence of Rover’s talismanic striker Gary Twigg.
Rovers started with none of the side that started against Drogheda last Friday night, and Shelbourne put out a side that contained only four of the starting XI from their game against Cork City Foras Co-op.
But the inclusion of some unfamiliar faces did nothing to detract from the quality of the football on view. With Marwan Azimi and Adelberto Pinto on the wings and Jeremy McConnell-Cooke and Colin O’Brien excellent in the centre of midfield, Shelbourne looked composed and inventive, while their established back line was always in control of a lack-lustre Rovers attack.
Though packed with potential, in the shape of Sean O’Connor, Paddy Kavanagh and Craig Walsh, the Rovers midfield failed to provide either Twigg or Graham Barrett with anything like the kind of attacking ball that Philip Gorman and Andy Haran were enjoying at the other end.
It was Gorman who opened the scoring after just nine minutes. Karl Keogh’s weak defensive header fell to Gorman on the edge of the Rovers box; his clean right foot shot finding the bottom left corner of Robert Duggan’s net.
Shelbourne grew in confidence from this point. Gorman headed narrowly over from Azimi’s cross, Pinto flashed a volley over the bar, and Azimi brought the crowd to its feet with an acrobatic throw in that, incredibly, involved a complete somersault.
A second goal was no less than Shels deserved and it came in the 27th minute following a disappointingly normal throw in from Azimi. Ian Ryan won the second ball that followed and Pinto was there at the far post to snap a shot past Duggan.
It took half an hour for Rovers to pick up their pace and begin to threaten and inevitably it was Twigg who provided an opportunity. Under pressure from Whelan he knocked a header down for O’Connor whose volleyed shot over the bar at least gave a hint of what Rovers might be capable of.
But it was Shelbourne who should have gone further ahead just before half time. McConnell Cooke played a through ball for Haran who, realising he was off-side, ran wide making space for Colin O’Brien in the middle. But, clean through on goal the midfielder’s first touch let him down and the chance was gone.
Rovers came out for the second half with one significant change. Don Cowen replaced Twigg and within minutes the home side realised they had a target man to aim at. He was excellent; unbeatable in the air, powerful in possession and strong in the tackle.
Alongside his new strike partner, Graham Barrett seemed like a new player and it was he who won a penalty in the 58th minute when, after battling his way into the box, he was pushed over by Ryan.
Barrett took it himself and although Delaney saved the original kick, the striker buried the rebound. Rovers were now looking dangerous and Shelbourne’s superiority began to fade.
But the Rovers comeback was short lived. Seven minutes later Gorman controlled a dropping ball by the corner flag and slipped a pass to Pinto who added an assist to his earlier goal by pulling the ball back for substitute Darren Forsyth to finish from ten yards.
To their credit Rovers fought on and might have narrowed the scoreline when Sean Byrne cleared Walsh’s header off the line and again, later on, when Barrett broke free at the halfway line but was run down by the Shels defence.
A series of meaty challenges and some passages of fine passing football from both teams brought us through to full time and though it is Shelbourne who progress to the semi-finals, both sets of supporters will have gone home satisfied with the quality of what they saw.
Shamrock Rovers : Duggan; Ormsby, Keogh, Coffey (Rothery ht), Stevens; P Kavanagh (Abiola 63), Walsh, Murphy, O’Connor; Twigg (Cowan ht), Barrett.
Subs not used: Hughes, Mooney, Kinnear, Oladele
Shelbourne: Delaney (Williams ht); Scully, Byrne, Ryan, Whelan; McConnell-Cooke (McGill 69), Azimi, C O’Brien, Pinto; Haran (Forsyth ht), Gorman.
Subs not used: Hughes, Clarke, Flynn, Leech
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Colin O’Brien
Referee: Tom Connolly
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at email@example.com