Shamrock Rovers hit five past Wexford Youths to advance to the fourth round of the FAI Cup on Friday night, but not before Wexford had caused a few heart attacks in the Rovers dugout.
Rovers were handed a dream start after just three minutes when Sean O’Connor won a fifty-fifty ball on the halfway line against Anthony Wolfe. He tore up the line, beat the covering Chris Kenny and crossed into the box where Dessie Baker got the deftest touch and lifted the ball over Packie Holden in the Wexford goal.
For a while Rovers threatened to overwhelm their First Division
opponents. Pat Flynn found plenty of room down the right and Stephen
Rice got on the end of two crosses, failing to threaten the goal on
Then, after thirteen minutes, Wexford fashioned an unlikely equaliser. A long ball from Dean Broaders deceived the back-pedalling Dan Murray and Garry Sheahan slipped in behind him to lob Alan Manus from 20 yards.
This signalled a period of dominance for the visitors that was as entertaining as it was profound. Crisp passing all over the field and devastating pace from Danny Furlong and Sheahan had Rovers in a state of utter confusion.
Sheahan hit the post from a tight angle, Kevin Rowe attempted a curling shot from the left flank and Furlong nutmegged Murray inside the box before his advance was finally blocked off.
For twenty minutes the only moment of concern was a free kick from Baker that found Gary Twigg all alone at the back post, his header into the danger area cleared by David Breen. But it was a warning Wexford should have heeded.
On the half hour mark Danny Murphy broke down the left, got the better of the covering Jimmy Keohane and crossed for Gary Twigg to dispatch a simple but perfect header to the net.
If there was room to question Rovers advantage based on the balance of play, there was little doubt that Wexford were the architects of their own demise. Their inability to cope with high balls into the box had proved decisive and they suffered again after five minutes of the second half.
Dessie Baker put in a cross from the right that centre back, Chris Kenny simply headed back into the danger zone. Dennehy knocked a simple ball back to James Chambers who passed the ball into the unguarded left corner of the net.
Wexford almost pulled one back in the 62nd minute when Garry Sheahan chased a through ball to the edge of the Rover’s box where Alan Manus had to head clear. The ball fell to Keohane some 35 yards from goal and his lob was almost perfect, pitching onto the top of the crossbar before bouncing over.
Rovers took the hint and redoubled their efforts. Chris Turner came on for Robert Bayly and eight minutes later he met another Baker cross at the back post, thumping it into the net from a tight angle.
At that point Baker left to warm applause, replaced by Thomas Stewart and Danny Murphy took over the role of provider. The Corkman delivered a cross from the left that Stewart touched on and James Chambers drove hone from fifteen yards. The game was well and truly up for Wexford.
To their credit they fought on, Sheahan impressing with his pace and persistence, beating Manus on the edge of the box after 76 minutes before a sliding Dan Murray denied him on the goal line.
With moments left to play referee, Tommy Connolly, declined to give the Hoops a clear penalty when Breen handled inside the area, perhaps encapsulating the feeling that the hard working and at times impressive Wexford side had had enough punishment for the evening.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Manus; Pat Flynn, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Danny Murphy;Sean O’Connor (Billy Dennehy, 33), Stephen Rice, Robert Bayly (Chris Turner, 62), James Chambers; Dessie Baker (Thomas Stewart, 71), Gary Twigg.
?Subs not used: Robert Duggan, Enda Stevens, Aidan Price, Stephen Bradley,
Wexford Youths: Packie Holden; Chris Kenny, David Breen, Anthony Wolfe, Dean Broaders (Martin Kehoe, 88); Jimmy Keohane, Shane Sinnott (Aidan McCann, 81), Shane Dempsey, Kevin Rowe (Michael Mullen, 66); Danny Furlong, Garry Sheahan.
?Subs not used: Pa Doyle, John Byrne, Gareth McCurtain, Lee Aust.
Bookings: David Breen.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Dessie Baker.
Referee: Tommy Connolly
??Attendance: 1500 (estimate).
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