FAI Cup QF
Date: 8 p.m. Sept. 17, 2010
Venue: Tallaght Stadium
Any notion that Galway United could cause an upset against the league leaders, as Dundalk did at Oriel Park last weekend, was quickly put to bed at Tallaght on Friday night. It was Shamrock Rovers who looked the more dangerous in the opening minutes, Chris Turner driving over from eighteen yards and Billy Dennehy shooting into Barry Ryan’s arms. But on four minutes the Hoops passed up a bizarre opening that should have given them an early lead.
Thomas Stewart received a through ball on the right wing some thirty five yards from goal but was immediately flagged off-side. As the Galway cover halted referee, Anthony Buttimer, waved play on, correctly judging that the final ball came off a defender. Stewart ploughed on and should have scored but Ryan dived full length to palm the ball around the far post, at which point Mr Buttimer awarded a goal kick.
Perplexing perhaps, but there was more drama to come from the Cork official. With twelve minutes played Enda Stevens delivered a looping cross for which Barry Ryan rose in company with James Chambers. Neither made contact, except with each other, and the loose ball fell to Thomas Stewart who bundled it into a gaping net from eight yards.
Rovers were one up and Ryan was furious - yellow card furious. Buttimer obliged with the card but Ryan persisted and seconds later he was staring at a red being waved above his head.
Galway replaced midfielder Philip Reilly with sub ‘keeper Darragh Gerraty and all was quiet for about ten minutes. Galway started to put some passes together courtesy of Stephen O’Donnell and Rovers put most of their energy into long balls towards Gary Twigg, who collected and distributed the ball excellently throughout.
But on 23 minutes Stewart broke through again, this time on the left. He swept a perfect low cross towards the back post that Rhys Meynell had to make with Chambers lurking behind him. Unfortunately the ball spun off the Galway defender, onto the post, and into his own net for Rover’s second of the evening.
Twigg might have added a third on the half hour mark but for a Jamie McKenzie block but Chambers made up for that missed opportunity just two minutes later when he finished off some sublime football from the home side. It began with Twigg in a central position who picked out Enda Stevens, charging forward from his left back berth. Stevens drove a low ball into the path of Stewart who flicked it inside to Chambers. All it took then was touch and a turn before the midfielder fired high into the corner beyond the Galway ‘keeper, Gerraty.
Three nil down at half time and down to ten men, Galway will not have enjoyed their half time cup of tea. The prospect of truly embarrassing score-line loomed. But Rovers have been in this position before and they have shown a tendency to take their foot off the gas. Michael O’Neill replaced Stephen Rice with winger Sean O’Connor, a reward perhaps for the winger’s excellent performance against Sligo two weeks ago. But O’Connor was on the pitch little over two minutes before he was cruelly grounded by a challenge from Meynell and after considerable attention he left on a stretcher to be replaced, in turn, by Dessie Baker.
What impact O’Connor might have had is impossible to know but Baker proved to be a thorn in the visitor’s side as the second half progressed. He chiefly fed off the efforts of Stewart and Dennehy who, in tandem with Enda Stevens, carved up Galway’s right flank almost at will.
On 59 minutes Baker failed to meet a cross from Stewart by a matter of inches. Then Baker slipped a ball to Chambers who’s cross cum shot to the back post just eluded the sliding Dennehy. A minute later Baker shot straight at Gerraty from ten yards. The pressure was building and in the 65th minute it was lanced by the most impressive goal of the night.
Stewart lobbed a ball forwards for Dennehy to chase and the winger back-heeled perfectly into the path of Baker. Baker looked up, spotted Chambers on the right, and delivered the ball onto his chest. As it fell Chambers struck it with incredible power, blasting it into the top corner of Gerraty’s goal and bringing everyone at Tallaght to their feet.
Just two minutes later Twigg added a fifth when he buried a rebound from Baker’s initial shot and then, as royalty do, retired to the sidelines for a well earned rest. Ten minutes followed when Rover’s domination receded from the absolute to the merely comprehensive.
But it was fitting that, after a lengthy absence, the cherry on Shamrock Rover’s cake should come courtesy of Dessie Baker. On 78 minutes he fired a sixth past Gerraty having been played in by Chris Turner and with that Rover’s work was done.
To their great credit Galway managed to create a few chances themselves in the later stages. Stephen Walshe might have scored with a header which Alan Manus scooped away from the foot of a post and Tom King proved a muscular presence in the Rovers box when he came on for Walshe late on.
But ultimately this was a masterful display by a Shamrock Rovers side that have well and truly buried any apprehensions that might have arisen following last weekend’s blip at Oriel Park.
Shamrock Rovers:Alan Manus; Danny Murphy, Craig Sives, Aidan Price, Enda Stevens; James Chambers, Stephen Rice (Sean O’Connor, 45 (Dessie Baker, 51)), Chris Turner, Billy Dennehy; Thomas Stewart, Gary Twigg (Aidan Downes, 67).
Subs not used: Pat Jennings, Pat Flynn, Paddy Kavanagh, Neale Fenn.
Bookings: Thomas Stewart (5), Billy Dennehy (85).
Galway United: Barry Ryan; Seamus Conneelly, Jamie McKenzie, Paul Sinnott, Rhys Meynell; Philip Reilly (Darragh Gerraty, 14), Stephen O’Donnell, Gary Curran, Derek O’Brien; Stephen Walshe (Tom King, 71), Karl Sheppard (Shane Keogh, 78).
Subs not used: Evan Preston Kelly, Ger Cheevers, Jason Molloy, David Sheppard.
Bookings: Barry Ryan (12), Stephen O’Donnell (21).
Sendings Off: Barry Ryan (12).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Thomas Stewart.
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate).