Two goals from Stephen Murphy helped Sheriff YC through to the second round of the FAI Cup after they beat Leixlip United 3-1 at the Leixlip Amenity Centre on Friday night.
The early pressure came from Leinster Senior League side Leixlip with Mark Colgan seeing his shot deflected wide of the Sheriff goal after just four minutes. Striker Craig Keller then stole possession and strode forwards only to have his shot well saved by Sheriff ‘keeper Lee Murphy.
Junior side Sheriff were probably playing the more ambitious football, always seeking to pass their way forwards, but they gave up too much easy possession and Leixlip were devastatingly quick on the break.
Leixlip created another opportunity on 14 minutes when Robbie Martin’s dangerous chip to the back post was headed clear by Sheriff defender Gavin McDermott, but two minutes later the Dublin side got their first sight of goal when former League of Ireland star Anto Murphy tested Conor Farrell in the Leixlip goal.
With 22 minutes played Sheriff had their ‘keeper to thank when Lee Murphy pulled off a tremendous save to deny Craig Keller after his defence had been slow to react to a loose ball.
Sheriff responded with Stephen Murphy driving the ball narrowly over the Leixlip bar from a corner kick before John Lester released Anthony Kane down the inside right channel with a well delivered free kick. Kane beat two defenders before his ball into the danger are was scooped over his own bar by Enda McCarthy.
The tide was starting to turn and Sheriff made the breakthrough on 36 minutes when Kane raced on to a ball over top of the Leixlip defence and turned Colin Murray before laying a simple pass into the path of Stephen Murphy who finished emphatically from eight yards.
Leixlip almost drew level before the break when, first, Graham Kiersey shot narrowly wide and then Robbie Martin broke through but was forced wide by Lee Murphy allowing McDermott an opportunity to clear.
Leixlip had the first half chance of the second half when Keller stabbed a shot wide from Benni Daniels ball from the left, but within two minutes Anto Murphy had seen his effort deflected narrowly wide at the other end. Murphy then headed just over from the resulting corner.
Anto Murphy was soon in the thick of it at the other end pulling off a spectacular block from Daniels’ close range shot, but moments later a powerful follow up from the excellent Darren Stapleton was blocked by the arm of a Sheriff defender and referee Declan Troy pointed to the spot.
Leixlip striker Robbie Martin stepped up to take the penalty and drove it low and hard to the left, but Lee Murphy dived full length to turn the ball around the post.
Having missed a golden opportunity to level, Leixlip surged forwards looking to make amends. Stapleton led the charge, pushing relentlessly up the left to exert constant pressure on the Sheriff back line. Martin headed a Daniels free kick back across the Sheriff six yard box on 55 minutes but there were no takers and Kiersey saw his well struck shot blocked away two minutes later.
But Sheriff were still dangerous on the break and just after the hour mark Keith Dunne was fouled on the lip of the Leixlip box when chasing a long ball over the top. The first free was driven in to the wall but a second was immediately awarded and this time it was taken by Lester who clipped the ball over the wall and off the inside of the left hand post before it rebounded to safety.
Sheriff sent on Darren Dunne and John Rock to beef up their forward line and Rock was instrumental in redressing the balance of power, holding up the ball well and finding team mates with a series of perceptive passes.
On 76 minutes the visitors scored a crucial second goal. Darren Dunne sent a ball over the top and Keith Dunne was first to reach it, calmly lobbing Farrell in the Leixlip goal from the edge of the box.
It was a crushing blow for John Martin’s side and it was no surprise when Sheriff took advantage to add a third three minutes later. Leixlip gave up possession close to their own area and Keith Dunne set up Stephen Murphy to shoot across Farrell and into the Leixlip net for his second of the game.
Leixlip did score a consolation goal two minutes from the end when Robbie Martin knocked on a high ball and substitute Eoghan Markey turned inside the box before shooting home from eight yards.
It was a disappointing result for Leixlip who still have an Intermediate Cup semi-final against Cork side Avondale United ahead of them, but Sheriff were deserving of their win and will march into the second round full of confidence that they can cause problems for the bigger teams that await them.
Leixlip United: Conor Farrell; Ger Kenneally, Enda McCarthy, Colin Murray, Darren Stapleton; Graham Kiersey, Mark Colgan (Keith Harding 79), Paul Drew, Benni Daniels (Eoghan Markey 70); Robbie Martin, Craig Keller (Niall Barnes 79).
Subs not used: Keith O’Sullivan, Niall Mahady, Colm Darcy, Conor Delaney.
Booked: Stapleton (9), Murray (61), Keller (64).
Sheriff YC: Lee Murphy; Gavin McDermott, Anthony Kavanagh, Paul Murphy; John Lester; Anto Murphy, Darren O’Brien (Darren Dunne 69), Stephen Murphy, David Browne; Anthony Kane (John Rock 69), Keith Dunne (Alan McCabe 81).
Subs not used: Kevin Lynch, Ian Dumbrell.
Booked: S Murphy (64).
Referee: Declan Troy.
Attendance: 300 (estimate)
Extratime Man of the Match: Lee Murphy (Sheriff YC).