From Macdara Ferris at Tallaght Stadium
A Brandon Meile hat-trick helped Shamrock Rovers dispatch Bluebell United 4-2 at Tallaght Stadium on Friday evening as the Hoops reached their fourth FAI Cup semi-final in the last eight seasons (and their first since 2014).
It will mean nothing to the Hoops, though, if they don’t claim that illusive 25th cup win to end their three decade long FAI Cup drought.
The draw has been favorable for the Hoops this season as they have faced non-league opposition twice, along with beating First Division Shels in the previous round, but all the cup winners need to do is beat the teams put in front of them.
Stephen Bradley’s men are now just a game away from November’s Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium.
Rovers forced five corners in the first half and looked to work them short when they could.
Twice Aaron Bolger was able to pick up the ball on the edge of the box but twice he couldn’t find the target. His effort on 20 minutes went closest. It was goalbound only to be deflected wide by Glenn Walsh.
Rovers weren’t to be denied for too long though as the teams exchanged goals a minute either side of the mid-way point of the half, starting with the Hoops taking the lead.
Cameron King, who looked lively on his first start for Rovers, found some space on the right and he picked a pass out direct to Brandon Miele who struck a sweet right-footed shot from 25 yards for the opener.
Rovers couldn’t build on that lead though as they were sloppy in defence two minutes later. Dean Ebbe, against his former club, crossed from the left into a dangerous area just in front of the six yard box. Gary Seery did well to get in front of Trevor Clarke to poke the ball home to make it 1-1.
The Hoops should have retaken the lead on the half hour mark. A delicious deft dink over the Bluebell defence by Miele found Ryan Connolly but he rushed his shot blazing over the bar when a more composed touch would have helped.
Bluebell weren’t overawed by facing Premier Division opposition and when they had the ball they looked to move quickly into attacking positions. Other than their goal, though, 'the Bell' lacked penetration in the first half.
Tomer Chencinski didn’t have too much to do in the Rovers goal with Aaron Robinson’s shot early in the game the only action that got a response from the Canadian ‘keeper.
The Hoops had Bolger at the centre of much of their play. The 17-year-old central midfielder belied his young years and his small stature with some excellent passing, backed up by some robust tackling.
He also had to take some hits himself including one off former Bohs player Dave Scully who went in Graham Kelly’s book after a tough tackle on Bolger – one of three yellow cards for Bluebell in the opening half. Substitute Robert Bayly back playing in Tallaght also went in the book late in the second half for a cynical foul on Bolger.
McNulty had to be quick to tip over a deflected Dave McAllister shot from distance but he could do nothing about Rovers’ second goal. Stephen Bradley’s men took a 2-1 lead into the break with Miele grabbing his second with another superb strike five minutes from half time.
The Hoops worked the ball from right to left and after a one-two with Connolly the space opened up for Miele. He put his boot through the ball, which whipped over McNulty and into the net.
It was a sweeping Rovers move that got them a third seven minutes into the second half. King and Michael O’Connor worked the ball to Simon Madden on the right. He played it in to Miele who unselfishly squared it to Connolly, and he wrapped his left foot around the ball to score.
The Bell didn’t give up though and Andy Noonan’s men goal back on 71 minutes. Substitute Richard O’Hanlon crossed for Shane Stritch’s outstretched boot to turn the ball home to score in back-to-back FAI Cup ties.
Before there were too many nervy moments for the Hoops though, Tony Griffith picked up his second yellow card for a heavy tackle and follow through on Simon Madden leaving the Bell play out the last quarter of an hour with ten men.
Trevor Clarke throughout the game made a number of marauding runs from left back. On 77 minutes, his shot was well saved by McNulty, after one such run. A minute later there was another mazy move from deep to the end line. His back heel from there found Miele who smashed it home for his hat-trick.
The win was Rovers’ seventh consecutive victory in all competitions and gives the Hoops great momentum going into next weekend’s EA Sports Cup final against Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium.
Bluebell United: Andrew McNulty; Karl Russell, Jeff Flood, Glenn Walsh, Keith Quinn; David Scully (Richard O’Hanlon 64); Gary Seery (Jordan Keegan 81), Tony Griffiths, Aaron Robinson (Robert Bayly 60), Dean Ebbe; Shane Stritch.
Subs not Used: Rhys Kelly, Willo McDonagh, Tony Keeler, Sean Gleeson.
Booked: Aaron Robinson (28), David Scully (38), Tony Griffiths (42+75), Robert Bayly (85).
Sent Off: Tony Griffiths (75).
Shamrock Rovers: Tomer Chencinski; Simon Madden, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Trevor Clarke; David McAllister, Aaron Bolger; Cameron King (James Doona 69), Ryan Connolly (Dean Dillon 82), Brandon Miele; Michael O’Connor (Darren Clarke 82).
Subs not used: Kevin Horgan, Dean Carpenter, David Webster, Sam Bone/
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Brandon Miele (Shamrock Rovers)