Goals from Stephen McGann and Cian Collins saw Pike Rovers through to the first round of the 2018 FAI Cup as they defeated Avondale United at Dale Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was a deserved win for the Limerick side who are also primed for appearances in both the FAI Junior Cup and Munster Junior Cup finals during the coming weeks.
Given the importance of those deciders, Pike might have been forgiven for treating this encounter as a lesser priority but there was no sign of that as they outplayed Avondale, one of the county’s top intermediate teams.
The home team suffered an early setback when centre-back Andy O’Connell was forced off with an injury after just eight minutes.
And just four minutes after that the Cork side were a goal down after Eoin Hanrahan had been fouled in the box and McGann finished low and to the right from the penalty spot.
It was a lead they deservedly maintained until the half-time break. Pike had played the better football in the opening 45 minutes, with McGann and Hanrahan excellent, and had created all of the few genuine goalscoring opportunities.
Left winger Paddy O’Malley stung the palms of Dale keeper Sean Barron from Collins’ cross on the half-hour mark and the same player forced Barron to save at his feet after a jinking run four minutes before the break.
Dale made a second substitution at half-time, putting full back Dave Kiely in for Stephen Barrett but Pike continued to control the match.
Shane Walsh forced Barron into a decent save on 53 minutes and McGann continued to look dangerous every time he got the ball.
With Avondale working hard to get themselves back into it, Pike’s second on 68 minutes came as a hammer blow.
It was well worked, too, with a pass finding Paddy O’Malley in space on the left before his bullet cross was hammered home from close range by Collins.
Dale might have got one back with 15 minutes remaining but Eoghan Lougheed’s header at the back post, from Richie Tobin’s cross, was saved by Pike keeper Gary Neville.
But it was the visitors who came closest to increasing their tally with McGann twice thumping shots off the woodwork in the dying minutes.
And so it’s the Limerickmen who advance to the first round proper of a competition that, for them, will resume next season, while Avondale will return to their battle for the 2017/18 Munster Senior League title.
Avondale United: Sean Barron; Stephen Barrett (Dave Kiely 46), Mark Horgan, Andy O’Connell (Eoghan Lougheed 8), Ryan Hogan; Jonathon Creamer (Josh O’Shea 60), Vinny O’Brien, Andy Gannon, Richie Tobin, Danny O’Connell; Jamie Murphy.
Subs Not Used: Owen O’Sullivan (gk), Michael Mulconry, Simon Falvey.
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville; Adam Lipper, Wayne Colbert, Pat Mullins (Brian O’Callaghan 50), Ed O’Donovan; Eoin Hanrahan (David Ryan 61), Darragh Carroll, Shane Walsh, Paddy O’Malley; Stephen McGann, Cian Collins.
Subs Not Used: James Tierney (gk), Cian Power, TJ O’Dwyer, Kyle Duhig, Ronan Cahill.
Attendance: 75 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: Stephen McGann (Pike Rovers).