(Credit: Steve Alfred)
Waterford United’s quest for the First Division title came to a disappointing end on Friday night, when a 2-1 defeat at home to Mervue United ending any slight chances of catching Limerick.
Etanda Nkololo gave Mervue United the lead before Seamus Long saw red for the home side for a tackle on the striker. Gary Dempsey’s free kick levelled but Alan Murphy popped up with a late winner from Johnny Glynn’s side.
Waterford United boss Paul O’Brien was disappointed with the result, but rued referee decisions in the game that cost his side.
“I’m bitterly disappointed to say the least”, O’Brien told Extratime.ie after the game. “In the first half we created a lot of chances without having that end product. In the second half we went down to ten men and we had to push for a goal.
“We had a perfectly good goal, I thought, disallowed, and that would have changed the game. Going down to ten men and pushing forward you’re always open to the counter attack and I think that’s the way the game went.”
The sending off of Seamus Long was a particularly hard one for O’Brien to take with a hint of controversy in the lead up to it.
“They had a player on the sideline, and for some reason the official left him back on the pitch in an attacking third”, O’Brien explained, “and he just appeared out of no-where. Shammy (Seamus Long) passed the ball to John Frost and he just appeared and took it off John Frost. How he can come in to play in that situation, I really don’t know, I honestly don’t know and it turned the game.”
Although Mervue keeper Ger Hanley made some good saves and was in good form, O’Brien wasn’t quick to ravish praise on his opponents.
“You get nights like that where the keeper seems to be in the right place at the right time and I think their keeper was. It looked as if it was their cup final, I don’t know, they seemed to push and they relished in the victory at the end of the game.
“You look at Mervue, they’re going home with just one game left", O'Brien added. "At least we have something at the end of the season.”
Gary Dempsey got his side back in the game, but cracks in the defensive line eventually cost Paul O’Brien’s side.
“Yeah, you always do that, when you get down to ten men, at least we had the confidence and at least we went for it. The boys have got to get credit for that, when you push forward and when you lose possession, you’re always going to be open on the counter attack and that’s what happened.”
The Blues now head to a play-off after they finish their league campaign against Athlone Town this weekend, but O’Brien is happy to be in the position after a poor start to the season.
“I’m privileged to be in this situation. Again all credit goes to our players, we’re just looking forward to it, and I think it’s within our reach. We’ll be doing all in our power to go all the way.
“I don’t think we got credit for 17 unbeaten games, I think everybody goes back to the bad start. When you get a brand new team like that, you’ve to get them to gel together, people have got to get to understand different people, I think that’s what happened. “
After beating Longford Town recently, O’Brien has a side in a confident mood ahead of the play-off but credited his players for giving it a go to catch Limerick.
“Yeah, it does (give us confidence), there’s a lot of positives after taking out of the season. With the amount of injuries, and the young players we put on the pitch, I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled to be in the position I’m in.
“We had a little dream tonight to maybe go and get a medal, but the opportunity that was after arising, we tried to take it, unfortunately it didn’t go with us for whatever reason, and a couple of decision didn’t go for us, so I’m bitterly disappointed about that.”
Brendan White is Extratime News Editor and is responsible for the news section of Extratime.ie. Brendan also covers matches in Dublin and Waterford. You can contact Brendan at email@example.com or on twitter @whitebrendan.