Shamrock Rovers took their first step on the way to what they hope will be their 25th FAI Cup crown when they dispatched non-league Midleton 4-0 in Tallaght Stadium on Friday night. Gary Shaw was on the mark in the first half, with the Hoops scoring second half strikes from Sean Heaney, Pat Cregg and Brandon Miele to progress to the third round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup.
The Hoops dominated possession in the first half even if Midleton had their fleeting moments to put a strong Shamrock Rovers side under pressure. For all their patient play though, Pat Fenlon’s men could only take a one-goal lead into the half-time break.
This tie saw Midleton’s Dan Murray return to Rovers to play against the team he captained to league success twice in the Tallaght era. Early on Murray was on hand to cause the Hoops a real scare at the other end of the pitch from his normal position.
The Munster Senior League side won themselves a sixth minute corner and when the ball broke to Murray he put in a dangerous centre from the left that Simon Madden was forced to turn behind his own goal line for another set piece.
Rovers really should have been 1-0 up by that time after Shaw had seen his effort bounce back off the post, the chance coming after a mazy Miele run when he sliced through the centre of the Cork side’s defence.
Mid-way through the half, Matthew Gledhill pulled off a magnificent save to deny Miele. The Rovers midfielder’s rasping shot seemed destined for the back of the net before Gledhill tipped the ball over at full stretch.
The Midleton ‘keeper could do nothing on 28 minutes though when Rovers took the lead through Shaw. The goal came from some perseverance on the right hand side by Shamrock Rovers. They built up the play through Stephen McPhail and Pat Cregg who brought Simon Madden into the move.
Kevin Kruschell held Madden up but he got the ball to Dean Clarke who found some space to turn and send an inviting cross with his left foot in that Shaw dispatched with a header from the edge of the six yard box.
Gledhill pulled off an unorthodox save seven minutes from the break when Shaw ran onto a lofted McPhail pass. Shaw lifted the ball goalwards but Gledhill’s face got in the way to save the Corkmen.
It required a Murray block to prevent the Hoops going in 2-0 up after Gary McCabe got an effort on target.
The second half continued as the first, with Rovers trying to pick holes in the packed Midleton defence who worked hard to close down Rovers throughout the game. Just after the hour mark, Midleton brought on two substitutes to bring fresh legs as they chased an equaliser but the Hoops soon got their second.
Clarke had gone inches wide before those switches and on 67 minutes Sean Heaney got Rovers a second with a sweetly struck shot on the turn with his left boot from a Miele corner.
Kruschell got forward for the visitors on 71 minutes with a penetrating run but his effort didn’t trouble Craig Hyland between the sticks for the Hoops.
Clarke and Madden linked up well down the right throughout the game and Madden found substitute Danny North in the box whose tap back was sent just over the bar by Gary McCabe.
The Hoops grabbed another goal 13 minutes from time when Cregg was in the right place to thump home the third after North’s header from McCabe’s dinked cross was deflected into his path.
In injury time, Miele hammered home the fourth when substitute James Doona took down a deep cross and teed up the midfielder for his fifth goal of the season.
Rovers put a difficult week behind them with this win, following their loss to Wexford Youths in the league last Friday and the brave announcement made by Mikey Drennan on the break he is taking from football. The Third Round awaits the Hoops in August and Rovers fans can spend the next while dreaming of breaking their 29 year FAI Cup famine.
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, Rob Cornwall, Sean Heaney, David O’Connor (James Doona 86); Pat Cregg, Stephen McPhail; Dean Clarke, Gary McCabe, Brandon Miele; Gary Shaw (Danny North 67).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Max Blanchard, Killian Brennan, Richard Purdy, Sean Boyd.
Booked: Stephen McPhail (32).
Midleton FC: Matthew Gledhill; Kevin Kruschell, Martin Hickey, Dan Murray, James McCarthy; Ray Barnes (Kevin Tattan 60), James Leahy, Ian Maher (Cormac Ahern 80), John Keane; Jake Hegarty (Kyle McCarthy 65), Andrew Knowles.
Subs Not Used: Conor Fitzgerald, Aidan McCarthy, Damien Daly, Lochlann McCarthy.
Booked: Ian Maher (45).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Stephen McPhail (Shamrock Rovers).