FAI Intermediate Cup
Belgrove / Home Farm -2
By Jonny Stapleton
Such was the nature of a tie more enthralling than entertaining both set of supporters agreed it was going to be settled by the ridiculous or the sublime.
However, while both lines waited for a mishap or moment of genius to win a keenly contested Intermediate Cup clash Belgrove / Home Farm benefited from both to secure passage into the last eight.
An OG with ten minutes remaining set the Whitehall based outfit on their way, before Daniel McGuinness smartly finished off a brilliant passing move that began at right back to secure a quarter final spot in the prestigious all Ireland contest.
Considering the sides are separated by a single point in the Intermediate second tier this was probably the most evenly match of all the last 16 ties and fittingly it was nip and tuck from the first to 80 minute.
However, while they have LSL Senior Sunday 1 status in common their styles of play vary and the more combative and somewhat direct approach of Francis saw the former FAI Cup finalists shade the early exchanges.
A Home Farm committee member confirmed ‘the snooker table’ was as ever fit for a football when the JSP enquired about the games status early in the day. However, it wouldn’t of mattered if the opening exchanges were played on a motorbike dirt track as Gavin Doyle and Ger O’Gorman bullied their young counterparts in the middle of the park and prevented the hosts from implementing their passing game.
However, while they stifled like Keane they failed to create like Scholes and a header from the hard working Anthony Short after good work by Youcef Belhout was all the visitors had to show for the their early dominance. Indeed it was the only real effort of note the John Hyland Park residents had in the opening period.
The home side did come into the tie as Eoin Murray dropped into midfield, however when the creative number 10 dropped to spark moves his presence was missed in the final third. As a result like their visitors the home side failed to create.
Both sets of defenders deserve credit as both teams were restricted to long range efforts. New signing Paddy Collins, who is so tall he controls balls most would head with his knees, organised the home sides rear guard, while Craig Gardner a defender, who looks like he comes from a time when only goal keepers perfected the art of diving, lead by example for The Saints.
As a result half time came without any real incident and in truth the early stages of the second half followed suit.
Once again Francis had more of the ball early on and Karl Delaney did show some nice touches, but again Andrew Jones remained untested.
McGuinness did have the opportunity to make Paul Dowling in the opposite goal work but after spinning on the peno spot blaze over from a Chriss Kerr cross. Just when it looked liked a replay was certainty, however, Karl Moore and Dowling somehow transpired to put the ball into their own net.
John Yates got himself out of trouble in the middle of a crowded penalty area and impressively played in down the right, he whipped in a low cross that just missed the toes of the out stretching Paul Malone, but bounced off Moore and headed goal wards. Dowling turned the ball onto the post but it rebounded rolled up his upper body and into the net.
The goal sparked differing emotions amongst the support, but they shared a sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that they had called it right. A mistake was going to prove the difference, or was it?
A buoyed Belgrove/Home Farm started to play ball and when David Fallon did his man twice out wide too tee up McGuinness the winger looked odds on to double the lead, only to be denied by a sensational point blank Dowling save.
The winger did get on the score sheet before the game was out when he did brilliant to slide in and lift over the keeper after Conor O’Keefe, sub Dylan O’Dwyer and David Fallon combined to move the ball from back to front via some one touch football.
Francis went three at the back and didn’t give up hope, but with just seconds left their optimism was that of the blind sort.
Belgrove / Home Farm: Andrew Jones, Conor O’Keefe, Finton Kerins, Paddy Collins, Jonathan Savage, Warren Taylor, Chris Kerr, John Yeates, Paul Malone, Eoin Murray, Daniel McGuinness. Subs: David Fallon, Dylan O’Driscoll.
St Francis: Paul Dowling, Dean Brennan, Karl Kelly, Craig Gardener, Karl Moore, Ger O’Gorman, Youcef Belhout, Gavin Doyle, Karl Delaney, Anthony Short, David Long. Subs: Karl Connaughton, Jamie Hayden, Cicero Pires.