FAI Junior Cup
It was a case of Muprhy’s law as Sheriff YC continued to their reign as Ireland’s amateur Junior kings on Saturday.
Stephen and Paul Murphy score late in either half as Sheriff comfortably defeated an Evergreen side that was fancied in some quarters to cause an upset to retain the title with relative ease.
It wasn’t vintage Sheriff, certainly not swash buckling but their still remained a sense of awe from those that watch on as Alan Reilly’s men did enough to win their fourth FAI Junior title in six years without having to consult top gear.
Evergreen did put up a fight in the second half, but never really threatened and their was air of inevitability about this one from half time on and as the players collected their medals at the Aviva Stadium there was a sense that this select will be remembered as one of the greatest Junior sides of all time.
The first 20 minutes passed by without any real incident of note. Sheriff don’t do blood and gusto unless required and approached they game as they would any other. It was keep ball, play at our pace, while Evergreen were hoping to find a spark that would inspire a flame.
Neither side really got going although Evergreen did look to have pace up front and were not lacking in effort.
Around the 20 minute mark Sheriff began to find their rhythm and added some tempo to their passing game. John Lester dropped deeper to all the full backs provide width and began to take control.
Indeed after another patient but probing move captain Paul Murphy had the first shot on target but his 13 yard strike from a Sean Murphy cut back went straight down Packie Holden’s throat on 24 mins.
Sean Muprhy then had an effort from range after another session of keep ball before Darragh Walshe had a shot in anger in and Lee Murphy was forced to cut out a Mikey Drennan cross.
Despite those two half chances Sheriff were controlling the tie at this stage and kept the ball with the same determination as a child unwilling to share.
John Rock was next to come close, after Sean Murphy picked up the ball 25 yards out, with the defence backing off the crowd urged him to shoot, but he prodded in the overlapping Paul Murphy, who pulled back to Rock, but the striker’s attempts to emulate Lee Sharp versus Barcelona many moons ago was halted by Holden.
Five minutes later Chris Whearty did sting the fingers of Lee Murphy from a tight angle after, Drennan, Sean Barcoe and Walsh combined well in front the Dublin side’s back four, but Sheriff began to move through the gears.
Once they injected a bit of pace into that passing game they looked a constant threat and after last season’s final hero Mark Higgins teed up Sean Murphy and Rock-who were both denied by Player Manager Holden- after neat foot work on either flank Sheriff finally took the lead.
When Rock’s chance wasn’t properly cleared the Leinster Junior Cup finalists won a free kick. Stephen ‘Bones’ Murphy lined it up 25 yards out and curled into the bottom right hand corner to give Alan Reilly’s men the lead on the stroke of half time.
In the opening five minutes of the second half Anto Kavanagh, whose decision to temporally trade his position at the back for an more advanced role played a part in the opening goal, headed wide from a Stephen Murphy free while Darren Dunnes saw an attempt to lift the ball in the corner saved by Holden.
At that stage things looked ominous for the KDL side! However, Evergreen did start to see more of the ball over the next 10 minutes, but while Barcoe became more of an influence in the middle of the park they couldn’t get their attackers into the game. The Kells Road side also started to foul tactically, which Sheriff didn’t overly mind as it killed time.
Around the hour mark Evergreen did start to get into the final third and won some set pieces, which gave their support hope and instilled a bit of belief into the players. They were certainly more combative and Niall Andrews and Barcoe set a new tone, Whearty did flash over from range but Lee Murphy wasn’t troubled despite his opponents increased industry and effort.
Sheriff where finding it harder to get numbers in and around John Rock-they are not a side set up to hit on the break- but despite tiring were showing the have as much quality off the ball as on it and continued to look solid.
A side that often delights with it’s flair and guile impressively kept Evergreen at arms lenght. The big pitch which helped their passing game was taking it’s toll, but even with Barcoe now playing the Andy Carroll role Packie Holden’s charges struggled to create.
Over the last 5 minutes Sheriff began to regain control of possession with John Lester again impressing and it wasn’t long before Sheriff ensured it was an Aviva Inner City double and that they joined Liffey Wanderers as Cup winners.
Seconds after coming on Thomas Dunne collected the rebound off his attempted flick on, played into the feet of Rock, the veteran striker back heeled into the path of Darren Dunne, who rolled a ‘hit me please’ ball in front of the onrushing Paul Murphy and the captain duly obliged to fire home at the near post.