by Jonny Stapleton
Dail Eireann and the powers that be apparently seem to prefer a lean to the right at present, but in John Hyland Park they have an effective left wing policy in place.
All four of the goals that helped St Francis canter past Beggsboro AFC in the FAI intermediate Cup last night were either made down the left flank or involved left winger David Long.
Long’s contributions were particularly telling as he produced two moments of brilliance to give the Senior Sunday 1 side a cushion over the Senior Sunday 1A league leaders.
Firstly the winger bent it better than Beckham and guided a brilliant free kick it the top corner, before pulling out a sensational first time cross field volley pass to enable Gerard O’Gorman to fire home. With a two goal cushion and one foot in the next round St Francis were never going to play the Hockey Cockey and closed out the game effectively.
A division below Francis, but promotion contenders, this was a chance for the ‘Boro to test their Senior 1 credentials and to be fair in the opening 20 minutes they didn’t look too far off the pace.
Francis did shade territory and possession, but the visitors came closest to landing a blow in the early exchanges.
After Liam Byrne flashed the ball across the box, Keith O’Neill had a peno shout from the return ball before Stephen Fitzpatrick was denied by a Paul Dowling save and a block from Craig Gardener. Four chances in a frantic 30 seconds, but outside that the home defence looked well marshal and comfortable.
And in possession the hosts looked dangerous, Long and Karl Kelly were effective down the flank, Jordan Gardener provided that something different in the middle of the park while Youcef Belhout’s movement and work rate up front was causing problems. However, the striker seemed as shot shy as Bruce Willis mate ‘Al’ in the first Die Hard film- and the hosts only had two shots on target by the 20 minute mark.
Shot shy is something Long is not and when Jordan Gardner was fouled 30 yards out he showed why he has no issue letting fly. As soon as the dead ball left the sharp shooters boot the home support were celebrating and rightly so as Long curled deliciously into the keepers top left hand corner to put his side a goal up.
The goal boosted the Saints confidence further and they began to push for a second. The lively Belhout had the best chance from another Kelly cross, but tried to control when he should have headed home. When the second finally arrived Long was once again its conjurer.
A cleared pass fell to the wingers feet and with familiar ‘get at him’ screams coming from the line Long elected against embarrassing the right back and haunted the left back instead. The goal scorer caught the ball on the half volley, whipped it inch perfect cross field just over Keith Hanna’s head and right to the feet of Gerard O’Gorman-and the midfielder drilled a right foot shot home.
Francis took that two goal cushion into the break, however, but for a a brave block from Kavanagh minutes after the turn it could have been deflated to one.
In saying that the home side looked comfortable at the back and despite conceding more of the ball never looked like conceding a goal.
Stephen Fitzpatrick worked hard down the right for the visitors, but the fact centre half Alan O’Neill was their chief play maker only proved testament to The Saints pressing style.
As Boro’ pushed on in a bid to get back into the tie Francis started find space to exploit. Belhout had a few efforts from range, Jordan Gardener hit the apex and impressive centre half Craig Gardener had a long range shot well saved by Karl Carey.
Craig Gardener was once again denied from a corner on 64 minutes before O’Gorman put the game beyond doubt as he fired home a centred set piece to extend the advantage to three.
Another corner swung in from the left from Jordan Gardener ended up in a goal, this time the midfielder’s in swinger swung straight in.
Boro’ did push on in search of a consolation, but Francis were determined to keep a clean sheet and shut up shop in the final few minutes.
MAN OF THE MATCH: David Long: Flickered in and out of the game, but when he was in it his was on fire
St Francis: Paul Dowling, Dean Brennan, Karl Kelly, Craig Gardener, Derek Kavanagh, Carl Connaughton, Jordon Gardner, Gerard O’Gorman, Karl Delaney, Youcef Belhout, David Long. Subs: Andy Keogh, Martin McGuinness, Keith Lyons.
Beggsboro AFC: Karl Carey, Darren McDonnell, Keith Hanna, Alan O’Neill, Dean Lanless, Anthony Costigan, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Wayne Waldron, Liam Byrne, Keith O’Neill, Karl Heary. Subs: Chris Kelly, Gavin Hughes, Niall Mahon.