Leinster Senior Cup
(Sheriff YC win 5-4 on penalties)
By Jonny Stapleton
‘You would have to favour Crumlin now’ muttered one interested spectator to the agreement of those around him just seconds before the final whistle and minutes after David Meehan rounded off a brilliant personal 15 minutes with the save of the match.
However, the Sheriff net minder diverted the spot light his way come spot kicks, producing the moment that finally separated the talent laden sides and settled the ‘Battle of the Champions’ in favour of the AUL title holders.
Meehan may have nurtured an unbeatable air in the second half of extra time, but Peter Halpin was the penalty hero diving low to his right to push away a decent Martin Cramer’s effort and ensure the Inner City side will face Shamrock Rovers in the semi final of the Leinster Senior Cup.
A sizable crowd from all walks of Dublin footballing life turned up to take in the intriguing clash and whilst both outfits tried to the play down the importance of the clash pre kick off both named the strongest teams available to them. The opening exchanges were more tentative than explosive, but their was a tension in the air that indicated the best of the best battle was important to the players in terms of bragging rights and pride.
The home side started bright enough, pressing high and moving the ball with intent. They created the first chance of note as Darren Dunne forced Meehan to save routinely, but it was Crumlin, who drew first blood.
Seconds after under age graduate Greg Moorehead burst down the right flank and lifted first time into winger Alan McGreal, who controlled brilliantly before volleying onto the underside of the bar from 17 yards, Moorehead found the net.
In a role reversal McGreal found space down the left channel and rolled in the young striker. The Saturday side top scorer escaped the attention of the home back three, composed himself and curled beautifully into the keepers left hand corner 13 minutes in.
Crumlin grabbed the ascendancy after going a goal to the good and McGreal seemed to have the freedom of the left flank and if Dunne and co hadn’t have pressured the passer so effectively in the middle of the park the goal scoring winger would have been released in dangerous positions more often.
He did manage to combine again with Moorehouse, but when the player hit the astro turf and called a penalty the referee waved play on. Some of McGreal’s success was put down to the fact wing back Stephen Larkin wasn’t always over eager to track back, but whilst some raised concerns about his defence prowess they celebrated his ability at the other end of the pitch minutes later.
Dunne rolled into the feet of last seasons AUL Premier A top scorer John Rock. The striker, who had all but hit the Crumlin rear guard where it hurt in a literal sense off the ball, hit them where it hurt figuratively when he controlled the pass rolled impressively and released Larkin down the left hand side of the box. The wing back come winger took the ball in his stride and fired home at the near post to level the game before 30 minutes had passed.
The half time whistle arrived without either side creating a chance of note, but the final 15 minutes of the half remained intriguing. With both teams more often than not dominant in their respective leagues it was interesting to watch how they copped under the threat of attacks- and both set of regards proved the respective champions are not just made up of attacking talent.
Crumlin made the brighter start to the second half and McGreal was again involved. He fired a volley wide five minutes in and hit the post from close range just three minutes later. A pass that was as incisive as it was clever from the boot of Ger Rowe set Dempsey free in the box. The right winger fizzed a cross across the six yard line, which McGreal met at the back post, but introduced the ball to the woodwork rather than the back of the net.
Dempsey then had a shot from range before Rowe snatched an effort wide as Crumlin upped the tempo. After that exciting opening a more cautious approach quickly followed, as both sides began to cancel each other out.
Keith Dunne did have a decent opportunity, but fired left footed across the goal when rolled in by Darren Dunne, but chances were as rare as a trophy less Crumlin or Sheriff season in a game that began to break up somewhat.
The hosts did push for a winner in the final few minutes. Keith Dunne fired a free kick over the bar before his header right on the final whistle was cleared off the line.
Last years FAI Junior Cup winners kept the ball in the first period of extra time, but the most telling contribution of the half came from a Crumlin player. Derek Griffin missed timed a challenge on Darren Dunne and seen yellow for a second time and was sent to the line.
Advantage Sheriff- and in the second half of extra time they tried to make it tell. However, lead by the clever defending of Ross Carrig Crumlin made it hard for the team who where by this stage dominating.
And when they managed to out wit Carrig and co they couldn’t find passage past Meehan. The goal keeper saved brilliantly from Keith Dunne after Tony Kane rolled him in on the edge of the box, before tipping a top corner bound Joey O’Neill volley from an acute angle around the post in more routine fashion. Meehan then tipped over captain Paul Murphy’s 30 yard drive, but saved the best until last. When Tony Kane spun on the edge of the box and fired a left foot shot goal-wards the Sheriff support readied themselves for wild celebrations. However hands that were ready to rise to the air soon supported the Sheriff supports slumped heads as Meehan saved in brilliant fashion.
There was still time for one more home chance, but Anthony Kavanagh headed into the side netting from the resulting corner. Meehan’s brilliant final 15 minutes meant most favoured Crumlin in the resulting shoot out, but Halpin was the only one to save from 12 yards and Sheriff progress.
Dempsey(scored) D Dunne(scored)
Rowe (scored) John Rock(scored)
David O’Keefe(scored) Keith Dunne(scored)