Leinster Senior Cup
By Jonny Stapleton
Kilbarrack United caught the bouquet in a game billed as the ‘Battle of the Bridesmaids’.
The AUL runners up beat last seasons LSL joint second place finishers to progress to the fourth round of the prestigious cup competition in Elmdale Park this morning.
The FAI Junior Cup finalists wrapped the game up in a brilliant 15 minute first half spell to make it AUL 2 LSL 0 in the cross league knock out contest after Sheriff YC beat Glebe North earlier this week.
With a rebuild on at Elmdale Park, this seasons isn’t expected to be a fruitful one for The Orchard and those in the LSL know were expecting an away win today. However, despite being forced to field a side padded out with under-age graduates and Saturday players against a team with a Junior International on the bench the home side had the games first chance of note.
A free kick into the box deflected into inform teen Niall Conran’s path, but the player with five goals in his previous two games 10 yard shot was blocked smartly by Mark Hatton.
Former Celtic under-age player Mark Nolan then landed a perfect cross on the head of Keith Kirwan, only for the big front man to nod wide. The right wing raid was a sign of things to come as the visitors plundered another chance from the near side minutes later and again Kirwan failed to hit the target.
The AUL outfit were playing into a stiff breeze, but had the wind in their sails. Once they increased the tempo in which they moved the ball their superiority showed and after a neat move led to a corner on 15 minutes a brilliant return cross led to the opening goal.
John Meleady, on for the injured Kirwan collected the half cleared set piece wide on the right and with his first touch whipped in a delicious cross which Gavin O’Brien gobbled up, heading home from seven yards to make it 1-0.
The Junior International’s second significant touch was to the put the ball in the back of the net. Stephen Sheehan won the ball in midfield strode forward before slipping in Mark Townley down the inside right channel. The front man, who proved hero for the AUL League select in their much needed Oscar Traynor victory over Meath midweek, took the ball in his stride and clipped a centre which his club and International team mate nodded home.
Two goals in five minutes had the home line fearing the worst and the third just minutes later had them fearing a repeat of last weekends 7-2 Crumlin United hammering. This time it was Townley who popped up in the middle and nodded home a right wing cross to make it a three goal away cushion.
Staring down the barrel of a hiding Orchard reacted and grouped together. They began to deal more effectively with the slick passing style and fluid movement of their visitors, but at half time it seemed as if United were one gear change away from inflicting a beating on their hosts.
However, the Orchard, whose plight is defined by the fact they replaced one 17 year old defender with another at the break, made the brighter start to a brighter second period-the rain also cleared. Lead by Geoff Doyle they pressed higher up the pitch and disrupted Kilbarrack’s attempts to play from the back.
They saw a little more of the ball too, but never really created anything to worry the United supporters. Indeed despite not having as much possession, Kilbarrack had more of the chances and but for Sean Holmes could have extended their advantage.
Not quite top drawer saves but the former Bray keeper had to be alert to deal with three Mark Geraghty efforts and showed great reactions to tip a close range Dean Gibbons volley over the bar. He also kept out neat midfielder Gibbon’s long range effort to keep the deficit to just three.
Conran, who continuously looked to threaten in behind when moved up front, had a penalty shout and a goal chance smothered by Hatton after a brilliant Doyle pass, but United kept the clean sheet and progressed with relative ease into the next round.
Man of the Match: Dean Gibbons: It was all done at a canter for the visitors, but Dean Gibbons looked a real thoroughbred on the day. Moving the ball efficiently and quickly in midfield for the majority of the first half and snuffing out danger when Orchard improved in the second.
Cherry Orchard: Sean Holmes, David O’Sullivan, Cian Lennon, Pradraig Lee, Marc Natanno, Geoff Doyle, Niall Conran, Colin Daly, Robert Shelly, Stephen Deegan, Lee Collins. Subs: Aaron Flood, Glen Murphy.
Kilbarrack United: Mark Hatton, Mark Nolan, Gavin Gaughran, Stephen Martin, Alan McHugh, Gavin O’Brien, Keith Kirwan, Stephen Sheehan,Mark Townley, Dean Gibbons, Mark Geraghty. Subs: John Meleady, Christopher Beresford, Mark Dunne.