FAI Ford Senior Cup
St Michaels AFC – 2
St Francis FC- 1
St Michael’s remarkable 38 game unbeaten season continued at Cooke Park Sunday afternoon as they overcame St Francis FC in the FAI Senior Cup 1st round.
Having secured their second league title in the last three seasons Wednesday night with a 3-0 victory over Old Bridge and with an FAI Junior Cup final and Munster Junior Cup final fast approaching, Michaels have yet another big date added to their season calendar following a hard fought victory over the LSL Senior 1 visitors from Dublin, St Francis FC.
Despite a spell of rain prior to kick off, this match was played out in humid conditions on an immaculate playing surface. A cagey opening to the game provided little in the way of goal mouth action as both sides struggled to settle into any kind of rhythm.
It wasn’t until some twelve minutes in that the first real chance of note materialized, and it was to produce the game’s opening goal. A free flowing passing move started from deep in their own half saw the ball eventually worked to the feet of St Francis left winger Youcef Belhout. Belhout took aim from all of 20 yards and saw his effort deflected past the despairing Derek Breen who was completely wrong footed. A first goal for St Francis in the competition since 2001 when they were beaten by Waterford United in a first round reply having drawn the first game 1-1 away at the RSC stadium thanks to a goal from Eamon Tighe. In fact 2001 was also St Michaels last appearance in this prestigious competition, the Tipperary outfit were beaten 4-0 away to Cobh Ramblers in round one that same season.
One nil down the goal by the visitors sparked St Michaels into life and it wasn’t long before they were to level matters. Following three successive corner kicks won by St Michaels it was to prove third time lucky. A corner kick on 15 minutes swung in from the right hand side by Russel Quirke deep to the far post was headed towards goal by junior player of the year Paul Breen. Breen’s header was guided home from within the six yard box by the head of David Slattery much to the delight of the large gathering of home support.
Now in the ascendancy St Michaels wouldn’t take long to get their second goal of the day. Some 19 minutes in a misplaced pass in the centre of the park saw a quick counter attack down the right hand side led by Dean Thompson. Thompson dribbled into the St Francis penalty area and appeared to be bundled over under a challenge from Yousef Belhout just as he was about to cross on the by line, penalty awarded! The Francis line was not as sure of the decision as they and a number of their players protested in vain.
Up stepped Paul Tobin to slot low into the bottom right hand corner of Paul Dowlings net, completing a seven minute turnaround on the score sheet. A frantic ten minute spell in the game continued as Francis almost levelled matters on 22 minutes. Good approach play saw Gavin Doyle work the ball towards front man Anthony Shortt inside the hosts penalty area. Shortt electing not to shoot returned the ball back into the path of the onrushing Doyle who shot narrowly wide from just inside the box.
With both defences back on top the remainder of the half resumed as it had begun with little in the way of goal mouth action, although Michaels did shade possession and will have felt worthy of a 2-1 lead.
An impressive display from the visitors in the second half meant St Michaels would have to work hard for this victory, but that would arguably not have been as difficult a task had Francis been reduced to ten men just before the hour mark. A quick switch of play from right to left saw David Slattery get goal side of St Francis defender Karl Kelly. Bearing down clean through on goal Slattery was brought down by Kelly, the referee close by decided to issue a yellow card for the offense, deeming that a St Francis defender had made up sufficient ground to cover the attack had it continued, a decision questioned by St Michaels and some of the on looking home support.
St Francis looked far more productive following the half time interval. Anthony Shortt and Shane Murphy both had attempts at goal before a Ger O’Gorman strike was ruled out for offside following good approach play from Shortt.
At the other end Paul Dowling was under worked in the Francis goal and it wasn’t until some 67 minutes in that an attempt from Russel Quirke caused a moment of concern as he shot just past the post from 18 yards out.
Moments later a thunderous goal bound attempt by industrious St Michaels midfielder Michael Buckley was bravely blocked on the edge of the area before Francis launched a quick counter attack down the right hand side. Shane Murphy raced clear with the ball leaving defenders in his wake and continued towards goal before he was eventually denied by the onrushing Derek Breen who done enough to stir the centre forwards shot wide of goal.
Francis were looking the more likely of the two sides to score as they dominated the final 20 minutes of the game forcing a number of corner kicks and shooting opportunities in and around the St Michaels penalty area, notably when Murphy unleashed a goal bound attempt from 25 yards which was brilliantly kept out by Derek Breen.
Breen was again was called into action in the closing stages as a goal bound header from Craig Gardner was well kept out, and just moments later a misplaced back pass from Junior Cup hero Brian Buckley almost allowed St Francis through for the equalizer their play merited.
Overall an entertaining ten minute spell in the first half produced all three goals in the game. A drab first period on the whole provided little to shout about for a good crowd gathered at Cooke Park. The second half produced little more in the way of goal mouth action although St Francis will consider themselves unlucky to have exited the competition having dominated large periods of the half. St Michaels remarkable season continues with four trophies still up for grabs and the strength and depth of the squad looking very impressive.
ST.MICHAELS: 1.DEREK BREEN 2.MICHAEL RYAN 3.PAUL TOBIN 4.PAUL BREEN 5.BRIAN BUCKLEY 6.MICHAEL BUCKLEY 7.DEAN THOMPSON 8.COLIN BARGARY 9.RUSSELL QUIRKE 10.DAVID SLATTERY 11.JOHN O’BRIEN – SUBS: 15. DANIEL FOWLER FOR 7. DEAN THOMPSON; 13. JIMMY CARR FOR 11. JOHN O’BRIEN; 12. CHRIS HIGGINS FOR 9. RUSSELL QUIRKE; 14.ELIOT THOMPSON 16.BRIAN GLASHEEN 17.RICHARD RYAN
ST.FRANCES: 1.PAUL DOWLING 2.KARL CONNAUGHTON 3.KARL KELLY 4.CRAIG GARDNER 5.DEREK KAVANAGH6.GERARD O’GORMAN 7.JAMIE HAYDEN 8.GAVIN DOYLE 9.SHANE MURPHY 10.ANTHONY SHORTT 11.YOUICEF BELHOUT – SUBS: 12. JORDAN GARDNER FOR 7. JAMIE HYADEN; 13. CICERO PIRES FOR 6. GERARD O’ GORMAN: 14.MARTIN MCGUINESS 15.DECLAN SMITH 16.ADRIAN CLARKE 17.JASON MCKENNA