LFA Senior Cup Semi Final
Sheriff YC – 1
Longford Town – 2
By Derek McKenna
Sheriff YC exited the Leinster Senior Cup at the semi final stage on Tuesday night after a narrow defeat to League of Ireland First Division side Longford Town at Clontarf Road. Two early first half Longford goals proved the undoing of Sheriff who came agonisingly close in a game they dominated in large patches. In particular the amateur side’s second half performance, in which they had many clear chances to equalise and perhaps go on to win, proved they are a match for any League of Ireland side out there.
Sheriff’s hopes of a cup final against St Patricks Athletic were dealt an early blow after Longford took the lead on four minutes. A well delivered Sean Russell corner was met by Reece Gorman whose powerful header gave Austin O’Neill no chance and flew into the net.
Just two minutes later and Sheriff were almost level. Paul Murphy played a great through ball into Keith Dunne in the box, his snap shot well saved by Chris Bennion before rebounding back to Dunne who blasted over the bar.
Sheriff were made to rue that miss a minute later when a superbly delivered Russell cross was met by a glancing Lorcan Shannon header into the bottom corner to double the lead. Soon after Russell’s delivery with the left boot was causing major concern for Sheriff as another of his perfect crosses was met on the volley by Gorman but the effort went inches wide.
Sheriff began to setting into their passing game as the early tempo settled and again came close on 16 minutes. A quick Paul Murphy free set Alan McCabe away on the right. The Junior International’s cross fizzed across the box, evading everyone and almost crossed the line before Chris Deans scooped it to safety.
As Longford sat back on their two goal lead, Sheriff began to control the possession with Darren O’Brien and Darren Dunne impressive in midfield and John Rock in exceptional form up top, at times looking like Dennis Bergkamp in slow motion with his touch and hold up play not giving the Longford defenders a sniff.
Longford finished the half stronger in terms of chances, Sean Russell’s delivery again the main danger but his two curling free kicks were well saved by Austin O’Neill.
Sherriff emerged like a team possessed for the second stanza and utterly dominated proceedings. They got a goal back inside the first minute when a throw in found Alan McCabe 25 yards out and the winger spotted Bennion off his line and delightfully lobbed the big keeper with a half volley that crept in just under the bar.
Soon after a Lorcan Shanon cross from the left was met by a Peter Hynes header that just went over the crossbar.
Sheriff though continued to push on for the equaliser and had a multitude of chances. A great move involving Keith Dunne and Darren Dunne saw the latter play a sublime ball into McCabe in the box who took it on his chest before trying to lift the ball over Bennion but the keeper was not about to lobbed twice by the same player and made the save.
Minutes later John Rock held the ball up masterfully before slipping in Darren O’Brien who was only denied by a last ditch tackle as he teed up the shot. With 65 on the clock only another last ditch tackle denied Keith Dunne a certain goal just as he was about to pull the trigger.
As Sheriff pushed on with wave and wave of attack a Joe O’Neill cross from the left found John Lester but his outstretched boot could only divert the ball inches wide. With 15 minutes remaining a classy defence splitting ball from Darren Dunne put Joe Flood in on goal, his attempted chip over the keeper went over the bar.
In the final five Sheriff went close on another three occasions. First John Rock skinned a defender out wide on the right before squaring to Stephen Larkin in the box but his shot flew well over. Soon after Rock again was the provider to play Sean Murphy in on goal but he too put the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
With the time hitting 90+ minutes Murphy again went close. His curling corner kick evading everyone before bouncing off the crossbar to safety.
In a game where they outplayed their League of Ireland opponents for the majority, it was not to be for Sheriff YC who now must prepare for another Semi Final on Friday when they face arch rivals Kilbarrack Utd in the Nivea Cup at the AUL Complex.
Man of the Match: John Rock – Absolutely immense in his movement, touch and hold up play. Never gave the Longford defence a sniff of the ball all evening. Pure class!