Polikoff Cup 1st Round
Skerries Town FC (Major Sunday) – 3
Rathcoole Boys FC (Major Sunday) – 0
Skerries began their assault on the Polikoff Cup with a hard-fought victory today over a tough Rathcoole outfit on a bitterly cold afternoon in North County Dublin.
The teams had met earlier this season in Dublin 24, with the Goats running out comfortable 4-0 winners, but today they were faced by a much-improved Rathcoole side which had bolstered their ranks during the transfer window.
Skerries, missing influential captain Keith O’Callaghan (suspension) and new marquee signing Rory O’Connor (cup-tied), began quickly and Ross Hopkins had a shot whiz just wide of the top corner following a flick on by Darragh Walsh.
The Rathcoole defence, marshalled by the impressive Liam ‘Bubbles’ Kavanagh were operating a high line of defence that narrowly caught out the Seasiders on multiple occasions.
Skerries however would continue to create chances and Barry Davey stung the palms of Lee Bennett with a long range half-volley on the turn and then big striker Sean Lynch would spin and curl wide after a clever free-kick fed in by Ben Gahan.
On the fifteen minute mark, Davey released Sean Lynch with a sumptuous ball only for the Skerries top scorer’s dangerous low cross to be deflected wide.
Skerries where then dealt a blow after twenty minutes with midfield enforcer Davey being forced off following a crunching collision.
Nevertheless, the home side continued to be on top and stylish winger Shane Langan had his first telling attacking contribution, jinking past two defenders to set up Walsh who fired over.
Tails up, Lynch then battled through two defenders to claim a long ball before forcing a good save from the young Rathcoole ‘keeper.
The South Dublin side would have their first real chance on the half hour mark when Paul Simpson collected a ball in the box, only to blaze over under intense Skerries pressure.
Lynch then had a low, bouncing shot scrambled away by the Rathcoole defence, but Skerries would not have to wait long to break the deadlock.
With ten minutes to go before the break, Langan showed good strength rather than twinkling toes, and powered past three Rathcoole players to release Walsh, and the former underage international side-footed a low left-foot shot in off the post to give Skerries the lead.
Rathcoole would respond brightly and had a shout for a penalty when Simpson went down under a high ball but the referee was unmoved.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, a deep cross evaded the entire Skerries defence and fell to Lee Tobin whose prodded shot was stopped by the quick reactions of Colm McGearty.
The second half began evenly and was very much a midfield battle, with Kavanagh for Rathcoole and the veteran Niall Bolger for Skerries keeping the back-lines well-organised. However, Skerries would begin to turn the screw and another Walsh flick was collected by Darren Lynch, younger brother of Sean, but the midfielder’s stabbed shot was well-saved by Bennett.
From the resultant corner, the Seasiders would have the ball in the net when a low Hopkins strike was flicked in by Sean Lynch, but the striker was deemed offside.
The home side would double their lead after sixty-five minutes. A delicious Darren Lynch through ball was collected by Walsh who sent in a tantalising cross that was headed goalwards by Sean Lynch. The effort was deflected into the net by Lynch’s marker and the decision is one for the Dubious Goals Committee – although Lynch’s team-mates were quick to award the effort to the Rathcoole defender.
Understandably, following the Christmas break, fatigue would become a factor and the game lost some of its shape as the second half wore on. Despite this, the Skerries front two of Walsh and Lynch continued to do some hard running, and Walsh would muscle through down the left flank to whip over a cross that was powerfully-met by Lynch but flashed narrowly over.
Rathcoole had a chance to pull one back soon after when a long ball was prodded past the onrushing McGearty, however, in the ensuing pinball, Shane O’Reilly couldn’t steer home.
If there was some confusion over the scorer of their second goal, there was no doubts over the Fingal side’s third. Lynch cut through a tired Rathcoole defence only to be cynically chopped down just inside the area. The confident striker would take the penalty himself and coolly sent the ‘keeper the wrong way and placed the ball into the bottom left corner.
Hard-working midfielder Darren Lynch then had a chance to grab a goal that his performance deserved when he collected a David Arthur header and blasted the bouncing ball goalwards, but Bennett was up to challenge and blocked the effort with some strong hands.
To their credit, Rathcoole never lay down and attacked until the very end. With three minutes to go, they almost had their consolation when Simpson looped a ball towards O’Reilly but the winger couldn’t control his difficult volley.
So it is Skerries who progress to the second round, and the Goats will believe that they have a good shot at cup glory. Rathcoole, currently bottom of the league, will take heart from their much-improved performance and will be confident of escaping the drop come Summertime.
Skerries: McGearty, O’Flaherty, Gahan, Doyle, Bolger, Davey, Lynch, Langan, Hopkins, Lynch, Walsh.
Rathcoole: Bennett, Ennis, Hanratty, Kavanagh, Keegan, Finn, O’Reilly, McDonald, Tobin, Simpson, Simpson.