FAI Intermediate Cup
Ian Stapleton is a bigger fan of Capital Punishment than the Governor of Texas. The goal scoring executioner gave Crumlin United’s three in a row dreams the electric chair in a pulsating FAI Intermediate quarter final clash in Pearse Park on Saturday.
‘Chubs’ who has proved the bane of Dublin sides at this stage of the competition in both the colours of Avondale and Cobh Wanderers in recent years was red hot in the big smoke once again and hit a hat trick to send nine man Wanderers into the final four and just one win away from an Aviva hosted final.
The striker opened the scoring in spectacular fashion, before leveling after Crumlin had rallied back impressively to take a lead and just minutes after the Munster League side had been reduced to 10.
Stapleton then put the finishing touches on a well worked break away move to give the Cork side the lead with 17 minutes to go.
Crumlin’s chances of securing a replay at the very least seemed to increase massively with 11 remaining and the visitors saw a second red. However, Wanderers battled till the death and managed to limit the reigning champions to half chances in a tight, tense and somewhat ill tempered final few and became the first team to beat them in the tournament since Cockhill back in the 2013/14 season.
Both sides started relatively tentatively and a repeat of the their 4-3 classic didn’t look on the card at that stage.
The game was back to front as neither wanted to get caught at the back. Jake Donnelly did pounce on a second ball and fire goalwards only to see Micheal Devine save.
Six minutes later and Stapleton found himself in a similar situation, but there was no keeper in the world that would have saved the strikers strike. The ball fell to the number 9 18 yards out after a punted free kick wasn’t cleared properly, Stapleton let fly first time and fired the ball brilliantly into the top corner.
The goal surprisingly settled both sides. Crumlin began to pass the ball that bit better and the likes of Stephen Griffin, Michael O’Shea and Dave Stack looked impressive for the away side.
However, it was the home side who were creating more the better chances. Hyland a low drilled free saved before another of his set pieces led to the equaliser. The recent signing curled left footed toward the back post were Noel Murray was waiting to head home and square things up.
Stack had a drive just over the apex soon after, but Crumlin finished the half the stronger. The looked relatively solid across the back and they began to look more threatening. Conor Murphy, who was playing up top rather than a more familar 10 role looked a threat in behind and Donnelly was a threat from any form of set piece.
Again he forced a save from Devine before a similarly attempt to find the keepers bottom right hand corner was pushed into the path of Dean Hurley and the wide man that won the set piece headed the hosts into the lead.
Former Midlesborough youth Murphy then had a chance when played in behind by Donnelly, but failed to get enough purchase on his strike, while James Lee had a trade mark long range volley just dip wide of the post before the break.
Cobh upped the tempo after the turn, but Crumlin again looked relatively comfortable at the back with Murray and Gavin Kavanagh gobbling up anything that came long.
The home side looked to have put one foot in the next round when eight minutes into the second stanza when Kyle Dowling saw red. The left back, who was trying to lead by example with some strong, but fair challenges was given his marching orders when seconds after he shouldered Hurley into the cage he hit out at the young wide man giving the officials no choice but to dismiss him.
At that stage it looked as if the reigning champions were certs to go through, but Stapleton had other ideas. Within 10 minutes he was finding the back of the net again. This time he found space at the back post, got his head to a deep free kick and headed brilliantly back across the keeper and into the net.
With the man advantage Crumlin tried to force the issue keen not to have to face a replay in Cork, but the visitors were inspired by the goal and were certainly intent to battle.
Indeed, it was that battling spirit that inspired a break away move that ended with them taking a lead into the final 16 minutes.
Right back Eoin Hastings flew into a 50/50 challenge down the right and the ball fell to Griffin who raced off down the line. Crumlin’s cover defence initially looked to have recovered, but Griffin showed patience and didn’t cross the marked Conor Meade, rather waited for Stapleton to arrive into the box. The pacey player clipped into his strike partner, who chested before volleying left footed through bodies into keepers bottom left.
Crumlin went all out for the leveler and seemed to be handed a life line Meade was given his marching orders.
Ger Rowe added something a bit different and Murray had two half chances, but an exciting, frantic and fiery final few minutes ended without any real scares for the MSL title hopefuls.