FAI Intermediate Cup
Tolka Rovers – 2
Drumcondra FC -0
By Derek McKenna
Going into Friday night’s FAI Intermediate Cup last 16 match, 15 league places separated the leaders of the LSL’s Senior Division and their Senior 1 opponents. Both sides have been trailblazers in their respective divisions this season and a mouthwatering cup tie was in the offing, and neither side disappointed.
With two of the best managers and tacticians in the LSL, Paul Doyle and Gary Howlett doing battle, formations would be the key and it was Tolka’s utilisation of the width of Frank Cooke Park that essentially won them them victory. Both sides were up for the battle, with no quarter given in some crunching tackles throughout.
In the Tolka engine room, Dennis Moran and Karl Somers were superb, fighting treacherously to retain the possession and spread the play to Lee Dixon on the left and David Somers on the right. Up top, Mark Hughes was in top form, running the line in stealth mode and linking play with his midfield who were all happy to get forward given the chance. With Mark O’Neill sitting in front of the back three they had the perfect anchor.
Drumcondra were not there to make up the numbers and their midfield pairing of Mark Healy and Paul Hansard were always happy to let their counterparts know they were in for a game. At the back Brendan Lee showed again why he will make an effortless transition to the LSL top tier should the Drums go up as expected. Calm and composed, good in the air and hard in the challenge when required.
The game started at an electric pace, both sides not giving an inch in a crowded midfield area. The first chance fell on seven minutes after Drum’s playmaker Philip McDonagh drove towards the box before defender Wayne Byrne slipped and brought him down. The referee played a good advantage as the ball spun to Lenny McMillan whose shot was saved by Morgan Cranley. The rebound fell to Hansard but again Cranley saved brilliantly with quick reactions.
Just a minute later and Tolka took the lead. Karl Somers picked up the ball in the centre and setting the template for the game spread the ball out wide to Hughes wide on the right. A perfect cross-field ball found Dixon lurking on the left edge of the box and his powerful low drive flew into the net with the help of the right post.
The only other clear cup chance of the half again fell to Tolka. Karl Somers won a ball he had no right to win on the right edge of the box, squared to Moran who delightfully flicked the ball back to Dixon who this time was denied by the post and the danger was averted.
Drumcondra started the second stanza fastest out of the blocks when McDonagh burst up the right and fizzed the ball across the six yard area but despite two strikers sliding in, no connection could be made and the ball fell to safety.
The next chance of note came for Tolka on 63 minutes after Moran went on a mazy run past three into the box but his shot was well saved by David Connolly in the Drums goal.
Tolka were having the better of the possession with their passing game much crisper than the visitors, however Drumcondra were still in the game and Noel Murray had to be alert to deal with the threat of McMillan on a number of occasions.
With 20 minutes left on the clock Tolka got the goal that their pressure deserved. Moran again picked up up the ball in the centre, went on a direct run skipping past two challenges before playing a defence splitting pass into David Somers in the box who calmly squared the ball to Mark Hughes on the edge of the six yard area to side foot home.
That goal in effect killed off the game but Drums continued to battle, never giving up their search for an equaliser. Their task however was made all but impossible after striker McMillan received a straight red card for dissent with with five minutes remaining. They did have a chance to snatch a consolation in injury time after a John Clancy free kick fell to Terry McAuley in the box but his shot was tipped over by Cranley.
Man of the Match: Dennis Moran – Superb tackling and passing in the centre. At the core of everything creative about Tolka.
1. Morgan Cranley 2. Brian Fitzpatrick 3. Niall O’Reilly 4. Noel Murray. 5. Wayne Byrne 6. Mark O’Neill 7. David Somers 8. Dennis Moran 9. Mark Hughes 10. Karl Somers 11. Lee Dixon. Subs: 12. Shane Hughes 13. Adam Crowther 14. Derek Swan 15. John Rodgers 16. John Brophey 17. Paul Tancred 18. Gavin Browne.
1.David Connolly 2. Terry McAuley 3. Alan White 4. John Clancy 5. Brendan Lee 6. Mark Healy 7. Philip McDonagh 8. Sean Fitzgerald 9. Lenny McMillan 10. Paul Hansard 11. Brain Conway. Subs: 12. Austin Purcell 13. Joe Clancy 14. Ciaran Carr 15. David Ridgeway 16. Shane Finnegan.