Ballynanty Rovers 0-4 St Michael’s
BALLYNANTY Rovers’ bid to win the FAI Junior Cup fell short at the final hurdle against St Michael’s of Tipperary, who ultimately won on a convincing 4-0 scoreline.
David Slattery put the bookies’ favourites ahead in the first half and the lead was extended after the interval by goals from Pat Quinn and a Jimmy Carr double. Ballynanty’s day was also marred by a serious injury to Dermot Fitzgerald early in the second half.
St Michael’s were quickest out of the blocks and after just five minutes Balla keeper Stephen McNamara had to be alert to tip Brian Buckley’s curled free kick out for a corner. Soon after that, Chris Higgins played a magnificent through ball to Slattery, whose volley ended up missing the target.
Ballynanty got a foothold on the game after 10 minutes and asked some questions of the St Michael’s defence. David Dunphy had a very good chance to open the scoring but the ball squirmed under his feet when he looked primed to score.
The Limerick side were made to pay for that miss in the 20th minute when Carr crossed for Slattery to head home from close range at the back post. Balla responded positively to the goal, seeking to quickly cancel out the opener, although they were very nearly two goals down on 34 minutes. Buckley’s header was destined for the net until Shane Doran headed it off the line, proving the value of putting a defender on the post at corners.
Shortly before the interval, Slattery swung in a dangerous cross to Quinn, who couldn’t get it under control and ballooned it wide from six yards, although he was adjudged to be offside in any case.
Ballynanty had given a good account of themselves in the first half despite trailing at the interval, and they began the second half with plenty of vigour, giving the Tipperary side’s defence a couple of things to think about.
The game’s pivotal moment came in the 55th minute when Fitzgerald hit the turf in visible distress. After several minutes of careful treatment, he was carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by Eddie Radcliffe.
Following that horrendous incident, Ballynanty never managed to rouse themselves anymore, and in the 66th minute St Michael’s doubled their lead. Some neat footwork by Quinn enabled him to get a shot off from a very tight angle and the ball found its way to the net via the back post.
After that it was merely a case of how much St Michael’s wanted to win by. Quinn was nearly in for his second on 71 minutes before the Tipperary men twisted the knife in the closing stages.
With 10 minutes to go, a swift counterattack left Richard Ryan free to pick out Carr, who held his nerve to finish past McNamara and kill the Ballynanty challenge once and for all.
There was still time for St Michael’s to land a further punch after 85 minutes. Carr took possession on the left-hand side and had plenty of time and space to fire in his second and his team’s fourth.
The remainder of the match petered out to its anti-climactic conclusion and, as St Michael’s celebrated wildly, Ballynanty’s players slumped to the turf in bitter disappointment.
There was no doubting that Ballynanty Rovers lost to the better side on the day, but their players and management owe absolutely nothing to a very proud community. The hundreds who made their way to the national stadium made their voices heard and their support for the Balla boys was unrelenting from first whistle to last.
It might have been a disappointing day for the Ballynanty players, but when the emotional scars heal, they will look back on 25 May 2014 as an unforgettable experience – the day they proudly represented Limerick soccer at the Aviva Stadium.
Ballynanty Rovers: Stephen McNamara, Darragh Hughes, Kenneth Meehan, Tom Daly, Shane Doran, Alex Purcell, David Dunphy, Ronan Ryan, Brian Doran, Dermot Fitzgerald, Tony Fahy.
Subs: Eddie Radcliffe for Fitzgerald (60 mins), Danny McInerney for B Doran (67 mins), Frank Lee for Hughes (83 mins), Jamie Bromwell, Derek Hanlon, Ryan Earls, Dean O’Brien.
St Michael’s: Aaron Wall, Chris Higgins, Paul Breen, James Walsh, Brian Buckley, Jimmy Carr, Thomas Fahy, Richard Ryan, Russell Quirke, Pat Quinn, David Slattery.
Subs: Colin Bargary for Slattery (69 mins), Michael Buckley for Quirke (86 mins), Paul Tobin for Walsh (88 mins), Mark Lowry, John O’Brien, Darren Lynch, Michael Ryan.
Referee: Eugene Deering (Roscommon)