Pike Rovers 0-1 Sheriff YC
PIKE Rovers had to settle for the silver medal in Saturday’s FAI Junior Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, the Limerick side losing out 1-0 to Sheriff YC.
Mark Higgins’ 33rd-minute goal was enough to give the Dublin side a third triumph in the competition since 2012, and despite a late rally from Pike, it was a fair reflection of the victors’ overall supremacy on the day.
Sheriff made the early running, with striker Jonathan Rock carving out a couple of early attempts, and then had a shout for a penalty waved away as Darren Dunne claimed his shirt was being tugged by Pike captain Wayne Colbert.
Sheriff dominated the opening 20 minutes and almost took the lead midway through the first half, Dunne heading just over the bar from Sean Murphy’s cross.
Pike were limited to half-chances, such as Steven McGann’s wild shot from 25 yards, as Sheriff’s left-wing combination of Kevin Lynch and Mark Higgins caused plenty of bother for the Limerick men. The Dubliners should definitely have been one-up at the half-hour mark after Rock swivelled in the area and shot from three yards, but fired over the crossbar when it looked easier to score.
Sheriff’s pressure soon told, though, after Sean Murphy’s cross from the right picked out Higgins, who from close range powered an unstoppable header past Gary Neville in the Pike goal. It remained 1-0 until half-time.
Mike Shiel made a switch at the interval, bringing on Jason Mullins for Shane Walsh, but again it was Sheriff who looked the more likely to score upon the game’s resumption. They spurned another gaping chance in the 52nd minute, when Darren O’Brien seized upon a Colbert backpass, beat an opponent and then looped the ball over the advancing Neville. O’Brien was then left with an open goal from all of 10 yards, but inexplicably headed it over the crossbar to let Pike off the hook.
The Limerick side eventually built up a sustained wave of possession around the hour mark and, at one point, Cian Collins managed to turn past two Sheriff defenders by the goal-line, but there was no team-mate in the middle of the penalty area to seize upon his low delivery. On 69 minutes, substitute Paddy O’Malley’s free was met by the head of Sean O’Callaghan, who wasn’t far off getting the header on target.
After that brief spell of Pike pressure, Sheriff took control of this match again and would almost certainly have killed off the contest were it not for a couple of heroic last-ditch blocks from Wayne O’Donovan and Pat Mullins.
The last five minutes of the game was played almost entirely in Sheriff’s half as they sought to hold on for the one-goal win. Colin Daly shot over from outside the penalty box before O’Callaghan drilled an effort just wide as Pike poured forward in search of the goal that would prompt extra time. In the dying embers of normal time, Wayne O’Donovan’s free from the left was headed away by the Sheriff defence straight to O’Malley, who cracked a volley wide.
Sheriff spent the four minutes of stoppage time hoofing the ball as far away from their goal as possible and eventually held firm to claim a 1-0 win and a third FAI Junior Cup success in five years. It was a disappointing day, then, for Pike Rovers, but they gave a good account of themselves and had the minor consolation of Pat Mullins being named man of the match in recognition of his magnificent performance. Shiel and his players won’t have long to stew over this defeat, though, with some important league matters to attend to this week. Instead, it was left to Sheriff to celebrate.
Pike Rovers: Neville; W O’Donovan, P Mullins, O’Callaghan, E O’Donovan; Colbert, Walsh (J Mullins h-t); Connery, McGann (O’Malley 62), Collins; Higgins (Daly 57).
Sheriff YC: L Murphy; P Murphy, Kavanagh, O’Neill, Lynch; Lester; Sean Murphy (Glen 83), O’Brien, D Dunne, Higgins (T Dunne 80); Rock.
Referee: Jonathan Walsh