PIKE Rovers advanced to the quarter-final of the Tuohy Cup on Thursday evening thanks to a 1-0 victory over Ballynanty Rovers AET at Jackman Park.
Conor Kavanagh’s penalty in the first period of extra-time was enough to secure a hard-fought victory. It was the second time the sides have met this season with Balla running out 2-3 winners in the league game.
Pike started the game with a 4-1-4-1 formation with Colin Daly and Steven McGann playing in front of defensive midfielder Shane Walsh. Kieran Hanlon led the line and was flanked by Danny O’Neill and Eoin Hanrahan on the right and left wing respectively.
Ballynanty Rovers made a raft of changes from last weekend’s league draw with Aisling Annacotty with Arron Nunan, Jason Hughes, Adrian Power, Alex Purcell and David Donnan all dropping out and Pat Whelan and Liam Byrnes making their debuts.
Brothers Liam and Eddie recently joined from FAI Junior Cup champions Fairview Rangers and Eddie was joined on the substitutes bench by a high profile new signing in the form of John Connery from St. Michaels.
In the early stages and much like the earlier league meeting, Pike dominated possession but struggled to break a well drilled 3-5-2 system from Ballynanty which turned into a 5-3-1-1 in defence with Ger Barry dropping in as a number ten and cutting off passing angles for both Robbie Williams and Adam Lipper at centre-back. Lipper produced a very mature performance on the night.
In fact, it was Dave Dunphy’s men who created the first opening when Barry, who was afforded too much space in the opening half hour, lashed an effort well wide of Gary Neville’s goal.
Pike responded with a long-range effort of their own as player-manager Williams skipped inside two challenges before unleashing a wild left-footed effort which went well wide of Stephen McNamara’s goal.
In a half of very few chances, the Hoops created the last two with Shane Walsh’s free-kick delivery just missed by Steven McGann at the back post and moments later Kieran Hanlon pounced on a rare lapse in concentration from Jake Dillon to shoot wide from the edge of the area.
The second half proved to be a much brighter affair and Ballynanty’s best chance of the game fell to debutant Pa Whelan in the penalty area who controlled a cross from the left with his chest before blasting straight at the advancing Gary Neville who pulled off a great save.
The Crosagalla outfit were awakened by the big scare and had two chances in quick succession. Firstly, Walsh’s curling effort travelled just over the crossbar with McNamara scrambling to ensure he had the height covered. Secondly McGann forced a good save from the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
By now, McGann’s influence on proceedings was growing and he came agonizingly close to giving his side the lead when he capitalised on hesitancy from Dan Lucey at the back before striking the post with a close range shot.
With five minutes remaining, Pike Rovers thought they had received a penalty as referee Andy Hall appeared to rightfully award a spot-kick when substitute and recent signing Conor Layng beat McNamara to the ball in a foot race and the former Corbally United schoolboy was adjudged to have fouled the former Galway striker.
However, upon consultation with assistant referee Stephen Rooney, Hall reversed the decision as Layng had handled the ball and a free-kick was awarded to Ballynanty.
There was no separating the teams in normal time and the game headed for two 10 minute halves of extra-time in an attempt to find a winner. Five minutes into the second half, substitute Lucey who had replaced the injured Liam Byrnes early in the second half of normal time, fouled Layng in the penalty area and Hall wasted no time in pointing for a penalty.
Conor Kavanagh expertly converted the spot-kick sending McNamara the wrong way. To their credit, Ballynanty battled hard for an equaliser and caused massive unrest in the Pike defence with a number of scrambles in the penalty area. New signing Connery had the last chance as his header from close range rose over the crossbar.
Pike Rovers now face Aisling Annacotty in the quarter-final of the Tuohy Cup and will face Kilmallock away in the league on Sunday. Ballynanty will hope to bounce back from their first defeat of the season when they entertain Janesboro at Limerick Insittute of Technology.
Ballynanty Rovers: Stephen McNamara, Liam Byrnes (Dan Lucey), Adam Costelloe, Jake Dillon, Seamus Maloney, Riain O’Connell, Derek Daly (Jason Hughes), Thomas Byrnes (Eddie Byrnes), Mike Guerin, Ger Barry (John Connery), Pat Whelan (Kevin Nolan)
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville, Evan Patterson, Adam Lipper, Robbie Williams, Eddie O’Donovan (Paddy O’Malley), Shane Walsh, Colin Daly (Conor Kavanagh), Steven McGann, Danny O’Neill, Eoin Hanrahan (Oisin Kelly),Kieran Hanlon (Conor Layng)