Shamrock Rovers 5 (Ebbe 2, Dixon, O’Rourke, Mullaney) Sligo Rovers 1 (C. Feeney)
Enda McGuill Memorial Cup, Second Round, Sunday 5th February, 2012 at Tallaght Stadium
Something really strange happened at Tallaght Stadium today. Left full Jack Memery wasn’t amongst the starting eleven when the Hoops took to the pitch for the Enda McGuill Memorial Cup Second Round game against Sligo Rovers. Memery has been an almost ever present since he joined the club in the summer of 2010 but his absence for this hugely important game can be explained by the fact that he was given a call up for first team duty by manager Stephen Kenny as the senior Hoops departed for Birmingham as part of their pre-season warm up.
Not even a hare would normally be able to get past Memery so just how would the Under 19’s manage without one of their outstanding stars? Well, judging by the five star performance of James Mullaney, there was never anything to worry about. The Portlaoise lad, who began the season playing a year ahead of his age with the SRFC Under 18’s, proved that he was more than up for the task. Last week, Mullaney made his Under 19 debut when he came on as a substitute for the injured Dean Power, and he put in a super show playing as right full. This week, making his debut at Tallaght Stadium and operating on the left, he proved that he is a versatile operator. He got his name onto the score sheet too when he hit the fifth for Rovers in the dying seconds of the game. Dismissing the attention of the Sligo defenders, Mullaney burst through and skipped past a couple of red shirts before planting a sweet and strong, low drive into the Sligo net past ‘keeper Adam Murphy who looked bewildered as he pondered at what had just happened. Up in the stand they were making comparisons to Maradona’s wonder goal for Argentina against England at the 1986 World Cup. Maradona’s success that day came in from the right, Mullaney hit his from the left but you could imagine the Portlaoise youngster doing the same no matter what side of the pitch he could be playing on.
The game was on just five minutes when the Hoops took the lead. Sean Dixon moved into the box and offered Paul Moffat a good option when the centre midfielder was in possession, the latter placed the ball high for Dixon to head the ball over a defender to where Dean Ebbe had moved in and Ebbe added to it with his head to send the ball over the line to give the Hoops the lead. Just three minutes later ‘keeper Murphy made a great double save to deny Ebbe firstly and then O’Rourke. The Hoops looked dangerous each time they advanced on the Sligo area and the visiting management team urged their charges to squeeze the play up the field in order to counteract the constant advance of the lads in green and white. This was a tactic that certainly paid off for Sligo as it gave them some space to get the ball in the forwards. Liam Martin had two good chances, the first was a shot and the second a header over the bar which was the closest they came in the first half to scoring. The Hoops had increased their lead though in the thirty-fourth minute with a move that began with centre half Donal Branagan. The industrious Charlie Kenna took a pass from Branagan and then supplied Dixon with the ball. Dixon had moved into the box and had made some space for himself and when the prolific goalscorer gets himself into positions like that there’s normally only one outcome.
Paul Moffat and Eamonn Dolan (Sligo Rovers) in action at Tallaght Stadium
To be fair to the visitors, they came out after half time determined to give it a good go. They made two changes during the break and tore into the Hoops right from the start. Within seconds, Martin tested Lee Steacy in the Hoops goal but then almost immediately at the other end Thomas O’Rourke brought Murphy into action. Sligo left themselves cruelly exposed for the third Hoops goal which came in the fifty-first minute. Garry Comerford came up from the rear guard and supplied the ball to Dixon who in turn sent Ebbe in for his second goal of the afternoon – a high shot that Murphy was helpless to stop. Sligo managed a couple of attacks and Colm Feeney alsmost scored. In another move, Martin placed the ball across the box from the left but Feeney was too far out to make the most of it. When Martin had another chance he found himself blocked by Branagan and when he got onto the ball again Marc Keeley was quick to snuff out the danger. This was Sligo’s best period of the game. Soon after, at the other end, Murphy had to be alert when O’Rourke cut in on the left and set Dixon up for a shot that the ‘keeper did really well to stop. Two minutes later Murphy had to think quick when Bobo Nkanu sent O’Rourke in and the ‘keeper steadied himself to save the shot.
Twenty-eight minutes of the second half had been played when Sligo reduced the deficit. Cian Brennan had a shot at goal and the ball came out to the left after some scrambling in the box but only as far as Feeney who kept his calm and slotted the ball past Steacy to make it 3-1. The Sligo revival was short-lived though as O’Rourke quickly restored the three goal advantage for the Hoops. It was almost five-nil with a minute to go after Murphy saved from Niall Forrester’s free kick and Comerford seemed to come in from nowhere to have a shot that came back off the crossbar. Then immediately came that wonder goal from Mullaney and what a way that was to finish a game!
Shamrock Rovers: 1 Lee Stacey. 2 Marc Keeley. 3 James Mullaney. 4 Garry Comerford. 5 Donal Branagan. 6 Charles Kenna. 7 Lorcan Shannon (Nkanu 62 mins). 8 Paul Moffat. 9 Dean Ebbe (Byrne 78 mins). 10 Sean Dixon (Forrester 72 mins). 11 Thomas O’Rourke. Substitutes: 14 Bobo Nkanu. 15 Niall Forrester. 16 Patrick Reilly. 18 Ciaran Byrne. 19 Kelvin Jackson.
Sligo Rovers: 19 Adam Murphy. 2 Eamonn Dolan. 3 Colm McLoughlin. 4 Ben McGarry. 5 Michael Green. 6 Jake Dykes (Brennan 46 mins). 7 Hayden Cawley (Cascallana 46 mins). 8 Marty Owens. 9 Liam Martin. 10 David Brick (D. Feeney 72 mins). 11 Colm Feeney.
Substitutes: 12 Ben Spellman. 14 Dylan Feeney. 15 Carlos Cascallana. 16 Cian Brennan. 17 Colm Callinan. 18 Brendan Flynn
Match report compiled by Robert Goggins