Shamrock Rovers 2 (Ebbe, Dixon pen.) Dundalk 3 (Kenna 2 pens., Reilly)
Enda McGuill Cup Quarter Final Sunday 26th February at Sacred Heart FC, Killinarden
Have Shamrock Rovers become complacent? In their recent games the Hoops Under 19’s were scoring goals for fun - six against Drogheda, eight against Wexford and five against league leaders Cork. Last week they wasted an abundance of chances against Bray and played a dangerous game as they took the points with a 2-1 win. Today we had more of the same in the Enda McGuill Cup quarter final game played in Tallaght.
Nobody present could possibly deny that Dundalk were an industrious team. They began well in positive form with Kevin Loughran hitting over the bar after linking up well with Chris Reilly inside the Rovers box. The Hoops were very slow to settle down and the game was only on seven and a half minutes when Dundalk took the lead after Robert McKenna converted from the penalty spot. Within a minute the action swung to the other end when Lorcan Shannon delivered a super ball into the Dundalk box but centre half Cian Byrne got a decisive foot to it to take the sting out of it and when the ball broke goalkeeper Craig Hanlon dived to smother the danger. This was to be a feature of the afternoon as Hanlon worked well with his back four; Byrne and his co central defender Peter Thomas were to have a very busy afternoon though.
Rovers had chances to put the early set back behind them, O’Rourke and Ebbe getting shots in but nothing too dangerous. Shannon had enjoyed a lot of the ball on the right wing and, in a way, it was only a matter of time before one of his spectacular crosses would produce something. The equaliser came in the twenty-sixth minute from one such move involving Charlie Kenna and then Shannon who swung the ball into an area in front of goal where there was nobody and Ebbe, who ran in to the space as the advancing Hanlon sensed the danger, stuck his foot out to meet the high ball and send it past the ‘keeper into the net. Just four minutes later O’Rourke had a pop at goal from a distance and couldn’t believe it as his shot bounced off the crossbar. Dundalk weren’t as confident going forward at this point and the Hoops were doing a lot of pressing but getting nowhere. In the ten minutes before half time Robert McKenna for Dundalk dispossessed Marc Keeley on the right, Darragh Kenna followed through into the box but Jack Memery was alert to foil what could have been a tricky situation for the Hoops.
Rovers called for a penalty in the first minute of the second half after O’Rourke fell down in the box. Then soon after that Kurt Murphy won a free on the right for Dundalk which was taken by Darragh Kenna but the strong breeze blowing across the pitch took it away from where he wanted it to go. At the other a little while later there was a bit of panic in the Dundalk goal as the Hoops won a free and Niall Forrester rushed in and threw himself at the ball but it quickly flew past before the Hoops midfielder could manage to connect with it. Shannon then hit the side netting for the home side.
There was some drama at the other end in the sixty-second minute after Dundalk’s Mark Levey was taken down in the box and another penalty was awarded. Robert McKenna, who scored from the earlier penalty for Dundalk stood up to take it but missed. The referee immediately ordered that the spot kick be taken again as there had been an infringement into the box as McKenna was taking his shot and this time he made no mistake to put his side 2-1 up.
Seven minutes later we had yet another penalty award - this time at the other end after Darragh Kenna took Charlie Kenna down. Sean Dixon placed the ball on the spot and duly dispatched it across the line to make it 2-2. Kelvin Jackson, who came on as a sub for O’Rourke caught the Dundalk defence out several times with his pace down the left and on one such occasion in the seventy-first minute he forced Hanlon into a great save.
There was nothing that Craig Hanlon could do to stop Sean Dixon’s powerful penalty but otherwise the Dundalk ‘keeper had an outstanding game for the Lily Whites.
The game went into time and immediately from the restart Ebbe had a powerful header stopped by Hanlon. Four minutes after that Forrester almost had the ball into the back of the net but brave goalkeeping by Hanlon thwarted him, the ‘keeper was injured in the incident. Rovers were particularly wasteful in the two periods of extra time as they missed chance after chance to take the lead. With just forty seconds of time remaining to a penalty shoot-out Dundalk scored the winner when Chris Reilly topped a hard-working performance throughout the game with a dangerous shot from the left that landed into the back of the net. That was a right shock for the Hoops who seemed to have settled for a penalty shoot out and there simply was not sufficient time for them to make any meaningful reply. No doubt Enda McGuill, a man who gave so much of his life to Dundalk FC and in whose honour the trophy is named, looked down from above with an approving smile.
Shamrock Rovers: 1 Lee Steacy. 2 Marc Keeley. 3 James Mullaney. 4 Jack Memery. 5 Donal Branagan. 6 Niall Forrster. 7 Lorcan Shannon. 8 Charlie Kenna (McGrath 72 mins). 9 Dean Ebbe. 10 Sean Dixon. 11 Thomas O’Rourke (Jackson 60 mins). Substitutes: 13 Paul Moffat. 14 Karl McGrath. 15 Garry Comerford. 16 Paddy Reilly. 17 Kelvin Jackson. 18 Jason Murphy. 19 Dean Power.
Dundalk: 1 Craig Hanlon. 2 Ben McLoughlin. 3 Karl Martin. 4 Peter Thomas. 5 Cian Byrne. 6 Darragh Kenna. 7 Conor McDonald (Murphy 18 mins). 8 Mark Levey. 9 Robert McKenna.. 10 Chris Reilly. 11 Kevin Loughran (Osobe 81 mins). Substitutes: 12 Kurt Murphy. 13 Carlos Donovan. 14 Conor Macken. 16 Michael Osobe. 17 Darren Meehan. 20 Finnian Farrelly.
Match Report compiled by Robert Goggins