Shelbourne edged past Crettyard United to reach the Quarter finals of the Leinster Senior Cup on Sunday afternoon thanks to a late, late winner from Conan Byrne.
In the end you would have to say that Shelbourne deserved their win, holding the lion’s share of possession and creating the overwhelming majority of chances. But Crettyard must be given credit for a performance that, in defensive terms at least, often bordered on the heroic.
A decent crowd turned out at St Patrick’s Boys football club in Graiguecullen on the outskirts of Carlow Town but the game rarely settled in a first half that fell victim to a soft pitch and a blustery wind. Shelbourne lined up with a starting eleven packed with genuine quality but they never managed to fully tame the conditions, while the home side struggled to make good use of what little possession they had.
Chris Mulhall took the first pot shot at the Crettyard goal after just six minutes but ballooned his effort over the bar under pressure from the committed home defence, while Kevin Dawson did likewise from a Barry Clancy cross just one minute later.
Conan Byrne looked the most likely man to provide a breakthrough for Alan Mathews men in the early stages, crossing for Clancy to volley over after ten minutes and breaking from deep on the quarter hour mark to pull back a cross for Dawson having run three quarters the length of the pitch.
Increasingly Shelbourne’s attacks foundered on the twin defensive rocks of Ray Buggy and Terrance Haughney with the latter particularly impressive at thwarting the visitor’s ambitions. As Crettyard grew more into the game it also became apparent that Lee Quaye was a man worth keeping an eye on. Patrolling the right wing he was strong in possession and caused some problems for Shels latest debutant, left back Lorcan Fitzgerald.
But as the half drew to an end it was Mulhall who almost created the opening goal when his first time ball into space set Clancy free, only for the winger to be expertly tackled by Quaye before he could get a shot away. Six minutes later Clancy was involved again when his goalbound shot was blocked by Buggy, prompting loud calls for hand ball and a penalty. Referee Shane Dunphy thought about it but wisely waved play on.
Crettyard had a penalty shout of their own nine minutes into the second half when Haughney met a Craig Comerford corner and blasted a shot against a Shelbourne body. It may have been loud but the appeal owed more to optimism than genuine grievance. The moment was, however, significant for another reason. Haughney suffered an injury and was replaced after lengthy treatment. Crettyard’s Man of the Match was out of the game.
On the hour mark Shelbourne came close with Ian Ryan heading a Conan Byrne corner off John Graham’s crossbar but still the visitor’s struggled to turn possession into profit. Crettyard might have taken advantage had Cristoir Maher kept his curling shot down on 64 minutes, or if Pa Brennan had not shot so weakly at Skinner after a rare break down the left.
But these were occasional and somewhat frantic departures from the status quo with Shelbourne applying increasing pressure as time ebbed away. Arch poacher Philly Hughes replaced Karl Bermingham and Brendan McGill came on for Clancy as Mathews looked for a way to focus his teams territorial dominance into something more clinical.
With fifteen minutes left the breakthrough appeared to have come. David McGill was hauled down inside the box by Buggy who was shown a second yellow and headed for the dressing rooms. Hughes stepped up and cracked the spot kick off the left hand post. Then, as the ball flew straight back to him, he volleyed it wide of the opposite post.
The Shelbourne pressure became relentless on the ten men of Crettyard and with just four minutes left on the clock they finally cracked. Hughes fed a ball to Mulhall on the edge of the box and he, in turn, passed it on to Conan Byrne, advancing into the area from the right. Byrne’s shot flew past Graham and into the narrow gap at the near top corner of the net.
And they might then have added a few more as Crettyard’s resolve buckled. Mulhall was sent clear down the inside left channel and would surely have added a veneer of respectability to the score-line had he not been checked by Comerford. The Crettyard man was shown a straight red for his trouble and the free came to nothing.
Four minutes of added time failed to produce another goal but it was job done for Shels and although it was rarely pretty it would have taken a biased man indeed to argue that they didn’t, ultimately, deserve it.
Crettyard United: John Graham; Keith Nolan, Terrance Haughney (Brendan Fox, 59), Raymond Buggy, David Maher; Lee Quaye, Cristoir Maher, Colin Osborne, Pa Brennan, Craig Comerford, Anthony Houlahan.
Subs not used: Jeff Moran, Willie Fitzpatrick, Mark Fox, Rory Brown, Mark Kelly, Jason Kealy.
Bookings: Nolan (26), Quaye (41), Buggy (48).
Sendings Off: Buggy (75), Comerford (94).
Shelbourne: Paul Skinner; Ian Ryan (David Cassidy, 83), Andy Boyle, Stephen Paisley, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Conan Byrne, David McGill, Kevin Dawson, Barry Clancy (Brendan McGill, 72); Karl Bermingham (Philly Hughes, 64), Chris Mulhall.
Subs not used: Dean Delaney, Ray Scully, Gareth Mathews, John Sullivan.
Sendings Off: None.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Terrance Haughney.
Referee: Shane Dunphy.
Attendance: 300 (estimate).
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org