BALDOYLE UNITED…….3 PHOENIX FC…..4
IF the FAI Junior Cup keeps offering up games of such sumptuous entertainment, the 100th incarnation of the fabled competition will go down as arguably the best there has been.
Great credit to Baldoyle United on the Leinster Senior League and AUL visitors Phoenix FC for the brilliant spectacle they put on at the Brookstone Road on Sunday and while Baldoyle will feel aggrieved not to have at least forced extratime, they can take credit for their brilliant contribution to a game that swung one way and another before the visitors bagged a late, late winner through substitute Shane Meehan.
By EAMON SCOTT
This was Phoenix’s third game in seven days and they had to draft in reserves from their second string but ultimately they bagged a hard fought win with the finishing eleven barely resembling their starting eleven.
The game took a little while to catch fire as passes went astray or were intercepted early on but Baldoyle had to be alert in the third minute as Sean Kelly got a big block in as Robert Keegan got a goalbound shot away from close in.
But the home side soon settled and Stephen Sheehan stroked some nice passes around the middle of the park while Cian Leeson up front looked lively. Leeson came close with a rehearsed free to the near post from Sam McGuinness but he got under the ball and skied it over the bar from close in with eight minutes on the clock.
For Phoenix, Shane Hughes was proving a handful for the home defence and his excellent touch and clever footwork kept Baldoyle on their toes.
The best early chance however fell to Baldoyle with Ben Lyndsay crossing deep to find Stuart Cooling at the back post but with only Sean Hawkins in the Phoenix goal to beat, he headed the ball the wrong side of the post to let a glorious chance slip away.
The breakthrough came from the Marc Hughes managed Phoenix in the 27th minute – but there was a hint of controversy about it. Fullbacks Sam McGuinness and Phoenix’s Niall Blayney contested possession just on the end line but it looked as if it had gone out off the Phoenix player. Referee Claudiu Cimpoeusu insisted otherwise and said it was off the Baldoyle player.
The resultant kick evaded the leap of Baldoyle netminder Andrew Shortall and Hughes was at the back post to nod home from two yards out to give Phoenix the lead.
The setback fired up Baldoyle and their response was near instantaneous and the green and white hoops were back on level terms within three minutes and it was the impressive Leeson who drilled home a great goal as he pivoted with his back to goal and fired his low drilled shot back across Hawkins from 25 yards out.
Jason Sheehan was forced out of the game through injury in the 34th minute to be replaced by Shane Meehan.
The home then side got their noses in front and it all came off the back of a poor corner by David Stanley.
His kick failed to clear the first defender and Baldoyle immediately broke upfield in a sweeping move and when Keith Lally saw his show cannon back off the base of the upright, the ball angled to the feet of Jason Sheridan 20 yards out and he took a touch and hit a piledriver past Hawkins, the ball arrowing home just inside the post.
Phoenix were forced into more halftime changes but they were given a lifeline in the 54th minute thanks to a penalty award from Cimpoesu who deemed that Shane Meehan was taken down from behind just inside the box and the same player dusted himself down to stroke past Shortall who dived early to his left.
Baldoyle bossed the pitch at times and Phoenix had to dig deep and defend for all they were worth and they were grateful to Hawkins for a brilliant save off a thunderbolt half-volley from Stuart Cooling with the Phoenix keeper parrying the ball over the bar for a fruitless corner in the 56th minute.
Then just shy of the hour mark Phoenix retook the lead and it was another substitute Conor Healy who timed his run to perfection to smash the ball past Shortall who might have been unsighted by Shane Meehan.
Hawkins held a flashing header from Stuart Cooling as Baldoyle looked to get back on level terms once again. They didn’t have to wait long however and again it was down to poor defending. A long throw into the box was allowed to bounce and Cian Leeson was quickest to react and he pulled on the dropping ball to force it past a line of Phoenix defenders.
That was in minute 74 and you felt that there were still more goals in the game. Both sides began to tire and players needing attention for cramp disrupted the flow of what had been an excellent tempo throughout.
The winner came from substitute Sheehan in the 86th who managed to unlock the Baldoyle rear guard with a well timed run in on goal and while Shortall advanced to narrow the angle, Sheehan kept a cool head to slide the ball just inside the left hand post.
With the clock ticking down you knew that Baldoyle would carve out a chance in the remaining minutes. And that’s exactly what they did forcing a late late corner that was eventually held by Hawkins while a free kick at the death was also gratefully swallowed up by the visiting goalkeeper.
It proved to be the final threat on goal but credit to the sides who attempted to play ball at all times and while like any good cup competition was competitive, it was never dirty. A cracking encounter to light up the centenary of the fabled FAI Junior Cup and if this is the calibre and standard we can look forward to, bring it on!
BALDOYLE UNITED: Andrw Shortall; Sam McGuinness, Ben Lyndsey, Philip Doyle, Sean Kelly, Kevin Boyd, Keith Lally, Stephen Sheehan, Stuart Colling, Jason Sheehan, Cian Leeson. Subs: Kevin Hughes, Reece Duffy, Stephen Hanaphy, P Murphy.
PHOENIX FC: Sean Hawkins; Karl Oliver, Niall Blaney, Philip Keating, Anthony Hayden, David Stanley, Loran Shannon, Owen Rogers, Shane Hughes, Robert Keegan, Shane Darcy. Subs: Tiernan Clerkin, Liam Meehan, Shane Meehan, Jamie McKenna, Luke Walsh, Shane Crawford, Conor Healy.
Referee: Claudiu Cimpoeusu.