Firhouse Clover sank Letterkenny Rovers’ dreams of an Aviva Stadium return with an early goal in each half to reach the FAI New Balance Intermediate Cup final.
Firhouse Clover 2 Letterkenny Rovers 0
by Chris McNulty in Tallaght
Rory O’Connor and Conor Byrne struck for the Leinster Senior League side as they held sway in this afternoon’s semi-final replay at Killinarden.
The goals came six minutes into the halves and Rovers, left with a mountain to climb, were heading for the exit.
After the scoreless draw at Leckview Park a fortnight ago, Rovers headed for the capital hopeful of a return to Lansdowne Road for the second time in three seasons.
But their bid got off to a torrid start. Goalkeeper Rory Kelly and his rearguard got their wires badly tangled and a short kick-out from Kelly was intercepted by Carl Forsyth, who off-loaded to O’Connor and the finish must’ve felt like a dagger through the arteries for the Rovers contingent.
Rovers lived dangerously in those early moments and couldn’t seem to shake the heads clear.
Conor Tourish’s intervention was timely as he stepped in to thwart Byrne soon after, while Forsyth had a chance to punish another opening, but Rovers survived.
Eamonn McConigley included former Derry City and Cork City attacker Cillian Morrison, recruited since the drawn game, in from the off and he headed over from a Chris Flanagan corner on 25 minutes.
Rovers were still without the injured Paul McVeigh, while Pajo Rafferty was absent having been hit with a 12-month ban by the FAI during the week following an incident in the first game.
Rovers began to settle to the task when Ryan McConnell’s floated cross found David Shovlin, but an attempted acrobatic effort didn’t really trouble Ian Molloy, the Firhouse goalkeeper.
Michael Doyle found himself in with a chance of a second, but couldn’t keep his effort on target with Firhouse smelling blood.
Doyle turned provider when his low cross invited a finish from O’Connor, but the stretching striker just couldn’t connect.
Byrne forced a save from Kelly and the interval enabled Rovers to regroup.
A decent start to the second half saw Shovlin fire off target, but Rovers found themselves lifting their coats when Firhouse hit their second.
Ryan Gildea, who had been an injury doubt beforehand, pulled up as he attempted to chase down a ball down the Rovers left. With Rovers exposed, Byrne drilled home, Rovers were heading home and Firhouse began to plot for their big final date with Maynooth in May.
Firhouse Clover: Ian Molloy; Peter O’Donnell, Luke Walsh, Patrick Trophy, Craig Farrelly; Adrian Rafferty, Michael McLaughlin, Michael Doyle, Carl Forsyth; Rory O’Connor, Conor Byrne. Subs: Gerry Bandbrick for O’Connor (39), Lorcan Patton for McLaughlin (56), Adrian White for Byrne (80).
Letterkenny Rovers: Rory Kelly; Conor Tourish, Ryan McConnell, Ryan Gildea; Luke Nelis, David Shovlin, Christy Connaghan, Kevin McGrath, Chris Flanagan; Darren McElwaine, Cillian Morrison. Subs: Chris Malseed for Gildea (52), Ryan Lonergan for McGrath (52), Steve Okakpu-Emeka for McElwaine (60), Garbhan Grant for Connaghan (69), Declan Sharkey for Nelis (83).Tags: