Carrick’s Ian Cleary ends up in the net as a chance goes a-begging. Photo: Jim O\'Sullivan

Carrick’s Ian Cleary ends up in the net as a chance goes a-begging. Photo: Jim O'Sullivan

Carrick United 1; Sporting Fingal 3

Sporting Fingal were the third Eircom League club to play a competitive game at Tom Drohan Park on Saturday evening last. Both Cork City and Cobh Ramblers played there in Munster Senior Cup games in 2004 and 2006. Carrick won 2-0 against Ramblers in 2004 while City won 2-0 in 2006. The last time Carrick United played in the FAI Senior Cup against a senior club was also in 2004 against the famed Shamrock Rovers in Richmond Park.

The manager of Rovers on that occasion was Liam Buckley and the same man was in charge of Sporting Fingal on Saturday last. Buckley’s men went into this game as red-hot favourites and they duly booked their place in the quarter-final – but not without a real battle from the Waterford League outfit. Carrick United had to line out without three of their top players due to suspension. In the last round against Everton from Cork, Thomas Fitzgerald, skipper Wayne Fitzgerald and Anthony “Nipper” Power all picked up red cards and as a result they had to sit and watch on Saturday evening.

Another fact that favoured Fingal was that they are deep into a promotion battle with Waterford United, Dundalk and Shelbourne in the First Division while Carrick United have not played a competitive game for many weeks and have yet to get their league season underway.

The odds were stacked against them but for an hour they gave as good as they got and it was only some bad luck that prevented them leading early in the second half. This was a wonderful display by the understrength Carrick side and they left the field with their heads held high.

One of the Sporting Fingal players, the former Waterford United skipper John Frost, admitted that after the game. “I expected a hard game from Carrick and they made us work very hard. If they had all of their players available the result could have gone either way,” said the Tramore man. How right he was.

The game was turned on its head within the space of a minute on the hour mark when the home side leaked two goals and that was that from a Carrick point of view.

Level pegging

Sporting Fingal began the game in fine form and they knocked the ball around the park in fine style. After two minutes Conan Byrne swung over a corner kick from the left to the back post but defender Philip Byrne shot wide. Two minutes later the Carrick United player, Adam McSharry made the visiting goalkeeper Brendan Clarke with a stinging shot from just outside the penalty area.

Adrian Walsh in the Carrick goal produced the first of his many fine saves on eight minutes when he turned an effort from Paul Caffrey around his left upright. Fingal continued to press forward and John Frost was the next visiting player to make the home defence work with a cross from the left but Peter Hynes headed wide from a decent position.

On 11 minutes Peter Hynes played the ball to Robbie Doyle, who turned quickly inside the penalty area and let fly at the Carrick goal but once again the diving Adrian Walsh was equal to the task. The sizable home support thought that Carrick had taken the lead on 13 minutes. James Walsh played a long ball down the right flank to Barry Murphy who skipped past John Frost before shooting at goal from the right side of the penalty area. His effort beat the Fingal goalkeeper Clarke but defender Philip Byrne somehow managed to kick the ball off the line with Ian Cleary ready to pounce.

Sporting Fingal came back attacking and on 26 minutes Colm James gave Adrian Walsh a chance to display his class and the home goalkeeper was back in action once again shortly afterwards by saving brilliantly from Conan Byrne, who had controlled a fine ball from Robbie Doyle.

The opening goal arrived on 32 minutes and it was a disappointing one from a Carrick point of view. John Frost played a short free-kick to Fiachra McArdle who crossed deep into the box from the left. Adrian Walsh and full-back Brian Barry both went for the ball and that gave Philip Byrne the chance to head to the net from close range.

Carrick were not upset by falling behind and they equalised on 41 minutes in stunning fashion. Adrian Walsh knocked the ball downfield and his kick was flicked on by Alan Ryan to Keith Walsh, whose dipping strike from 25 yards flew past Brendan Clarke in the Fingal goal. That superb strike meant it was all to play for in the second half.

Crazy minute

Carrick came out of the traps quickly and they put the visitors on the back foot with some excellent football during the opening minutes of the second half. Five minutes in Stephen Hahessy, who had replaced Richie Lawrence, had a shot from inside the penalty area blocked by Chris Deans. The ball fell to Keith Walsh who shot across goal from the left but at the back post Ian Cleary just failed to get a foot to the ball and give Carrick the lead.

More pressure followed from Carrick and Stephen Hahessy clipped the outside of the upright from 20 yards and then Ian Cleary brought an excellent save from Brendan Clarke. Sporting Fingal began to get back into the game following those scares and Derek Tyrell went close with a header when he met a cross from Robbie Doyle.

The roof fell in on Carrick when they conceded two goals within the space of a minute. Conan Byrne whipped in a corner kick from the left on 61 minutes and the unfortunate Adam McSharry headed past his own goalkeeper Adrian Walsh as he tried to clear under pressure from Peter Hynes.

Straight from the kick-off Fingal went on the attack once again. Peter Hynes began the move out on the right. He played the ball forward to Peter Hynes who in turn knocked the ball forward to Robbie Doyle and the ace marksman who has scored some fine goals this season in the League of Ireland lobbed the ball over Adrian Walsh from 15 yards.

Those two quick goals knocked the stuffing out of the Waterford League club and their run in the senior cup competition had come to an end. Walsh was called into action on two more occasions afterwards and once again he did the business from Fiachra McArdle and Conan Byrne.

Carrick United now begin the task of winning their league crown back from Waterford Crystal and of course retaining the FAI Junior Cup which they won on that glorious day at the RSC back in May against Killester United. Gong on their display during the opening hour of this game they will go very close to achieving both aims.

Carrick United: Adrian Walsh, James Walsh, Brian Barry, Anthony O’Donnell, John Walsh, Keith Walsh, Adam McSharry, Alan Ryan, Barry Murphy, Ian Cleary, Richie Lawrence. Subs: Stephen Hahessy for Lawrence (H-T), Alan Redmond for Murphy (68 mins), Glen Keane for Keith Walsh (77 mins).

Sporting Fingal: Brendan Clarke, Derek Tyrell, John Frost, Chris Deans, Philip Byrne, Colm James, Conan Byrne, Fiachra McArdle, Peter Hynes, Paul Caffrey, Robbie Doyle. Subs: Paul Byrne for Hynes (83 mins), Daniel Corcoran for Doyle (83 mins), Brian Gannon for Tyrell (85 mins).

Referee: Hugo Whorisky (Meath)

Man of the Match: The Ford FAI award was presented by Milo Corcoran to Anthony O’Donnell, the Carrick United central defender. “Daffy”, as he is affectionately known, did not put a foot wrong all through the game and he kept a tight grip on Robbie Doyle.
Footnote: The Carrick club wish to thank the following who helped insure all FAI stipulations were meet on the day. Pat Fitzgerald and John Finn for scaffolding, Rathgormack GAA for dug-outs, Peter Costello for the press trailer, the ambulance crew, catering ladies, our good neighbours St Mollerans and John O Loughan all the stewards and ball boys. A huge amount of work was put in by various officers and committee members for the past two weeks, so take bow everyone as all went off well.