SLIDESHOW: Pike Rovers book Aviva Stadium date with FAI Junior Cup win over Newmarket Celtic

Pat Sheehan


Pat Sheehan


Saturday May 12 will see Pike Rovers fans and Limerick Soccer fans in general trek to the Capital for the 2017/18 FAI Junior Cup final after the Hoops momentous 3-2 extra time win over Newmarket Celtic at a packed Pike Club on Sunday afternoon.

Mike Shiels side did it the hard way after squandering a two goal lead before snatching victory in extra time in an enthralling encounter.  A goal early in each half by Colin Daly had Pike in the driving seat before the visitors grabbed a hold of the game.
For the final half hour it was backs to wall stuff for the Hoops with some outstanding performances.

With Pat Mullins failing a fitness test much was made of the threat to the Pike defence posed by a star studded Celtic side.  However Wayne Colbert pulled out another of this performances he is renowned for. The ball found him like a magnet time after time and his prodding and poking of his fellow defenders ensured all were at their best.

Whenever the visitors got beyond the backline they were met by keeper Gary Neville, his man of the match award fully merited, who pulled off a number of vital saves, none more so to deny Ian Collins a winner five minutes into injury time.
Newmarket will be bitterly disappointed. They must have thought that when they forced the game to extra time, they would prevail over a tiring home side.

They eased off the gas in extra time and Pike pounced so many people's favourites for the competition must wait another season.  Pike had a chance inside the opening minute when Eddie O'Donovan's delivery into the box was met by Eoin Hanrahan but headed straight at keeper Shane Cusack.
A mistake at the back allowed David McCarthy a good chance to open the scoring but Pike defender Wayne O'Donovan made a fine goal line clearance.

Pike did not learn from their error and a minute later another slip forced Gary Neville to knock Hayes' shot over the top.
Neville made another superb save, when unsighted got a crucial hand to block Colin Smyth's effort.
Pike broke the deadlock on 15 minutes. Cian Collins collected wide on the right and found Hanrahan who made a superb run in along the end line. His ball across the face of goal was touched home at the front post by the alert Daly.
Pike had a half chance when Collins looped the ball over his marker but the ball just wouldn't drop to allow him a shot and minutes later Daly and Collins again combined but the latter's back heel was not read by his team mate and the chance was lost.

The last action of the half gave warning of Newmarket's threat when Tino Nzvaura lost his marker but headed wide of goal from six yards. 

It was Pike who struck first after the restart, doubling their lead within three minutes. Colin Daly started the move inside his own half, played Cian Collins free on the right and ran the length of the pitch to take the return pass and blast the ball past Cusack for a super goal.

It was game on 12 minutes later when Pike failed to clear a long throw-in and when Hayes returned the ball to the danger zone, Stephen Kelly headed the ball home from 6 yards.
Some last gasp defending with blocks from Colbert and Darragh Carroll kept Pike in front.

A good run by Hayes teed up McCarthy but Neville made a fine save turning the ball around the post.
With time running out McCarthy's dropping volley fell inches over the top.  Pike's relief was premature however as 90 minute mark saw Celtic awarded a free kick, McCarthy delivered into the penalty area and Junior Player of the year, Stephen Kelly, rose majestically and powered a header to the back of the net.

With Pike clinging on for extra time, the visitors broke 3 on one. Hayes took out the last defender to set up Ian Collins 15 yards out but the out-rushing Neville made a brilliant save to send the game to extra time.
Pike regained the lead in the first period of extra time when Celtic failed to properly clear and Eoin Hanrahan drilled a super ball across the face of goal. Youth player Cian Power raced in at the back post and under pressure, defender Eoin O'Brien unluckily knocked the ball into his own net. 

Again the visitors went in search of the equaliser but a string of excellent saves from Neville saw the Hoops through to their third final in seven years.  Wexford side North End United will provide the opposition in the decider.

Pike Rovers: Gary Neville; Wayne O'Donovan; Eddie O'Donovan; Darragh Carroll; Wayne Colbert; Eoin Hanrahan; Steve McGann; Shane Walsh; Cian Collins; Colin Daly; Paddy O'Malley. Subs: Jason Mullins; Brian O'Callaghan; Dave Ryan; Cian Power
Newmarket Celtic: Shane Cusack; Seamus Lawlor; Eoin O'Brien; Stephen Kelly; Paddy Purcell; Colin Ryan; Tino Nzvaura; Colin Smyth; Eoin Hayes; David McCarthy; David Reidy. Subs: Daithi O'Connell; Ian Collins