Seven time winners Fairview Rangers qualified for the quarterfinal of the FAI Junior Cup following a tight game with arch rivals Pike Rovers at the Pike Club on Sunday afternoon. (Final score: Pike Rovers 0 Fairview Rangers 1)
A packed Crossagalla was expecting a thrilling encounter but witnessed instead an intriguing battle spoiled somewhat by a swirling wind that prevented either side from producing any flowing football.
In the end a scrappy goal by Robbie Kelleher separated the sides in a game where chances were truly at a premium.
The home side, with a gale force wind at their back in the opening forty five minutes, failed to test Fairview net minder, Aaron Savage.
In truth, Savage did not have a direct save to make in the ninety minutes although he did make a couple of vital interceptions in the second half.
With both sets of players so familiar with the others’ strength and weakness, it was always going to be a tight affair with few raising their heads above the parapet
There were a couple of stand out performances with Fairview’s Stephen Bradley proving particularly effective in his holding role in front of the back four. Keeping it simple, time and again he got a toe in or nudged his opponent off the ball when the home side were threatening.
Mark Slattery at the heart of the defence and Ross Mann as an outlet up front were also vital to the winners.
The home sides main regret will be the lack of chances created. They had plenty of possession unfortunately most of it stemming from their own defence with Robbie Williams and Pat Mullins always making themselves available, but when they reached the danger zone, they were unable to find the required final pass.
In an opening 45 minutes played in the most in the middle third, Pike looked like they might get through when Evan Patterson got clear on the right but his ball across the goal saw Slattery complete a superb tackle to block Jonathan Grant.
The Fairview defender was again in the right spot when his sliding block denied Colin Daly with the home player’s claims of a hand ball going unheeded.
A free kick from 25 yards by Clyde O’Connell was parried by Gary Neville but Jeffery Judge, following up, blazed the rebound over the top from close range.
The deadlock was broken ten minutes from the break. A foul on the right on Kelleher saw AJ O’Connor delivery a ball into the area where Kelleher got a touch to knock it over the line.
After the break Pike went in search of an equaliser but a couple of Eoin Hanrahan headers just wide of target was as close as they went.
Aaron Savage came to gather and punch clear on a couple of occasions to clear the danger but Pike just could not get in behind.
Frustrations came to a head in the dying minutes and Pike were reduced to ten, putting paid to their challenge.
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville; Wayne O'Donovan; Paddy O'Malley; Pat Mullins; Robbie Williams; Evan Patterson; Shane Walsh; Colin Daly; Eoin Hanrahan; Wayne Colbert; Jonathan Grant. Subs: Conor Kavanagh; Colm Walsh O'Loughlin; Keith Mawdsley; Oisin Kelly
Fairview Rgs: Aaron Savage; Dermot Fitzgerald; Jamie Enright; Mark Slattery; Clyde O'Connell; AJ O'Connor; Jeffery Judge; Steven Bradley; Eddie Byrnes; Ross Mann; Robbie Kelleher. Subs: Adam Frahill; Eoin Duff; Liam Byrnes