Penalty heartbreak for Pike Rovers against North End Utd in FAI Junior Cup final

Andrew Cunneen at the Aviva Stadium

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Andrew Cunneen at the Aviva Stadium

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Penalty heartbreak for Pike Rovers against North End Utd in FAI Junior Cup final

Paul Murphy of North End United in action against Patrick Mullins of Pike Rovers during the FAI New Balance Junior Cup Final

PIKE ROVERS SUFFERED shootout heartbreak in the FAI Junior Cup final at the Aviva Stadium after a hotly-contested 1-1 draw with North End United.

Gary Delaney slotted the winning spot-kick after Colin Daly saw his penalty saved by the excellent Lee Walker.

The opening stages felt like Pike were suffering a from two-year hangover after being shot down by Sheriff YC in 2016’s FAI Junior Cup final. They were sloppy in possession and gifted the majority of play to the Wexford counterparts.

So often, Steven McGann has been Pike’s go-to for a moment of magic but it was his error early on that almost cost the Limerick outfit.

He undercooked a pass to Wayne Colbert, allowing the experienced former Waterford United striker Alan Murphy to nip in. However, on this occasion – Pike got off the hook.

However, such is the case with Murphy’s Law that things typically wrong. And so they did. Another mix-up at the back allowed Murphy through. This time, his touch was better. His second touch brought the ball away from goal, but Pike stopper Gary Neville was adjudged to have hacked down the veteran frontman.

Referee Derek O’Shea pointed the spot and Paul Murphy pointed to the North End support after sending Neville the wrong way.

There would be little action left in the first half, and little North End action left in the entire game.

Pike seized the game by the scruff of the neck after what must have been an eye-opening half-time team talk.

Colin Daly’s clever runs weren’t being spotted for the majority of this tie, so he took it upon himself to make the difference on the hour mark.

Frontman Cian Collins laid-off to the playmaker on the right-hand corner of the North End box and he did the rest. Jinking in and out of tackles, Daly had the Wexford outfit chasing shadows before he was eventually up-ended by the penalty spot.

Claims for a penalty were muted, but it mattered not, as that man Steven McGann was on hand to bury past the unconvincing Lee Walker to level the tie.

As the size of the pitch began to take its toll, both sides struggled in possession. The best chance of the remainder of normal time fell to Cian Collins but Lee Walker was equal to it.

Extra-time was almost a non-event as neither side could string any moves together and the tie therefore seemed destined for a shootout from early on.

The cruellest decider in sport ultimately sealed Pike's fate, despite a valiant effort on the day. 

Pike Rovers: Gary Neville; Wayne O’Donovan, Patrick Mullins, Wayne Colbert (Darragh Carroll, 60), Edward O’Donovan; Shane Walsh, Steven McGann, Colin Daly; Eoin Hanrahan (Jason Mullins, 19 (David Ryan, 110)), Cian Collins, Paddy O’Malley (Cian Power, 81).

North End United: Lee Walker; Warren Broaders, Decky Downes (Adam Beary, 65), Gary Delaney, Dale Flynn; Kyle Depmsey, Lee Wadding-Byrne (Paul Murphy, 80), Keith Kearney, Jason Murphy, Robin Dempsey (Gary Byrne, 46); Paul Murphy (John Fenlon, 73).

Referee: Derek O’Shea.