Ashford see off United to book their final spot
ASHFORD ROVERS ARKLOW UNITED 4 2
DAY 2 of Jim McLaughlin Premier Division Cup semi-final action saw Ashford Rovers play host to Arklow United at a blustery Ballinlea Park.
A final date with Rathnew AFC was up for grabs after the Villagers came from 31 down to win by four goals to three against Arklow Town FC the night previous.
This promised to be a close tie as both teams won their home games against one another by two goals in the league campaign.
The opening 10 minutes consisted of Arklow United pressure, forcing the Ashford defence into a few errors. In the seventh minute United took the early lead. A long ball up from the back was taken down by Connor Murray with the target man slotting past Paul Conyard. The goal was met by protests from the home sideline that thought Murray was offside, but the goal stood.
One minute later Arklow were in dreamland as they scored again. Sloppy Ashford defending lead to Connor Murray sneaking in behind the Rovers protectors, smashing the ball into the top right hand corner to double his and United's tally for the match.
Arklow then had a few nervy moments in the next 15 minutes. Dean Doyle broke through on goal but was unable to convert, United custodian Tommy Hurley making the save with his legs.
Then Danny Byrne swung a free kick right on top of Hurley and Brendan Manning's pressure caused the goalie to drop the ball but nobody was present to turn the ball in.
Ashford were playing their way into the game, looking more and more confident as the minutes went on and on the 25th minute mark they pulled a goal back.
Andrew Reilly floated a long free kick into the box, Dean Doyle went full stretch at the back post to knock the ball into the bottom corner and make proceedings very interesting.
Three minutes later Ashford nearly made it 2 apiece. Andrew Reilly played another good ball into the box, this time from a corner, which Danny Byrne headed wide at the back post.
In the 32nd minute Ashford felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Brendan Manning was brought down in the area but Gavin Colfer confidently waved away any enquiries made.
Rovers equalised in the lead up to half time. A cluster of bodies in the Arklow box lead to a massive scramble with the United defenders not being able to clear the ball away.
Danny Byrne punished Arklow for their failures by smashing home to level it up at 2-2. The game was well and truly on now. It was level at the break and it was looking like the heat of the occasion was getting to Arklow United, Ashford were well and truly at the races now.
Ashford tipped off to begin the second period and as soon as we got going, Rovers took the lead for the first time. Danny Byrne went on a sensational run with the ball, running half the length of the pitch from the tip off. Byrne played the ball into Finn Brooks in the box and Brooks was left with a tap in to spark wild celebrations.
Ashford could not afford to be complacent as they saw first hand what Arklow United were capable of.
In the 56th minute it was nearly four for Rovers. Andrew Reilly gave the dangerous Danny Byrne a run down the left, Byrne spotted Tommy Hurley off his line and went for the lob but the attempt went over the bar.
A few minutes later Ashford experienced a heart in mouth moment. Paul Conyard got caught in no mans land after he came a mile outside his box to clear his lines. Gary Byrne beat Conyard to the ball and fired a shot at an empty net with the effort rattling the crossbar.
Ashford had two great chances to wrap it up in the space of a minute. Substitute Paul Burton saw his goal bound effort punched over by Tommy Hurley and Brendan Manning hit the bar with a bullet of a header off the corner that followed.
In the 78th minute Ashford were finally home and dry when they scored their fourth to round off a superb comeback performance. Finn Brooks returned the favour to Danny Byrne, who assisted Brook's goal earlier on. Brooks went on a run down the right, squaring the ball to Danny Byrne in the box and Byrne did not disappoint, scoring to send Ashford through to the final.
Gavin Colfer called a halt to proceedings, booking Ashford's place in the Jim McLaughlin Premier Cup final versus Rathnew AFC A.
Ashford did not drop the heads when they went two goals down in the first eight minutes of the match, this proved to be the difference between the two sides as Arklow United struggled to cope with the pressure.
Top Form: Danny Byrne (Ashford Rovers), he ran himself into the ground, scored a brace, got an assist and showed great skill at times. A masterclass performance.
1. Paul Conyard, 2. Peter Bell, 3. Andrew Reilly, 4. Mick Taylor, 5. Joe Byrne, 6. Finn Brooks, 7. Craig Quinn, 8. Paul Duffy, 9. Danny Byrne, 10. Dean Doyle, 11. Brendan Manning, SUBS: 12. Stephen Kenny, 13. Thomas Byrne (for Manning, 87 mins), 14. Paul Burton (for Duffy, 60 mins)
1. Tommy Hurley, 2. Ryan Werder, 3. Olagh Redmond, 4. Owan Brennan, 5. Paul Lawlor, 6. Gary Byrne, 7. Alan O'Neill, 8. Brian Thompson, 9. Craig Kinsella, 10. Connor Murray, 11. Dylan Delaney, SUBS: 12. Darragh McBride (for Delaney, 78 mins) , 13. Robbie Hughes (for O'Neill, 73 mins), 14. Derek Hannagan (for Werder, half time) VENUE: Ballinlea Park
REFEREE: Gavin Colfer
Arklow's Dylan Delaney clears off the line in the semi-final clash.
Set piece action during the Permier 1 Cup semi-final in Ballinlea Park.