Ash­ford see off United to book their fi­nal spot

Bray People - - SPORT - JAMES NOLAN At Ballinlea Park

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.

ASH­FORD ROVERS

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)

ARK­LOW UNITED

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.

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