Penalty shootout despair for Ashford
Conyard’s men bow out
WICKLOW champions Ashford Rovers bowed out of the Leinster Senior Cup in heartbreaking fashion last Sunday in Carlow. Clifton Conyard’s men turned in a gallant display for 120 minutes against a strong Hanover Harps side only to see a potential clash with Dublin powerhouse Sheriff YC wrestled from their grasp in a penalty shootout.
A pleasant afternoon saw the Ashford men arrive at the bobbly pitch nestled snugly in the heart of several housing estates.
Conyard’s men would be without the services of some stalwarts such as Danny Byrne but would be looking to a healthy mix of youth and experience with the likes of Andy Earls, Jack Geraghty and Jamie Byrne lining up with warriors such as Brian Coen, Mick Taylor and Brendan Manning as they looked to get past the Carlow champions who possessed the talented Ray Walker, Sean Kavanagh and Murt Bambrick in their ranks and had former Carlow GAA footballer Derek Hayden listed as a substitute.
Ashford Rovers would start brightly. Jack Geraghty brought Hanover Harps goalkeeper Kevin Power into the game early on with a snappy shot while Andy Earls pulled an effort wide after seven minutes from an Anto Byrne corner.
Hanover Harps settled into the fray and they looked strong in places. Ray Walker would enjoy a huge game but would be pushed all the way by Andy Earls who kept him company throughout.
The home side will wonder how they didn’t cause Cathal Moody more of a problem when a Simon O’Shea cross wasn’t dealt with by the Ashford defence and Niall Quinlan looked to have a simple tap home at his feet, but he made a mess of it and Moody gathered easily.
Brendan Manning created a half-chance out of nothing after 13 but he won’t want to watch the video of his final effort back too many times as his left-footed effort was so wayward it didn’t even go wide.
You knew there were goals in this game, the question was how many there would be and, more importantly, who would score them.
Hanover Harps almost broke the deadlock on 22 minutes when Murt Bambrick’s effort walloped off Moody’s crossbar. This was followed by a wicked shot from Simon O’Shea after 24 that careered wide.
The writing was on the wall for Ashford Rovers. They were going to fall behind because they weren’t switched on at the back and Niall Quinlan’s opener after 31 came about as a result of that sleepiness as he walked through the Ashford defence to fire home.
Nine minutes later Ashford would equalise; Andy Earls getting on the end of a ball to poke home past Kevin Power for a sweet goal. And it could have been even better had the impressive Ruadhan Fallon Verbruggen’s ambitious lob not sailed agonisingly over the Hanover crossbar after 52.
More slack defending from Ashford 12 minutes into the second half saw Stephan Chalton fire home but barely 60 seconds had elapsed before Robbie Eyre lashed home after a lovely move from the visitors.
Ashford’s game was improving steadily, and they were looking confident of coming away from the Carlow venue with victory. And they had their chances. Brian Coen had an excellent chance and Andy Earls fired wide from distance. In between those shots Hanover switched Murt Bambrick and substitute Ben Dargan and a few moments later Clifton Conyard introduced Naoise Treacy for Jack Geraghty and sent him across to pick up Bambrick.
Nathan Doyle would be introduced for Ashford with Finn Brooks retreating to left back and Cian Marah would come in for Andy Earls as we looked destined for extra-time and beyond.
Ashford’s Jamie Byrne was operating up front in extra-time and he showed his class when he fired home a ripper right at the death of the first half. Could Ashford hold on? Unfortunately, not. A fine move down the right wing by Ben Dargan saw him slip a ball across to Dylan Walsh who fired home from close range, 3-3.
On to penalties then and things were looking promising for the visitors when Moody got down to save Ben Dargan’s spot kick after successful strikes from Robbie Eyre, Brendan Manning and Ruadhan Fallon Verbruggen.
Jamie Byrne continued the scoring from the spot, but Brian Coen’s effort was saved by Kevin Power and when Niall Swan converted it was 4-4.
Cian Marah, Mick Taylor and Finn Brooks found their targets but Naoise Treacy blazed over after having trouble finding a decent grounding for the ball which is never a good thing to see for a penaty taker.
That left it at 7-7 with Hanover next up. Goalkeeper Kevin Power assumed the responsibility and he lashed home a beauty to kill the Ashford dream.
Tough way to lose but a monumental effort from Clifton Conyard’s men.
Ashford Rovers, who bowed out of the Leinster Senior Cup at the hands of Hanover Harps of Carlow.