Fairview Rangers inflicted a second hammering of the season on Tuohy Cup holders Carew Park to earn a semi-finals clash with Janesboro.
Avenging August’s 5-0 defeat to the same opposition never looked on the cards for a Carew side configured in what looked like a deeply unusual 4-1-3-2 formation.
While the formation itself isn’t unseen, the decision to employ wingers within it very much is, and it afforded Fairview just as much space in midfield as they enjoyed the last time these clubs locked horns.
Compounding the tactical weirdness was the decision to start Jonathan Grant on the right of midfield, and Carew predictably improved when the number 10 swapped with Alex Purcell midway through the first-half.
Fairview weren’t exactly compact from back-to-front either, offering Grant the chance to drop between the lines and play through-balls — one of which was threaded down the inside-left for Mark McGrath, who was foiled by Shane Cusack’s brisk rush off the goal-line.
Cusack’s opposite number Jamie Stewart — in for the unavailable Brian Collopy — did not cover himself in glory for Fairview’s opener, for which the goalkeeper should have done better with Christy Doyle’s effort from the edge of the Carew area.
Doyle was teed up from the left-wing, where Darragh Rainsford was tormenting Keegan Park, a midfielder-by-trade asked to stand in at right-back again to cover the absences of Mark Slattery (suspended) and Ryan Earls (cup-tied).
If this was to be one of his last game’s for the club, Rainsford — who featured in a friendly against the Defence Forces for former club Limerick on Tuesday — is certainly going out on a high.
The soon-to-be-Shannonsider delivered several crosses, both from open play and set-pieces, that his teammates should have made more of — especially frustrating after Purcell’s 25th-minute fluked equaliser looped past Cusack, by way of a deflection off Jonathan Hannafin.
Park’s chances of fending off Fairview’s left-flank forays improved when Purcell was moved in front of him, but the former Aisling man still paid the ultimate price, by joining the ineffectual Ken O’Donoghue in getting the half-time hook.
Although both changes would eventually wreak unintended consequences, Carew did enjoy a strong ten-minute spell at the beginning of the second-half.
Man of the match in his first Premier Division start of the season on Sunday, Fairview centre-back Brian Fitzgerald missed two vital interceptions early on to place his side firmly under the cosh.
First, a left-wing cross from O’Donoghue’s replacement Kieran Hanlon evaded the swinging boot of Fitzgerald, tempting Hannafin to commit a silly foul on Purcell at the back post to compensate.
Gary Griffin saw his resultant penalty-kick repelled by the legs of Cusack, but Carew came close again moments later, when Fitzgerald failed to block Grant’s ball through to McGrath, who curled inches wide of Cusack’s left-hand post.
That was as good as it got for the holders, who offered up more and more midfield space to Paul O’Donnell’s side as they tired.
AJ O’Connor, who took the game by the scruff of the neck after an error-strewn first-half for he and Craig Madigan, kicked off the rout by threading a wonderful long through-ball down the inside-right channel. David Hannon ran on to it and kept his nerve to complete an excellent counter-attack.
Park’s half-time departure saw Adam Frahill shifted to right-back, with substitute Derek Hanlon slotted into the holding role, and Carew looked even more disastrously unstructured without the energetic Frahill bombing around in front of his defence to compensate.
That mess was summed up shortly before Fairview’s third goal, when Madigan collected a long-ball under no pressure near the centre-circle, with two other Fairview players also unmarked in close vicinity.
The ease with which Steven Conway scored that third goal beggared belief too, as the right-back overlapped freely, sauntered inside past Jon Somers, and deftly lobbed Stewart to put the game to bed.
Although partly culpable, there was some justification to the criticism Somers dished back at his enraged management team, whose decision-making handed him a left-winger to work with that was nowhere near the position he should have been in.
Fairview added a fourth soon after, when Madigan was shambolically allowed to leap under no pressure and head in Rainsford’s pinpoint inswinging corner.
O’Donnell was even confident enough to give two of his back four the rest of the night off at this point, but the dual departure of John Mullane and Conway allowed Kieran Hanlon to collect a wall-pass in the Fairview area, and bag a late consolation.
Man of the Match
Doyle 22′, Hannon 64′, Conway 75′, Madigan 78′; Purcell 25′, K. Hanlon 89′