Moyross United vanquished Kilmallock United to earn an all-northside Lawson Cup semi-final against Ballynanty Rovers.
Both league meetings between these two sides were high-scoring affairs, with Frank Hogan’s Moyross just having the edge. An Adrian Power hat-trick bagged the northsiders a 3-1 home victory in August, before a Barry Quinn treble earned a 3-3 draw for his side in Kilmallock.
When two attractive, defensively-vulnerable, sides like this collide, it tends to produce a chance-laden affair, and so it proved again this morning.
The visitors started the brightest, terrorising Moyross down their left-side, where full-back Aaron Power coped well with the fearsome workload asked of him. Jack Barry was therefore the early focal point of his side’s attack, beating two Moyross defenders in the 10th-minute and forcing Anthony Lee to clear his resultant byline cut-back off the line.
Had Barry gone down under one of those two challenges he may well have received a penalty-kick from referee Ken Gorman.
Although they are lumbered with the second-worst defensive record in the league, Kilmallock’s makeshift centre-back pairing of Jason Heffernan and Benni Burke have done quite well this season. But they had their hands full today against two in-form Moyross strikers.
Ger Myles, who has scored in both of his last two outings, was unlucky not to make it three early on, when he was allowed to control a right-wing throw-in in the box. The former Coonagh frontman duly spun Heffernan, before rattling the crossbar to spare the blushes of his opposing defence.
Home goalkeeper Michael O’Donoghue, whose stock rose after a standout performance against Pike Rovers earlier this season, was also saving some blushes of his own.
Two consecutive poorly-defended Barry Sheedy corner-kicks saw the towering Niall Hanley left free in the six-yard box. O’Donoghue first denied the former Aisling Annacotty midfielder by brilliantly touching his point-blank header over the bar, before going in where it hurts to punch the ball away from Hanley moments later.
League of Ireland official Rafal Pieper had his hands full too, running the line on the dugout side, where he awarded a string of offsides against a Moyross side that were ultra-keen to play quick balls in behind the Kilmallock defence.
Eventually, in the 18th minute, one paid off. Keith Colbert was the provider, from his own half, and Quinn stole in behind Heffernan to finish.
And Quinn could, and should, have repeated the feat five minutes later. But, with time to pick his spot off Myles’ through-ball, the striker placed his resultant strike inches wide of Robbie Egan’s left-hand post.
If Kilmallock’s weakness lay in the centre of defence, Moyross’ certainly lay in the centre of midfield, where their visitors’ numerical advantage was causing havoc.
Twice, Barry won possession from red shirts and waltzed through the middle, creating one spurned opportunity for Tommy Heffernan and striking the other one over. Killian Hayes also struck the woodwork from the right of the Moyross box during this flurry of chances.
Credit therefore to Hogan, who reacted quickly and appropriately, by changing the shape of his side on the half-hour mark. The ever-committed James Cleary was asked to play the holding role in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Quinn shifted out to a familiar right-wing role.
After Hayes missed another great chance, by hesitating on the right of the box and cutting in to strike a weak left-footer, that tactical change quietened things down for the remainder of the first-half.
Kilmallock continued to fluff their goalscoring lines in the early reaches of the second-half, with Hayes again the culprit, wasting Barry’s through-pass with a weak effort from the left of the Moyross area.
Stand-in managers Darren Creagh and Jimmy Conway, in for Limerick FC under-17 coach Derek McCarthy, then felt they were denied a clear penalty, when Barry was downed by O’Donoghue in the box. Both Gorman and Pieper were well-placed however, and the hosts escaped unpunished.
Kilmallock’s sense of injustice was then quickly compounded, when an unfortunate Burke slip allowed Quinn to nip in and complete a counter-attack with a wonderful lofted finish.
And the visitors’ goose was well and truly cooked a minute later, when Cleary capped a typically committed performance by starting and finishing another excellent fast-break. The young midfielder dispossessed Barry on the halfway-line, and continued his run to tap home Quinn’s left-wing cut-back on the goal-line.
The clear-cut chances continued to come and go for Kilmallock, with Barry pulling wide Paudie Sheedy’s through-ball from point-blank range, but the visitors did finally grab a consolation goal in injury-time.
Barry again saw a close-range effort saved in the box, by the excellent O’Donoghue, but Tommy Heffernan followed up to deflect the ball in despite Ken Meehan’s best efforts.
Quinn 18′, 64′, Cleary 65′; T. Heffernan 90+2′
Man of the Match