General football, Ireland, League of Ireland, SSE Airtricity League

Dundalk return to league summit

Dundalk 2-0 Bohemians (Hoare 31’, Hoban (pen.) 51’)

Dundalk advanced to the summit of the SSE Airtricity League after a comfortable win over Bohemians at Oriel Park. Having led through Sean Hoare’s header at the break, Dundalk stepped up a gear in the second half and only thanks to the brilliance of Shane Supple in the Bohs goal, this would have been a more comfortable win. In the end, they could only add one second half strike – a debatable penalty – through Patrick Hoban.

The contrasting fortunes of these sides leaves Bohs to lick their wounds and prepare for Friday’s relegation six-pointer with Limerick, whilst Dundalk jet off to sunny-Cyprus to prepare for Thursday’s Europa League qualification clash with AEK Larnaca.

Bohs didn’t make it easy for the Champions in the opening half, with new singing Daniel Kelly proving a constant menace, although they needed net-minder, Shane Supple in inspired form after the break, keeping out Benson, Kelly and Hoban twice.

Bohemians made two changes from last week’s in 6-0 hammering of Bray Wanderers, with Oscar Brennan and Ian Morris in for Ward and Cornwall. Dundalk made one change from their Europa League stalemate with AEK, as Jarvis replaced Massey at full back.

The first half was a nip and tuck affair with Dundalk uncharacteristically off-colour in their play, however, they took the lead after thirty-one minutes. Green right fullback, Andy Lyons – in for his second consecutive start, replacing the suspended Derek Pender – conceded a corner to Duffy down the left. Winger, Michael Duffy sent in the corner, which Sean Hoare rose highest to meet and nod to the net to give Dundalk the lead.

With the words from Stephen Kenny’s half time team talk still ringing in their ears, Dundalk came out a different side after the break. They added their second through a soft penalty after Casey was harshly adjudged to have fouled Jarvis after his neat interplay with Duffy down the left. Back in March, Dundalk beat Bohemians 3-0 at this venue and just as it was then, Hoban scored the resulting penalty from a Casey foul – sending Supple the wrong way once again.

The busy Supple made two further saves to deny Hoban, before extinguishing a shot from Benson on seventy minutes. Both managers tried to freshen things up from the bench and it was one of Bohemians’ substitutes, Keith Ward who almost got his side back into the game. His shot on eighty-eight minutes hit the inside of the post. Then, after the ball was cleared and sent back in by fellow substitute, Danny Grant, Ward shot past Rogers, but captain Brian Gartland was back to clear off the line.

Supple again thwarted Dundalk two minutes later, when he saved one-on-one from Georgie Kelly, but it’s Dundalk who go to Cyprus in high spirits, whilst Bohs must pick themselves up for Friday’s relegation battle at Dalymount.

Dundalk: Rogers; Cleary, Gartland, Hoare, Jarvis; Connolly (McEleney 59’), Shields, Benson (Chvedukas 75’), Duffy; McGrath; Hoban (Kelly 85’).
Subs not used: Sava; Mountney; Massey; Murray.

Bohemians: Supple; Lyons, Morris, Casey, Leahy; Kelly, Buckley, Brennan (Byrne 56’), Lunney (Ward 59’), Devaney; Corcoran (Grant 75’).
Subs not used: Bohan; Kavanagh; Kirk; Stokes.

Attendance: 3,139

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Continental Tyres Women's National League, General football, Ireland, League of Ireland, UEFA Women's Champions League, Women's football

Maher: preparation is key to European success

On a footballing time clock, video analysis, strength and conditioning and nutritional awareness are all relatively new concepts to a game that has existed since the mid-nineteenth century, though it feels like they’ve been around for some time.

These were alien concepts when Shaun Maher made his Bohemians debut in European competition, over twenty one years ago. He recalls, “My first game against Dinamo Minsk, the food was absolutely awful. I don’t think any of us ate anything before the game for two or three days”. When Bohs returned to the Belarussian capital seven years later led by Stephen Kenny, they arrived with their own chef, Irish football was evolving.

Nowadays, those concepts, coupled with logistical planning and meticulous preparation and organisation are key building blocks to European success. Maher’s Shelbourne Ladies players should have no food or preparation problems in central Belfast next week, where they visit to compete in the mini-tournament UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers.

Experience

Reliable footballing centre-half, Shaun Maher is now part of the coaching ticket at Shelbourne Ladies, who make their Champions League bow against Poland’s Medyk Konin on Tuesday on Crusader’s 4G artificial pitch in Seaview. Maher, who is head coach to Mark Leavy’s double champions, has a wealth of experience as a player at Champions League and UEFA Cup (Europa League) level. He competed in European competition with three different League of Ireland clubs, progressing through a round on three out of six occasions – only going out on away goals in his first tie and then losing by a 4-6 aggregate score to a slick-skilled Maritimo side in his final involvement, accounting for two of those exits. A more than decent achievement in League of Ireland terms, especially considering he was part of teams who beat Aberdeen and Kaiserslautern away and ran heavy-weights, Dinamo Kiev oh-so-close.

In reminiscing over European ties against the likes of Maritimo, Aberdeen, Kaiserslautern and Dinamo Kiev, he fondly recalls when a newly full-time Bohs were drawn to play Aberdeen in then UEFA Cup (now Europa League). If you are thinking his recollections are centred around his 81st minute bullet-headed equaliser in the historic away win, you’d be mistaken. Perhaps it is because he’s on the other side of the white wash in the technical area these days, but he recalls Bohs manager Roddy Collins’ approach to that first leg in Scotland.

“He was playing his own mind-games in the press with the Aberdeen manager – Ebbe Skovdahl. If I remember correctly, he was putting advertisements in the Aberdeen Echo looking for players two months beforehand, so you can see how much planning and detail has gone into that. It was a great distraction. It was really intelligent and clever. It took the pressure off the players completely. Thankfully it worked and it helped Bohs progress.”

Fast forward ten years to Maher’s final European game with Sporting Fingal, where preparations were drastically different for their visit to the archipelago of Madeira, located just off the Moroccan coast. “The last game in Madeira against Maritimo, we were there for nearly a week to acclimatise. When I travelled to Minsk with Bohs, it was three planes just to get to Minsk, where as in Mederia you’re in and out. That’s how things improved.”

Preparations

He points to improvements for the women’s double winners, Shelbourne, as they now have modern tools at their disposal to assist in their Champions League preparations.

“There’s a lot more preparation now and things have progressed as time has gone on. That’s not having a go at anyone, that’s just how times have improved through the science of the sport, coaching philosophies and so on. Everyone else was preparing the same way at that time. For instance, nowadays, we’ve got match analysis and we’re able to see match opposition from months ago, to a couple of weeks ago. That wasn’t available back then, they had to make do with what they had.”

Opposition

First up for Shels, they face the fancied Poles in a four-team round-robin group. Medyk Konin rule the roost domestically as they go in search of their fifth consecutive league title, having finished first or second in the last nine seasons. Indeed they hammered Wexford Youths 6-0 when they hosted the round-robin mini tournament at this stage in 2015 and are favourites to progress from this group, ahead of technical Finnish outfit, PK-35 Vantaa. Hosts Linfield complete the quartet.

“Medyk Konin win comfortably domestically most weeks, they’ve got talent all over the pitch, a bit of experience as well and they’re a threat. They’re full-time, they’re strong, they’ve strength in every area, but so have we. When time presents itself, we’ll try and exploit where our strengths are. We don’t want to over-awe the players either, in terms of what they’re facing but at the same time, you’ve got a responsibility to make them aware that things are going to be tough, but as long as we stick together and we stay physically and mentally strong throughout that period.”

Build-up

The excitement in the Shels camp is palpable, with young squad members milling about the AUL Complex ahead of their training preparations on the all-weather surface near Dublin Airport. “The build-up is still very exciting. It’s new to all of the players and it’s new to me as a coach because I’ve been involved in European competitions as a player, but as a coach, it’s slightly different. There’s a lot more responsibility on you as opposed to a player where you are focused on yourself in your own role in the team. As a coach, with the rest of the staff, you’re trying to think of everybody and everything. Every box is ticked and every angle is covered. So there’s a lot more involved and it’s different. It’s not the same as a player, it’s a lot more enjoyable as a player, I wish I was a player, I wish I was still out there, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen.”

Enjoy it

Whether Shels manage to progress or not, it won’t be for the lack of effort or preparation in a sport that’s underfunded and underdeveloped in comparison to some of their opponents next week. “I remember Derek Swan saying to me on my European debut, ‘Enjoy it, because it goes like that…’. That quick and if you don’t enjoy these opportunities, you’ll always regret it because they don’t come around every week or even every year.”

Shaun Maher may not be able to power home a bullet header or make a goal-saving tackle and you probably won’t see him place advertisements in the Belfast Telegraph looking for players. However, he may find that he’ll get more enjoyment through success of the players, having laid the foundations in their preparations, as Shelbourne Ladies look to conquer Belfast next week.

Andy Donlan

UEFA Women’s Champions League Qualifying Group 4 kicks off on Tuesday 22 August at 14:00 in Seaview, Belfast when Shelbourne Ladies play Medyk Konin [view full fixture list].

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FAI Cup

Seagulls A Bridge Too Far For United

Bray Wanderers 2-0 Killester United (Douglas 7’, Scully 58’)

Bray overcame non-league Killester United to advance to the semi-finals of the FAI Cup at a rain-swept Carlisle Grounds. For the second round in a row, Bray scored early in the game and eliminated a team in red n’ black stripes. This time however, there was no lineman’s flag to aid their progress – after the awarding of a controversial goal which knocked out Bohemians in the previous round. Some may have believed that Killester required divine inspiration to advance in this tie, against a Premier Division side hitting their peak. Indeed the Cross of Saint Brigid adorns the Killester United crest – St. Brigid was famed for the many miracles it was claimed she performed. No such inspiration was required tonight as the non-leagues matched their hosts in every department, bar the finishing. The axis of Lacey and Keogh were a constant threat to the Bray defence, however they came up short in a match played in the driving rain atop a greasy surface.

It was Bray Wanderers who got off to the better start and they went ahead from a corner after 7 minutes. Powerful defender Hugh Douglas shot into the box and his bullet header bulged the back of the net from 6 yards out to kill the early Killester spirit. It was the first goal that Killester United had conceded in this season’s competition. Bray threatened again from a set piece on 23, but Alan McNally’s header was wide.

The next clear chance was to come to non-league Killester as they edged their way back into this keenly fought contest. The impressive Michael Keogh struck the butt of the post from the edge of the area, but Lacey fired the rebound straight at goalkeeper, Peter Cherrie when he should have done better. Indeed it was Lacey who was centre to the game’s next big opening after 37 minutes. Having been slipped through 1-on-1 with Cherrie, the striker pulled the trigger, but the Scottish stopper saved well with his legs. It was Lacey who nearly made it through on goal again, though the threaded ball, bound for his feet was expertly blocked by Cooney’s sliding leg on the slick surface.

Killester squandered two glorious opportunities after the break before David Scully gave the hosts the insurance goal, turning home David Cassidy’s cross at the far post. Before that Alan Talbot rifled over when through 1-on-1 with Cherrie and the impressive Lacey had his goal-bound shot blocked from his attempt inside the area. There were further chances for both sides after that, as Lyons glazed United’s crossbar on 69, while Lacey stung Cherrie’s hands on 84. United ‘keeper, Keith Donoghue tipped over from Cassidy’s superb lob and saved well in Onwubiko’s 1-on-1 chance in injury time, as Bray’s superior fitness began to tell.

So Bray Wanderers advanced to the semi-finals, but they were made to work hard for the privilege. The Wicklow side will now pray for a kind draw on Monday and dream about emulating 1990 and 1999’s cup glory years, whilst Killester will wonder what might have been.

Bray Wanderers: Cherrie; Barker; Cooney; Douglas; McNally; Cassidy; Kelly; McEvoy; McGlynn; Lyons (Wixted 89’); Scully (Onwubiko 82’).
Subs not used: Fogarty; Gallagher; McDonagh; Mitchell; O’Reilly.

Killester United: Donoghue; McCormack; Kelly (Matthews 72’); Kavanagh; Hand; O’Reilly; Keogh; Chambers (Mooney 79’); Browning; Talbot (Lee 68’); Lacey.
Subs not used: O’Driscoll; McDonald; Farrell; Whelan.

Irish Daily Mail Man of the Match: Hugh Douglas

Attendance: 700 (estimate)

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FAI Cup

Harps ease through Cup exam

Belgrove/Home Farm FC 0-1 Finn Harps (McCann 8′)

The outcome of this Ford FAI Cup second round tie, set in the leafy suburbs of Glasnevin, was settled by a harsh decision after 18 minutes. Referee, Simon Rogers, following what looked to be a full blooded 50/50 challenge between Belgrove/Home Farm’s Conor O’Keeffe and Finn Harps’ Ciaran Coll, produced the first card of the game – a straight red – for the Belgrove’s O’Keeffe. Coll easily returned to his feet once the referee had dealt with furious Belgrove/Home Farm protestations. Rogers made several other questionable decisions in the game and one wonders what might have been for the non-league outfit, had they had their full complement for 90 minutes. Ten minutes before that drama the alert Pat McCann took his chance when played in by Kevin McHugh to give Finn Harps the lead, coolly slotting under the advancing Andrew Jones in the home goal.
Due to the state of their home surface at Whitehall, this match was hosted at the compact Frank Cooke Park, which is bordered on one side by a clutch of mature Evergreen trees. It was the evergreen Kevin McHugh though who came into bloom and was at the heart of everything good for Finn Harps, as he looked to exploit their numerical advantage. Finn Harps had most of the play in the first half, with captain McHugh constantly finding space and creating chances, but Harps failed to really extend the home goalkeeper. And when McHugh might have tested Jones, the hard working Belgrove players deflected his on-target free kick wide, as Harps looked to press home their advantage.
There was a lively start to the second period as both teams had opportunities. On 47, Ruri Keating raced through for Finn Harps, however he slipped his shot wide of the post. Conor Winn in the visitors’ goal was finally tested a minute later but he was comfortably equal to Darren Rogers’ effort. Incidentally, Winn only played as regular ‘keeper, Shaun Patton was sitting his Leaving Certificate exams.
A couple of Kevin McHugh snap shots followed in the preceding ten minutes, but neither threatened Jones. In a rare foray into the Finn Harps half on 58 minutes, Eoin Mooney – who was switched from right midfield to the right side of a back three after the dismal – looked to find the unmarked Rogers with a measured cross. However the colossal Packie Mailey snuffed out the danger and headed clear. Indeed it was Mooney who got on the on the end of a long Belgrove free kick in the 92nd minute as the non-leaguers threw everyone into the box. His slight figure rose to knock down a header for Warren Taylor, but the ball wouldn’t fall for the Belgrove captain, although the excellent Mooney looked to have been pushed in the back. Referee, Rogers wasn’t interested. Ironically the referee was to get the next decision wrong, this time in favour of the home side. As Harps cleared up-field from the free kick, the busy Ruri Keating ran clear through only to be fouled by Belgrove’s last man. Somehow referee Rogers awarded a free against Keating, but it wasn’t to matter, as the final whistle was blown just moments later.
It’s worth noting, the last time Finn Harps met Belgrove, they reached the FAI Cup final in 1999. Their loyal travelling fans leaving Dublin tonight will no doubt be dreaming of a return visit on 02 November.

Belgrove/Home Farm: Jones, O’Keeffe, McGuinness, Taylor, Smith, Doran, Mooney, Hussey (Drew 65′), Rogers (Bell 65′), Yeats, O’Dwyer (Behan 77′).

Finn Harps: Winn, C.Bonner, Coll, Cowan, Mailey, McNulty (Forker 56′), Fisher (Tiofack 79′), McCann, Keating, McHugh, Harkin (Black 88′).

FAI Ford Cup man of the match: Pat McCann (Finn Harps).

Attendance: 100 (estimate).

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