Bluebell heroics not enough as class tells in the end


Having done so well on Saturday to earn this second visit to Tolka Park, Bluebell United finally bowed out of this year's Harp Lager FAI Cup leaving Shelbourne to join Bohemians, Bray Wanderers and Galway United in next Monday's draw for the semi-finals.

It was another strong display by Ken Gibbons' team who did a great deal to justify Dermot Keely's assessment before the first match that they would be capable of coping in the National League's First Division.

Against the best team in the Premier Division, though, they consistently looked outclassed and lost out in the end to fine goals in each half, the first a close-range drive from James Keddy, the second a wonderful strike from 15 yards by Tony McCarthy.

In between those two, Bluebell's Paul McGovern scored a fine goal of his own for the visitors. "We'd stopped playing after our goal," said Keely afterwards, "and we didn't defend his run at all but it still took some scoring".

And during an error-strewn half for the Shelbourne back four soon after the break Bluebell might well have added a second. Suddenly McGovern and his partner in attack Graham Dunning were picking up possession in dangerous positions and being given space in which to move with the ball.

In the end, though, the closest they came to edging into a lead was from a flicked-on Brendan Wynne corner which Paul Curran turned goal-wards. Danny O'Leary, in for Steve Williams who will be out for at least a week, did well to get down to his right to make the save.

Their occasional defensive daydreaming aside, Shelbourne went about their business professionally. Their movement off the ball was again much faster and more accurate than their opponents were used to and this time their finishing was sufficiently crisp to move them into the last four for the sixth successive season.

Under pressure for the best part of the tie, Bluebell's defence was regularly reinforced by bodies from midfield but this time the Leinster League outfit also showed much more eagerness to get forward. While on Saturday there had really only been one end at which an opening goal might come, this time Bluebell side showed enough pace and movement on the break to suggest that they might be capable of pinching a goal themselves.

That probably suited Shelbourne, for it meant that things were a little less crowded inside the last 25 yards and James Keddy and Richie Baker were able to supply the low-driven crosses from wide positions that caused the Bluebell defence most difficulty.

The first couple of attempts to capitalise on the tactic came to nothing, Keddy going close in the 17th minute when he drove Dessie Baker's cross against the bar. But the winger did much better on the half hour when the younger Baker's pass slipped through three sets of Bluebell legs before reaching the former UCD player who drove back across the goal and past Mark Clohessy.

Bluebell weren't long about hitting back, Paul McGovern scoring spectacularly five minutes later when he picked up the ball on the right, cut inside and took advantage of the Shelbourne defence's reluctance to close him down by letting fly from some 20 yards out.

Against the meanest defence in the Premier Division it must have been a very satisfying moment for the 18-year-old who was until recently playing his football in the St Patrick's Athletic reserves.

To take more than pride from the night, though, McGovern and his team-mates would have to become only the third side since the start of October to put two past Dermot Keely's side. But despite their strong spell early in the second half and a desperate push in the dying minutes, that was beyond them.

Shelbourne: O'Leary; Heary, Scully, McCarthy, Hutchison; R Baker, Doolin, Fenlon, Keddy; D Baker, S Geoghegan. Sub: Campbell for Doolin (70 mins).

Bluebell United: Clohessy; Swift, Reilly, O'Brien, Curran; Gill, Geoghegan, Duffy, Wynne; McGovern, Dunning. Subs: Cullen for Reilly (21 mins), Behan for Gill (74 mins), Presch for Duffy (82 mins).

Referee: H Byrne (Dublin).