Geoghegan's lob secures victory

 

THE feel good factor was almost intoxicating after the best FAI Harp Lager Cup final in years. Save for the obvious exception of dejected St Patrick's faces, for which there was the considerable consolation of a league title, this had everything to savour - including a Shelbourne win on merit.

Indeed the slightly anti climactic nature of the Lansdowne draw, the dreariness of the Wembley final and even the soporific nature of the first half was eminently worth the bother. What followed made this final one for the memory banks.

Despite a missed penalty 10 minutes from time - rather a well taken one brilliantly saved by the utterly vindicated Alan Gough - and a last minute disallowed goal, Brian Kerr conceded St Patrick's could have few complaints.

To lead the two games and still be beaten says more, far more, about Shelbourne's sometimes questionable spirit over the league campaign than it does about St Patrick's resilience. That cannot be questioned. By popular consent they are the most difficult side in the country to beat even more so to prize away the lead from.

But throughout the cup campaign Shelbourne rose to the occasion. On the road they have taken on all comers from the Premier Division and in the final they twice came back against the defensively penurious champions.

Gough's story alone is worthy of any fictional fable. Then there was the sublime first touch and the mesmeric skills of Tony Sheridan, who more than anyone turned the game around when switched into a more central midfield, quasi striker role, probably only he knows what he was doing. Finally, ultimately, there was the coup de grace from Stephen Geoghegan.

Other heroes abounded, not least Ray Duffy in that final, frantic last half hour when he emerged like a light house to repeatedly beat back the champions' wholehearted aerial assault.

There had been little inkling of what was to come during a dreary first half. The Dalymount surface wasn't the best, but it was by no means the worst and in no way could explain the frequent misplaced passes and repetitive injury stoppages which made the first period a staccato affair.

Brian Kerr had out Richardsoned Damien Richardson when amending last week's line up by recalling the left wing whippet Brian Morrisroe and omitting Paul Campbell in a revised 4-3-2-1 formation. Shelbourne, for all Richardson's pre match protestations to the contrary, remained the same with Tony Sheridan still employed wide on the right and Mark Rutherford on the bench.

From the kick off St Patrick's came at Shelbourne in a wave and very nearly took them completely by surprise. But the staccato pattern quickly established itself.

Apart from a 23rd minute incident, which referee Wilfred Wallace bizarrely ignored, when Dave Tilson reacted like lightening onto a through ball by Brian Flood and was clearly up ended on the edge of the area by Willie Burke, there seemed little likelihood of the breakthrough the contest craved.

St Patrick's were disrupted by the 30th minute departure of John McDonnell with a knee injury, Paul Campbell's versatility being employed in an unfamiliar midfield role, and substituted Paul Osam at half time with Martin Reilly.

Nevertheless, they had looked solid enough, one of a few glimpses of Eddie Gormley's magic almost leading to the breakthrough on half time when he skillfully engineered a cross which Ricky O'Flaherty failed to control after Osam's dummy.

But the tempo picked up soon after the resumption. Shelbourne started passing from the back. A move originating from Gough saw Greg Costello enable Stephen Geoghegan to spring the offside trap but the incoming John O'Rourke miscued an inviting shooting opportunity.

Sheridan delightfully released Costello but little Darren Kelly's heading ability does not match his skill on the ground. Marginally against the run of play, St Patrick's struck after 58 minutes - surprise, surprise from a set piece.

Gormley's dipping, in swinging penetrative corner saw Dave Campbell lose his marker to rise highest and score with a powerful downward header inside an unguarded far post.

The goal was good for Shelbourne, not least because it gave them time to pull themselves together and inspire the best from them. And what football they played. Amid all the drama, that could be too easily forgotten.

On came Mark Rutherford, regularly switching wings with Tilson, while Sheridan moved inside and Geoghegan roved menacingly as Shelbourne rolled up their sleeves and played all their attacking aces. Sheridan and Geoghegan dove tailed as only they can but the former's cross implored the latter to use the hand of God after 52 minutes and Wilfred Wallace was thankfully wise to that.

Sheridan released Tilson, but O'Rourke's header was blocked by an unwitting, but brave, Willie Burke at the far post before Shelbourne drew level on 71 minutes. O'Rourke won the header from Gareth Byrne's kick out, Geoghegan chested the ball down, turned it and delicately played in Sheridan for the latter to slide a right footer past Byrne.

The match had moved onto a different plateau. Reilly failed to lob Gough and Rutherford just failed to find the incoming, Geoghegan before Sheridan shot wide after a Shelbourne attacking wave. The force was with Shelbourne, all the more so after the pivotal 80th minute penalty.

Dave Smith did well to flick the ball away from Ricky O'Flaherty as he bore down on goal, but Brian Morrisroe had stolen a yard on Greg Costello in gathering the attempted clearance and was brought down from behind by the Shelbourne full back. Gough saved magnificently and sharply to his left after advice from the touchline by Fred Davis.

Within two minutes Shelbourne were ahead. Tilson played the ball up the left for Rutherford. Like greased lightening he took out Willie Burke and crossed first time. Geoghegan and Peter Carpenter rushed for it, the former somehow controlling a first time lob over the stranded Gareth Byrne.

It seemed everyone, from the tea man to the secretary, were involved in the celebrations (perhaps because the tea man and the secretary were). A goal good enough to win any final although it almost wasn't.

At the death, Carpenter's excellent crossfield ball found O'Reilly whose cross bobbled cruelly as Liam Buckley stretched out for a certain goal. The unintentional lob almost deceived Gough before he gathered and was clearly forced over the line by Johnny Glynn. Even in injury time a curler by Gormley - whose response to the missed penalty was a credit to him - grazed the upright.