Shannon Town’s terrific run in this year’s FAI Junior Challenge Cup was finally killed off by the brilliance of Pike Rovers’ goalkeeper Gary Neville after extra time had failed to separate the sides.
FAI Junior Challenge Cup Quarter Final: Shannon Town 0-0 Pike Rovers. Pike Rovers won 2-0 on penalties after extra time.
Neville literally saved the Limerick team during the penalty shoot-out when he prevented Jack Kelly, Evan Glynn and Colin Scanlon from scoring after Gary O’Connell’s penalty had skimmed the crossbar.
Pike now proceed to the semi-final where they will have home advantage against Newmarket Celtic who qualified with a great win in Galway against Mervue Utd.
Brian O’Connor nutmegs Paddy O’Malley of Pike Rovers.
This game also ended in penalties with Newmarket winning 5-4 after the teams were level on 3-3 after extra time.
Manager Donal Magee has taken this team to new heights, winning the Premier Division last season shortly after joining the Clare League having plied their trade in the Limerick & District League since 1969.
Having qualified for the FAI Junior Cup quarter-finals for the first time in the club’s history, it was always going to be tough going against the Limerick team.
Pike Rovers are a well-resourced side containing a number of players with experience from League One in England and the League of Ireland.
Possibly Shannon Town showed the opposition too much respect, allowing Mike Shiel’s team to dictate the pace for much of the game.
After Storm Emma and the Best from the East had brought the country to a standstill one week earlier, it came as a relief to have a pleasant day in Frank Healy Park for the 500 in attendance.
Pike Rovers led the charge right from referee Richie Brazil’s starting whistle and had their first corner in the 4th minute when Evan Glynn cleared his lines.
By the 10th minute, Shannon Town were still soaking up the pressure having conceded their third corner when their captain Darren Griffin booted the ball out.
Four minutes later Wayne Colbert’s free-kick was scrambled away by Steven Carroll at the back post.
The first real chance at a goal came on 20 minutes when Wayne O’Donovan’s shot from distance sailed over Darren Whelan’s crossbar.
Pike kept up the pressure and Steve McGann’s shot rebounded to David Ryan but his effort was saved by the goalkeeper.
It took until the 28th minute before Shannon Town had their first chance on goal when Kieran Hackett’s speculative effort failed to trouble goalkeeper Gary Neville.
They kept up the momentum until four minutes later Jack Kelly’s free into the goalmouth was punched clear by Neville.
Shannon Town’s best chance of the game came in the 37th minute when Dave Cove’s clever flick over the goalkeeper was cleared off the line by Edward O’Donovan.
Five minutes before the break, Paddy O’Malley had his side’s best chance of the half when he should have scored with the goal at his mercy.
The last opportunity of the half fell to Evan Glynn who grabbed a half chance and goalkeeper Neville was relieved to see it go over the bar.
Wayne O’Donovan’s penalty signals the end of Shannon Town’s FAI Cup campaign.
Four minutes into the second half, Shannon Town appealed for a free kick when Gary O’Connell was taken down on the edge of the 18-yard area but referee Richie Brazil was having none of it.
At the other end, Pike appeals for a penalty were similarly denied when Eoin Hanrahan went down.
On 57 minutes, Colin Scanlon was one-on-one with the goalkeeper but Gary Neville dived bravely at his feet to snuff out the threat.
Just after an hour, Donal Magee brought on the stylish Rob Wall in place of Kieran Hackett in an attempt to bring some stability to his midfield.
Hassled and harried by the visitors, Wall lasted scarcely 15 minutes before being shown a red card for retaliation.
Prior to that, the introduction of Chris ‘Chippy’ Dunning for Dave Cove had given Shannon Town new attacking options.
Dunning had no problem putting pressure on the Pike goalkeeper and came close after 77 minutes only to have a free awarded against him.
A period of Pike pressure saw Paddy O’Malley’s get on the end of a headed pass and shoot but his effort cleared the crossbar.
Six minutes from the end of normal time Brian O’Connor sent Colin Scanlon clear but the centre forward’s control let him down when it mattered most.
Normal time ended after a sustained period of pressure when Pike had three corners in quick succession but the defence held out to their credit.
Just three minutes into extra time there was a scramble in the Shannon Town defence after Whelan dropped a ball from a free, however, he redeemed himself by diving to save when the ball fell to a Pike forward.
The second period of extra time saw an opportunity for Colin Scanlon but he didn’t get enough power in his kick and Neville gathered easily.
With just four minutes remaining Jason Mullins crossed to Steven McGann and his looping header went just wide with the Pike support cheering for a goal.
After 120 minutes, referee Richie Brazil called for a penalty shoot-out. First up was Shannon Town and Gary O’Connell clipped the crossbar.
From then on Gary Neville was unbeatable and two penalties from Shane Walsh and Wayne O’Donovan ensured a semi-final place for Pike Rovers.
Shannon Town: Darren Whelan, Steven Carroll, Jack Kelly, Darren Griffen (c), Eoin Guinan, Evan Glynn, Brian O’Connor, Gary O’Connell, Colin Scanlon, Dave Cove, Kieran Hackett. Subs: Rob Wall, Josh Lindsay, Chris Dunning.
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville, Wayne O’Donovan, Edward O’Donovan, Patrick Mullins, Wayne Colbert, Eoin Hanrahan, Steven McGann, Shane Walsh, David Ryan, Colin Daly, Paddy O’Malley. Subs: Darragh Carroll, Jason Mullins and Brian O’Callaghan
Referee: Richie Brazil.