Shamrocks goal feast points to a rosy future
SPECTATORS couldn't take their eyes off this cup tie at Fatima on Friday night which provide full value for the big crowd.
There was action and drama from the first whistle to the very last kick and the clash was played like it was the fiercest of rivals rather than two teams from the same club.
The seniors prevailed, but only just, with substitute goalkeeper Padraig Gorham diving low to his left to save James Walker's spot kick in the eighth minute of stoppage time, redeeming his own mistake in conceding the penalty as he struck the persistent Paul Adeniyi in the face.
However, full-back Sean Thornton still had the chance to tie up the score as the ball broke to him after the keeper pushed it out, but with a gaping goal he pulled a free shot across the face of the posts and wide from 14 yards.
The Youths displayed great character and resilience, having twice fallen two goals in arrears, and they looked like forcing the outcome to penalties which their performance would have merited.
They fell behind after only two minutes and were 2-0 down after 16 minutes, being punished ruthlessly for slack defence in each instance.
A loose pass out of defence by Anto Reilly was collected by Billy Smith who darted 30 yards into the penalty box and his low cross laid it on a plate for Stephen Fisher at the back post to steer Shamrocks ahead.
Owen Armstrong then stole into space between two defenders in the centre of the Youths defence to head a cross to the net to make it 2-0.
The Youths fought back strongly, forcing four corners in a row and playing with impressive control, movement and passing. Fifteen year-old Anton Reilly, whose father Anto, the former Dundalk striker, played alongside him in the heart of their defence, was one of a string of highly talented young performers on the losers' side, and his composure and awareness marked him out as a really bright prospect.
With others like Sean Thornton and Conor Mulligan in defence and attackers like Derek Rogers and James Walker, the future looks very rosy for the Shamrocks club.
Anto senior was switched to his more customary role of striker just short of the half-hour, and the change nearly reaped an immediate dividend, only for Aidan Sheeky who foiled the busy and skilful Anton McLaughlin with a timely interception at his near post for a corner.
From it the ball fell at the foot of Anto Reilly who was somewhat taken by surprise, but the winners could only partially clear the danger and Daithi O'Connor drilled a shot through the crowded box into the bottom corner of the net from outside the 18-yard line.
Shamrocks, with the fairly strong wind favouring them, began the second half like the first, assertively, scoring early to regain their two-goal lead. Jimmy Cooney and Billy Smith linked up for the latter to head in the full-back's cross from close range after only three minutes.
However, the Youths' mettle really shone through in the remainder of the game to keep the result on a knife-edge to the extended finish.
They reduced the deficit on 70 minutes when a free kick from far out on the left appeared to come off the unfortunate Gavin Watters and was deflected into his own net.
In almost carbon copy fashion as their third goal, Shamrocks scored their fourth two minutes later when Owen Armstrong this time headed in Jimmy Cooney's cross.
Still the Youths refused to accept defeat, and Anto Reilly displayed the cool composure that brought him so many goals throughout his career to cut the deficit again to the minimum two minutes later again.
The skilful Walker stroked a pass out to the right inside Shamrocks half and Sean Thornton crossed for Reilly to find space just inside the penalty box. His instant control enabled him to shift the ball to chip it into the top corner of the net.
Adeniyi, who also was introduced as a substitute for the Youths, caused more bother than Shamrocks would have wished in the building tension. Stephen Fisher was withdrawn from attack to right-back as Shamrocks desperately clung onto their lead and the Youths' Gavin Gaffey struck a great effort to try to get the Youths level.
Then in the incredible finale Adeniyi fell in a tussle in the box with the goalkeeper who left his goal and one of the Shamrock defenders. Adeniyi quickly bounced back up off the ground and the goalkeeper in attempting to punch the ball clear tangled with him and the referee pointed to the spot.