FOUR STUNNING goals saw North End United claim a major scalp and a place in the last four as they cast aside high-flying Shamrock Rovers in this thrilling Wexford Cup quarter-final played at Belvedere on Sunday last.
This victory for the home side will also give them confidence for when the two sides meet in their crucial league clash, which could set up a head-to-head for the title. As it stands Rovers hold the advantage with a three-point cushion, but North End have still to entertain the Cathedral town side in what will be a real league showdown.
In this eagerly-awaited cup clash, North End were precise and purposeful with their passing, which in the end played a crucial part in their four goals. Shamrock Rovers to their credit never gave up battling, and gave themselves a chance early in the second-half when they pulled a goal back to make it 2-1, but they failed to play with the composure and style of their opponents who proved the dominant outfit for lengthy stretches.
The decisive opening goal arrived as early as the twelfth minute and this following some prolonged North End pressure. The ball was played quickly through several players from midfield, and with the visiting defence failing to deal with the quick ball into the area, Stuart Lawlor was on hand to steer the ball low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, making it 1-0.
In response Shamrock Rovers made some brave attempts up front to break down the home side's back four with John Hudson and Emmet Quirke looking quite threatening, while it took a brave advance from 'keeper Lee Walker to deny Hudson an equalising goal after 26 minutes.
Two minutes later North End added their second. Having forced a corner kick on the right, Paul Murphy floated a great delivery to the near post that was powerfully headed home by the unmarked Shane Dempsey. Although Rovers made every effort to claw a goal back, it remained 2-0 to the interval.
Within two minutes of the re-start Shamrock Rovers served notice of their intent when Emmet Quirke forced a fine save out of home 'keeper Walker. After 53 minutes the goal they deserved arrived when Chris Kenny got on the end of the ball in the area to head beyond the reach of Walker, making it 2-1.
Within eight minutes North End had restored their two-goal advantage. The Rovers defence only partially cleared a corner kick that landed on the edge of the area, from where Shane Dempsey unleashed a powerful shot high into the roof of the net past a startled Lee Murphy in the visitors' goal, stretching the lead to 3-1.
The pattern of the game was to change slightly as the visitors began to establish more of a presence in midfield. The game hung very much in the balance when, after 66 minutes, Emmett Quirke created space inside the area to beat Walker with a low shot to the bottom right-hand corner of the net, making it 3-2 and leaving it all to play for.
One was set for an explosive closing half hour, but North End were refusing to relinquish their hard-earned lead, going two goals back in front after 71 minutes. Kyle Dempsey gathered a great clearance down the right and showed all his pace as he left Chris Kenny for dead, making it to the by-line before crossing low across the face of the goal from where Jason Murphy delightfully applied the finishing touch, leaving it 4-2, with Rovers now having a real mountain to climb.
Despite a valiant effort the Enniscorthy men were unable to break down the home side's back four, with Stuart Lawlor and Gareth McCurtain in superb form.