Ryan red opens door for Rovers
Shamrock Rvs 6
Galway United 0
ANTHONY BUTTIMER was a member of the supporting cast when an Irish officiating team took charge of a Champions League tie this week. Last night, the Corkman claimed the familiarity of centre stage.
Shamrock Rovers cruised into the FAI Cup semi-finals, bouncing back from conceding five in Dundalk by scoring six goals of their own.
However, they were helped on their way by the story of this tie, an argument between the man in the middle and combustible Galway 'keeper Barry Ryan, which resulted in the latter heading for an early shower after Rovers had taken a controversial 13th-minute lead.
Buttimer, an additional assistant referee in the meeting of CFR Cluj and Basel in Romania on Wednesday, took exception to ex-Hoop Ryan's vociferous complaints as Thomas Stewart celebrated dispatching the opener into an empty net.
It was vacated because Ryan had emerged to challenge James Chambers' following a dangerous Enda Stevens cross. The Clareman was unable to collect, and felt that Chambers had illegally prevented him from doing so.
His first comments to Buttimer warranted a yellow card; a few choice words later, a red card was produced. A lengthy ban may follow, with Ryan confronting and appearing to place his hands on the ref as tensions flared.
Game over. Earlier in this campaign, Galway secured a big win at Dalymount Park with a numerical disadvantage, but a feature of this Shamrock Rovers season has been their ability to clinically exploit situations.
They put the result beyond doubt before the interval, capitalising on the additional space by playing some attractive football -- critics of Michael O'Neill's side would argue that they can be one-dimensional. They demonstrated a greater range of talents here.
For the Shamrock Rovers staff, a first league title win since 1994 is this season's main priority. Nevertheless, their cup drought stretches back further, to 1987 and, while the dressing-room may preach the one game at a time mantra, talk of the double will be impossible to resist for their giddy followers.
Cash-strapped Galway's big evening developed into a damage-limitation exercise. The anger of the travelling support was vented in the direction of Buttimer rather than the men wearing maroon. They weren't too fond of the whistler in Galway before this encounter -- the absence of Christmas cards is now guaranteed.
Still, the first notable decision of this game managed to confuse all sections of the ground. In fairness to Buttimer, he correctly spotted that a Galway head had released Stewart.
Yet his linesman Ciaran Delaney flagged for offside, prompting the visiting defence and Stewart to stop. Buttimer waved play on, surprising Stewart who continued and forced a stop from Ryan. Remarkably, no corner was awarded, thus adding to the grey area.
It was calm compared to the storm that accompanied Stewart's subsequent strike and Ryan's dismissal.
Shorn of his number one, Galway boss Sean Connor withdrew Philip Reilly and brought in young goalkeeper Darragh Geraghty. The reserve stopper could do little as the Hoops doubled their lead with a slick move that culminated with Tribesman left-full Rhys Meynell inadvertently converting a Stewart centre.
Galway's misery was compounded by a third goal from the hosts before the interval, although at least this was a goal of the month contender as opposed to another tragi-comic moment. The movement of Stewart was pivotal, with a series of passes rounded off by his clever flick into the path of James Chambers who instinctively curled the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.
And that was that, really. Galway ploughed on, vainly trying to keep the scoreline respectable. O'Neill juggled his options, although half-time sub Sean O'Connor was stretchered off within five minutes.
That gave long-term absentee Dessie Baker the chance to further his recovery, and he was amongst those to threaten before Chambers made it four with another superb long-range contribution.
Poor Geraghty didn't stand a chance with that, and he was helpless for the fifth, parrying a Baker effort into the path of Gary Twigg who got the ball over the line with a combination of the crossbar and opposition right-full Seamus Conneely.
Baker confidently added number six, leaving Galway with plenty of wounds to lick before they return to this venue for a league encounter next Friday.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Murphy, Price, Sives, Stevens; Chambers, Rice (O'Connor 45, Baker 50), Turner, Dennehy; Twigg (Downes 67), Stewart.
Galway United -- Ryan; Conneely, Sinnott, McKenzie, Meynell; Curran, Reilly (Geraghty 13), O'Donnell, O'Brien; Walsh (King 70), Sheppard (Keogh 77).
Ref -- A Buttimer (Cork).