O'Brien nicks point in huge statement of Fingal intent
Sporting Fingal 1
IF there were any doubts over Sporting Fingal's legitimacy as title challengers in this most intriguing of Airtricity League seasons, they were put to bed within a two-minute period of last night's Dublin derby at Dalymount Park.
There were 73 minutes on the clock when Paddy Madden bolted through on goal, one-on-one with Brendan Clarke, whom he had earlier foiled to give Bohemians a deserved lead.
The 21-year-old striker slipped the ball past the reach of the Fingal 'keeper and time seemed to stand still.
Had the ball rolled in, it was game, set, match and a third victory for the Gypsies over Liam Buckley's side. But it came back off the post, and a minute later Fingal had drawn level to earn a crucial point against the defending champions.
While Pat Fenlon's side were still reeling from that near-miss, their northside counterparts broke and Ger O'Brien tucked home the tidiest of finishes to take advantage of their stroke of luck.
The equaliser was fully deserved after Fingal had pulled a superb second-half performance out of the hat, in the wake of a second-rate first-half showing.
Their previous two attempts at out-playing the league's defending champions with their trademark 4-3-3 had proved fruitless, so Liam Buckley instead opted for an unfamiliar shape, putting four across the middle.
Certainly it worked in one sense early on as Fingal held firm defensively in the face of Bohs' constant probing, but the tactical change also meant the Morton Stadium outfit conceded an uncharacteristic amount of possession in the first half.
The Gypsies were trying to pick gaps and it proved a thankless task early on, but the industry of Mark Rossiter and the hugely impressive Mark Quigley on either wing meant Fingal began to open up.
Rossiter, in particular, was causing Lorcan Fitzgerald big problems while his strength in the air also provided another outlet.
Belying his height, the former Sunderland man won most every header and he provided the deft flick which opened the door for Paddy Madden's 25th-minute opener.
Owen Heary had hung a ball in the air for Rossiter to meet and, when ball eluded Kenny Browne, Madden was clean through. He may have opted to take the ball around the out-rushing Brendan Clarke but instead the pacy striker lobbed a truly delightful chip into the net from 20 yards to make it seven goals in his last four games.
Buckley had obviously had some strong words for his side at the interval and the visitors came out a much more dangerous prospect in the second half.
This time it was their turn to put Bohs on the back foot and O'Brien snatched the goal their attacking play merited on 74 minutes after being teed up nicely by Shane McFaul.
Madden could have easily rendered that goal redundant when he found space on the six-yard box two minutes before the end, but Clarke got down brilliantly to earn his side the first point in their history against the Phibsborough outfit.
BOHEMIANS -- B Murphy, Shelley, Heary, Oman, Powell; Rossiter (Cretaro, 65), Keegan, Higgins (Cronin, 81), Quigley; McGlynn (Brennan, 85), Madden.
SPORTING FINGAL -- Clarke, James, O'Brien (Gannon, 85), Williams, Browne, Fitzgerald; Byrne, McFaul, Kirby; Finn, Crowe (Zayed, 78).
REF -- D Tomney (Dublin).