Joy for Greystones
Challenge Cup: Wicklow Rovers 0 Greystones United 0
The plucky Wicklow Rovers warriors were left heartbroken as they were pipped to the post by Greystones United in a penalty shoot-out on Saturday morning.
Normal and extra time could not separate these evenly-matched sides and it finally took 14 spot kicks to find a winner of this absorbing tie at a bitter cold Whitegates.
Noah Ryan proved to be the eventual hero as it was his penalty that eventually booked his side's place in the next round.
There were 12 perfect penalties on display before a Rovers man miskicked and that presented Ryan with the opportunity to take the glory which he did with aplomb.
The physical difference between the sides was there for all to see. Rovers are naturally an U-11 side but they punch above their weight and what they may lack in size, they more than make up for in heart and skill.
Dary Smith started the match very well and tested Adam O'Brien early on with a powerful shot and a dangerous corner but the Rovers goakeeper stood up to both challenges.
Wicklow's Conor Williams and Ciaran Walton then combined brilliantly down the left flank - there were shades of Messi and Suarez - and the ball was squared for Arthur Curran but the striker's effort was pushed away by James O'Dowd.
Smith was causing trouble for the hosts again in the 11th minute when his cross found Thomas Large but O'Brien proved solid once again.
Rovers broke at the other end and Steven Kavanagh released Finn Dunne but before Dunne could pull the trigger, he was swarmed upon by a defender and a goalkeeper and his effort was blocked behind.
A rare mistake in the Rovers defence saw G7 dash through on goal but he missed the target. Moments later, Greystones went agonisingly close when they rattled the crossbar.
Conor Williams combined hard work and skill in the 25th minute when he blocked a clearance and danced past two challengers but his cross, which would have resulted in a tap-in if it found a team-mate but it escaped them all.
Just before the interval, Steven Kavanagh forced a smart save from O'Dowd as they went into the break scoreless.
It would remain that way until full time but not through a lack of trying.
A counter from Senan O'Donovan saw the midfielder deliver a cheeky cross that O'Down did brilliant to catch under some very heavy pressure.
A very strong run from G8 and a very strong shot resulted in another smart save from O'Brien.
In keeping with the tennis rally nature of the match, Rovers almost broke the deadlock next.
They narrowly failed to convert from a scramble on the goal-line and then Steven Cavanagh's volley drew another fine save from O'Dowd.
A Rovers corner kick was headed considerably far away from the Greystones goal but Joe Culleton returned it with a fercious strike that left the post whimpering.
Luke Smyth came very close to snatching an unlikely late winner when his shot was spilled by O'Brien but the brave goalkeeper recovered in the nick of time.
Thomas Large could have stolen victory for the visitors with a minute to spare as he raced clean through on goal but he dragged his shot a few feet wide of O'Brien's goal.
The only other chance before the shoot-out came about when Sonny McHale brilliantly dummied a pass to allow it to roll through for Cavanagh but he couldn't beat O'Dowd.
Penalty shoot-outs are normally riddled with nerves and mistakes but that was not the case on Saturday morning.
For Wicklow Rovers, Conor Williams, Dion Fielding, Joe Culleton, Sonny McHale, Alfie Doyle and Steven Cavanagh all fired to the net and for Greystones, Large, Charlie McKenna, Smyth, Smith, Cavanagh and Joe Creed all kept their cool before Ryan stepped up to finally bring this brilliant tie to an end.
Wicklow Rovers: Adam O'Brien; Chris Smit, Joe Culleton, Alfie Doyle; Senan O'Donovan, Sonny McHale, Conor Willams, Ciaran Walton; Arthur Curran. Subs (rolling): Alex Dunne, Philip Stephanski, Steven Kavanagh, Finn Dunne, James Majewski, Deon Fielding.
Greystones United: James O'Dowd; Sebastian Moore, Luke Smyth, Sean O'Nuallain; Oscar Scott, Joe Creed, Noah Ryan, Charlie McKenna; Cathal Byrne. Subs (rolling): Charlie McKenna, Cian Divilly, Thomas Large, Dary Smith, Jamie Cavanagh.
Referee: Seamus Ferguson.