North End United 1 Bohemians 5
THE CONCESSION of a further two goals in the dying minutes meant that Sunday’s final scoreline at a well-attended Hollygrove wasn’t a true reflection of the battling overall effort produced by North End United against vastly-superior opposition.
Premier Division outfit Bohemians completely owned possession in the first half-hour of this Leinster Senior Cup fourth round tie and deservedly took the lead with a far post tap-in from left-back Jordan Flores in the eleventh minute.
However, their inability to capitalise fully ensured they had to start all over again when the hosts rocked them on their first attack of note in the 31st minute, with midfielder Alan Rhodes beating James Talbot from the edge of the penalty area with a neat low finish into the left corner.
The 1-1 half-time scoreline was a fitting reward for North End’s spirited approach, but the superior quality of Bohs gradually shone through on the restart, with captain Keith Buckley orchestrating their dominance with a sublime midfield performance.
Always with time on the ball, he dictated the tempo and direction of his side’s passing game, and slowly but surely North End were pummelled into submission.
The Dubliners regained the lead in the 56th minute, with Buckley involved in a give-and-go with Ali Coote on the right before his cross was tapped in with ease by half-time substitute Dean Williams.
If that was a big blow, it was nothing compared to the incident six minutes later that left North End reduced to ten men.
Bohs netminder James Talbot had to make a hurried punted clearance as Eoin Rhodes closed him down, but it worked out perfectly as James Clarke trapped the ball in midfield and then released Dean Williams with a sublime through ball.
Centre-half Reece Murphy raced back and looked to have got a touch on the ball first in his tackle on the edge of the box that left Williams on the ground.
However, referee Gavin Colfer thought otherwise and brandished the red card, with many onlookers feeling that the young defender had been harshly treated.
Not surprisingly, North End fought a rearguard action for the remainder of the game, rarely breaking out of their own half and unable to test Bohs netminder James Talbot.
The visitors made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute, with Keith Buckley releasing James Clarke to cross from the right byline for Dean Williams to tuck away at the near post for his second goal.
That scoreline would have been a fair reflection on the game as a whole, but unfortunately a tiring North End conceded another two near the end.
The game was in the 90th minute when a sweet move from right to left involved Kris Twardek and Adam McDonnell, before a clever step-over left substitute Ryan Burke with the time and space to arrow a powerful strike into the far top corner.
Bohs added a fifth seconds before full-time, with Dean Williams blocked as he sought a hat-trick before the ball sat up kindly for centre-half Grant Horton who volleyed home from close range.
North End had pushed Bohs all the way in their last Leinster Senior Cup clash in 2019, with Brighton’s man of the moment Evan Ferguson among the scorers in a 3-2 home quarter-final win for the Dalymount Park crew.
It was clear from the off on Sunday that goalkeeper Jason McGuire and his back four would be working overtime, but they stood up to everything thrown at them until the constant pressure did pay off for Bohs in the eleventh minute.
It’s almost three years now since Jordan Flores scored a wonder goal for Dundalk in a league clash with Shamrock Rovers, but this was a different finish entirely – a simple back-post tap-in after Ali Coote and James Clarke had combined to create the opening.
The first-half corner count of 11-1 in favour of Bohs told its own story, but it still wasn’t enough to give them a lead at the interval.
North End rocked the hot favourites in the 31st minute, with a sloppy attempt at a clearance seized upon by Dale Flynn, who rolled the ball invitingly to his left on the edge of the box.
Midfielder Alan Rhodes arrived at pace and hit it first-time, and his connection was top notch as it beat the dive of James Talbot – a man who has figured on senior international squads during Stephen Kenny’s tenure.
North End introduced young Darragh Moloney at half-time and, with Bohs owning the ball again, they defended as a five-man unit with the new arrival at left full-back and Donal Porter tucking in as a third central defender.
Keith Buckley had a free rein to control the game from the middle though, and he showed why he is held in such high regard in the League of Ireland with an assured display.
It was part of the learning experience for a home side without two notable players in Paul ‘Spot’ Murphy and Robin Dempsey, and their younger brigade in particular should be all the better for it.
North End United: Jason McGuire; Dale Flynn, Reece Murphy, Gary Delaney (capt.), Donal Porter; Lee Wadding-Byrne, Kyle Dempsey, Alan Rhodes, Niall Connolly; Eoin Rhodes, Adam Beary. Subs. – Darragh Moloney for Connolly (HT), Kallum Broaders for Wadding-Byrne (77), Daryll Power for Flynn (86), Shane Dempsey for A. Rhodes (86), also Shane Beary-Cahill, Tomas Budynek, Evan Roche.
Bohemians: James Talbot; Kris Twardek, Grant Horton, Cian Byrne, Jordan Flores; Keith Buckley (capt.), Adam McDonnell; Ali Coote, James Clarke, James Akintunde; Jonathan Afolabi. Subs. – Dean Williams for Afolabi (HT), Ryan Burke for Flores, inj. (68), James McManus for Coote (68), Declan McDaid for Akintunde (74), also Luke Dennison, Dylan Connolly.
Referee: Gavin Colfer (Wicklow).