New Ross centre-half shines as Rochdale hold Spurs
New Ross native Ryan Delaney has a dream trip to Wembley to look forward to after taking on some of the top names in the Premier League on Sunday and coming through with flying colours.
The left-sided centre-half was a key component of the Rochdale team on a memorable occasion for the club, with a late strike from substitute Steve Davies earning them a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in a gripping FA Cup fifth round tie.
And with the Londoners playing all home games at Wembley this season due to the re-development of White Hart Lane, it means that Delaney and his colleagues have the experience of a lifetime ahead of them for the replay despite their league struggles.
The Barrowsider joined the Lancashire club in last month's transfer window, having returned to Championship strugglers Burton Albion after a very productive loan spell with Cork City when he won a league and cup double, earned a national player of the month award, and gained representative honours with the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad.
And with opportunities set to be limited with Nigel Clough's side in their battle against relegation, Delaney opted to drop down a division with the aim of securing first team football.
He signed a two and a half year deal with Keith Hill's Rochdale, and so far it looks like the best move he has ever made.
His competitive debut for his new club came in the previous round of the FA Cup when they made the tough trip to Millwall and secured a 2-2 draw.
The Londoners were beaten 1-0 in the replay on a very poor Spotland surface, but the pitch was re-laid in advance of Sunday's clash when Delaney found himself up against players of the calibre of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Fernando Llorente.
Just five days after recovering from an early 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 with Juventus in the Champions League, Spurs were brought back down to earth with a bang when Rochdale captain Ian Henderson gave the rank outsiders the lead just before half-time.
Brazilian Lucas Moura, the Londoners' most recent acquisition, eventually equalised, and it looked like Delaney and his colleagues were going to be denied in cruel fashion when Kane netted from the penalty spot after Alli went down in the box in the 88th minute.
However, there was one final kick from Rochdale, and it was rewarded when a Matty Done cross was finished to the net by injury-stricken striker Steve Davies.
Delaney played a key part in one of the biggest games in the minnows' 111-year history, and the Wembley replay will bring the club immense financial rewards as well as fulfilling a lifelong ambition for their players.
Despite these cup heroics, they are languishing at the foot of the League One table, with relegation a real possibility.
Delaney was due to line out against a former Cork City colleague and fellow Wexfordman, Kevin O'Connor from Screen, last Saturday week, but the home clash with Fleetwood Town was postponed.
Fleetwood are currently four places above Rochdale with eleven points in hand, and O'Connor played the first-half at the weekend in their 3-0 loss on the road at Doncaster.
Delaney's fine display against Spurs was witnessed from the Spotland stand by his proud mother, Kay, and grandparents, William and Margaret.
The Rossonian first shot to prominence on the Wexford Youths side which captured the SSE Airtricity First Division title in 2015, and he went on to play in the first half of their sole campaign in the top flight before moving to Burton Albion in July, 2016.