Saturday 24 February 2018

Byrne strikes to keep Sporting in contention

The fortunes of League of Ireland teams are defined in the autumn and last night at Terryland Park there was further evidence to support the view that Sporting Fingal are an outfit worth monitoring.

Last Sunday's goal-laden draw with Shamrock Rovers suggested that Liam Buckley's charges can still make a bid for the title and this win in the west was achieved with a polished performance.

Galway were all the things their manager Sean Connor wanted them to be -- gritty, tough in the tackle, and eager to battle -- but Fingal were able to cope and eked out a vital victory.

Buckley usually operates with a three-man central midfield and Galway imitated Fingal's passing approach, which contributed to a lively opening period that was flecked with chances.

Galway were bright and busy early on and came close to nicking a third- minute lead when a delicate Stephen O'Donnell chip extracted a decent save from Darren Quigley.

Then Fingal exhibited their sweet passing range during a burst of pressure that featured clever cameos from Shaun Williams, Ronan Finn, and Shane McFaul.

Gary O'Neill and Conan Byrne prised an opening for Eamon Zayed, who flashed a shot wide in the fifth minute. Fingal's midfielders were scampering forward at every available opportunity and Barry Ryan had to be alert when denying Shaun Williams and Ronan Finn.

Karl Sheppard's pace was vexing the visitors, though, and Kenny Browne executed a last ditch intervention in the 31st minute.

On the stroke of half-time O'Neill released Zayed, who was thwarted by another Ryan save as the teams departed deadlocked at the interval.

The game's complexion altered significantly nine minutes after the restart when Ryan failed to hold a stinging drive from Byrne and Fingal were armed with an advantage that they were never in any danger of relinquishing.

Galway United -- Ryan; Conneely, Synott, McKenzie, Meynell; O'Brien, Curran, Foley (Molloy, 64), O'Donnell, Walsh; Sheppard.

Sporting Fingal-- Quigley; O'Brien, Maher, Browne, Fitzgerald; Finn, Williams, McFaul; Byrne, O'Neill (Crowe, 70), Zayed (Cahill, 80).

Ref -- D Hanney (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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