Thursday 23 November 2017

McGuinness returns to haunt Bohemians

AND so, Sligo Rovers march on to a third successive FAI Cup final, with Bohemians' pain intensified by the fact that the matchwinner, Jason McGuinness, would probably still be on their books if it wasn't for the club's crippling financial problems.

Bohs' future remains deeply uncertain. Sligo, on the other hand, have another big day in the Aviva on the horizon, following a hard fought battle at Dalymount Park.

It was ugly, but the outcome provides serious compensation for the players after their league challenge was derailed by St Patrick's Athletic last weekend.

The Saints could yet form the opposition next month, depending on the outcome of tonight's replay with Shelbourne, but Paul Cook was reluctant to stress a preference, while acknowledging that Pete Mahon has got the better of their exchanges.

He was just happy for his players and, particularly, the noisy band of travelling fans. "We felt like we let them down last week," he reflected. "The journey home was hard, but this will be a good one."

Pat Fenlon was left to reflect on the impact of three suspensions. He is deeply annoyed by the fixture schedule which contributed to the absence of strikers Christy Fagan and Anto Flood, in particular.

"My main gripe is that we had a game against UCD called off four months ago and the association put out a release to say it was cancelled for European preparation," he said.

"We actually asked for the game to be played, so that's on the record. We had to wait for four months to play it."

Fenlon, who is also angry that a league game with Shamrock Rovers was brought forward, lost Fagan and Flood due to bookings picked up in that re-arranged fixture with the Students. "People have got what they wanted," he claimed.

Home advantage was just about all that the Gypsies had in their favour coming into this game, although a large travelling contingent rendered that somewhat irrelevant.

The Sligo hordes had extra reason to be optimistic, with the Dubliners' hand severely weakened by the absence of centre-halves Liam Burns and Aidan Price -- and the aforementioned forward pair.

Full-backs Owen Heary and Ger O'Brien formed a makeshift partnership at the heart of the defence, with Aidan Downes ploughing a lone furrow up front.

For Sligo, it screamed opportunity, but, while the wind hindered the first half, the real problem was the inability of Cook's side to stretch their depleted opponents.

Creative forces Joseph Ndo and John Russell were surprisingly lethargic. Aaron Greene was brighter, in keeping with his luminous boots.

He provided a temporary escape from the tedium, cutting inside Ollie Cahill in the 28th minute and unleashing a shot that the offside Russell flicked beyond Barry Murphy.

Would it have gone in anyway? Probably not, but at least the punters had a talking point to deflect from the prevailing mood of boredom.

It improved after the resumption, with the tempo increasing on both sides. Sligo gradually began to show a greater deal of urgency and the introduction of Matthew Blinkhorn and John Dillon emphasised the superior strength in depth.

They began to press the Gypsies and, finally, the full-backs began to overlap like they can, as right-back Alan Keane won a corner that eventually led to the decisive moment of this semi final.


While Richie Ryan's delivery was cleared, he got a chance to make amends and took it by outfoxing Glenn Cronin and curling the ball to the back post, where McGuinness spun away from Heary, produced a neat first touch and finished like an experienced striker.

It was a hammer-blow for Bohs, who would have fancied a trip to the Showgrounds tomorrow with Flood, Fagan and Burns available.

They had no option but to pile bodies forward and there were some nervous moments for the Sligo masses behind the goal that the hosts were attacking; McGuinness popped up with a crucial clearance after the unmarked Killian Brennan -- who was carrying an injury -- headed across goal.

The cutting edge was lacking, however, a familiar theme in a campaign where good organisation rather than an abundance of flair has kept the Bohs show on the road. With no cup final payday to look forward to, the focus will return to ensuring that football continues in this famous old venue.

"There's a chance of getting into Europe, but whether there's any point, I don't know," sighed Fenlon. "We've got two more games to play and then we'll see what happens."

Bohemians -- Murphy, Rossiter (Feely 85), Heary, O'Brien, Cahill; Forrester, Hurley (Buckley 77), Cronin, Brennan; Traynor (Burke 89); Downes.

Sligo Rovers -- Clarke, Keane, McGuinness, Peers, Davoren; Ryan, Ventre (Dillon 66); Ndo, Russell (Blinkhorn 63), Greene (Cretaro 88); Doyle.

Ref -- D Hancock (Dublin)

Irish Independent

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