Saturday 24 February 2018

Turner rocket sends Hoops into raptures

St Patrick's Ath 0
Shamrock Rvs 1
FAI Cup semi-final replay

Chris Turner celebrates at the end of the game after his goal put Shamrock Rovers into the FAI Cup final. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Chris Turner celebrates at the end of the game after his goal put Shamrock Rovers into the FAI Cup final. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Neil Ahern

MICHAEL O'Neill's reaction said it all. Generally, the Northern Irishman gives very little away on the sideline but, as the season has progressed and the pressure intensified, his poker face has subsided.

And when Chris Turner's spectacular winner threatened to burst the net after 70 minutes, the Shamrock Rovers boss leapt on to the field of play with his hands aloft and his face a shade of cherry red.

Soon after that came the bellowing instructions to "work your a***s off". He knows all too well how fragile a one-goal lead can be.

But the Hoops held firm and booked their place in the first FAI Ford Cup final to be staged at the redeveloped Aviva Stadium, where they will face the Rovers of the west -- Sligo.

For O'Neill, the November 14 finale may be a first real shot at silverware if their league campaign continues on the disastrous course it has taken in recent weeks.

And, if this was to be Dessie Baker's swansong, after he announced his retirement from the game at the end of the season, this man-of-the-match performance would certainly prove a final act worthy of his glittering career in domestic football.

missiles

The game was marred by some violent scenes at the final whistle, which saw a large number of Rovers fans invading the pitch before exchanging missiles with a section of the home support, while a couple of clashes also took place on the field.

In a nip-and-tuck first half, littered with free-kicks but devoid of any seriously foul play, the game never really developed any pattern.

The hosts, however, were knocking the ball around quite well in the middle of the park and belying the reputation they have developed in some circles this season as one of the less aesthetically pleasing footballing sides in the league.

Stuart Byrne was shifting the ball from one side to the other in the centre of the park, while Ryan Guy was a constant menace up front, winning more headers than a man his size is entitled to.

The American did squander the best chance of the opening 45, though, when, after he nodded the ball into Daniel North's path on the right of the penalty area, he then somehow failed to connect with his strike partner's teasing cross five minutes before the interval.

The Hoops, on the other hand, battled doggedly but, with two left-wingers on the field in James Chambers' absence, they lacked any balance.

However, just eight minutes into the second half came a huge turning point. Gary Twigg latched on to Baker's chested lay-off and strode beyond the back four, only to be tugged back by Damien Lynch -- who argued that he had the cavalry arriving in the shape of two fellow defenders and therefore wasn't the last man. His protestations fell on deaf ears, however, and he received his marching orders.

It changed everything and suddenly the visitors were in the ascendancy, which climaxed with an absolutely stunning winner from Turner that sent not only the large travelling support into raptures but also the happy Hoops boss.

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC -- Rogers; Pender, Kenna, Lynch, Bermingham; McAllister, Mulcahy, Byrne (Stewart 81), Doyle (Cash 45); North (Faherty 81), Guy.

SHAMROCK ROVERS -- Mannus; Flynn (Bradley 80), Sives, Price, Stevens; Dennehy, Rice, Turner, Stewart; Baker (Fenn 87), Twigg.

REF -- T Connolly (Dublin).

Irish Independent

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