Heartache for North End
Two sucker punches ends dream of Aviva Stadium date
North End's hopes of running out on to the hallowed turf of the Aviva Stadium were cruelly dashed as they were hit with two sucker-punches from impressive Liffey Wanderers striker Aidan Roche in their F.A.I. Junior Cup semi-final in Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.
Liffey Wanderers 2 North End United 1
Roche struck early in both halves to steer the Dubliners through, and although a sublime Shane Dempsey free-kick in the 89th minute set up a frantic finish, North End suffered a heartbreaking defeat.
The Wexford champions bossed the game in the possession stakes for long periods but all too often their final ball let them down, with Wanderers goalkeeper Philip O'Connor coming off his line to comfortably gather on numerous occasions.
Wanderers were quickly out of the blocks and shocked the large home support by taking the lead after 60 seconds when Aidan Roche raced on to a long throw from Gary Young, sliding in to toe-poke the ball past United goalkeeper Lee Walker.
North End responded well to the early setback and enjoyed the lion's share of possession but found it difficult to break through a well-drilled Liffey Wanderers defence.
They had to wait until the 21st minute for their first chance of note, when the lively Adam Beary rifled over the bar from an acute angle.
In the 27th minute Lee Aust created a half-chance for Jason Murphy, evading a couple of tackles before feeding the ball to his team-mate, but the captain saw his rising shot sail over the crossbar.
North End's frustration was beginning to grow with a number of attacks breaking down in the final third, but in the 30th minute they came agonisingly close to relieving the pressure.
After good work on the right by the industrious Paul Murphy, the ball fell to Shane Dempsey on the edge of the area and his ferocious half-volley was brilliantly tipped away by the outstretched fingertips of O'Connor.
The Wexford kingpins continued to press for the remainder of the first-half but for all their endeavour they were unable to work the Liffey goalkeeper again before the interval.
North End almost got off to a dream start in the second-half but Keith Kearney's well-struck shot came back off the butt of the post with Jason Murphy just failing to connect with the rebound.
The Belvedere Road side were quickly rocked back on their heels, conceding a penalty just two minutes later when man of the match Aidan Roche was fouled in the area after a clever turn.
Walker did brilliantly to get down to his right and palm Anthony O'Connor's spot-kick around the post, but his efforts proved to be in vain with Roche heading in the resulting corner.
The Sky Blues again dusted themselves down and tried manfully to get a foothold in the game, but their cutting edge was continually blunted by a solid visiting defence.
With North End piling forward, Liffey Wanderers always looked threatening on the break and had two half chances to put the result beyond doubt.
Aidan Roche squandering his opportunity of a hat-trick in the 69th minute before setting up his brother Lee seconds later, whose tame shot was easily gathered by Walker.
Busy midfielder Shane Dempsey dragged a left-footed shot off target after good work from Paul Murphy in the 71st minute as North End continued to drive forward.
Deckie Downes came close to halving the deficit in the 81st minute when he got on the end of a Jason Murphy corner, only to see his shot blocked by a defender on the line. Moments later Downes was again at the heart of the action, heading over with Murphy again providing the cross.
North End fought bravely to claw their way back into the tie, with Dempsey's wonderful 25-yard free-kick giving them hope.
The panic in the previously ice-cool Liffey Wanderers defence was palpable, with a curling cross from substitute Andy Moore scrambled out for a corner but unfortunately time ran out on North End's F.A.I. Junior Cup adventure.
Manager John Godkin was understandably devastated after his team bowed out but proud of his charges after a tremendous run in the competition.
'We're disappointed with our performance overall, there's more in us but little things just didn't go our way today. The first goal put us on the back foot.
'We had a lot of possession but we're disappointed with our final ball and we didn't create enough chances.
'There was a few key moments as well. A great save from Shane Dempsey's great strike in the first-half and then Keith Kearney hit the post and a minute and a half later they got the penalty.
'I'm proud of the lads. Liffey lost in the quarter-final last year and were devastated and now they're in the final. There's no reason we can't do the same. We want a taste of the big time,' he said.
North End United: Lee Walker, Warren Broaders, Lee Aust, Robin Dempsey, Declan Downes, John Fenlon, Adam Beary, Shane Dempsey, Jason Murphy (capt.), Paul Murphy, Keith Kearney. Subs. - Kyle Dempsey for Broaders (51), Jason Swords for Fenlon (79), Andy Moore for J. Murphy,
Liffey Wanderers: Philip O'Connor, Dean Young, William Keegan, Dylan Roche, David Andrews (capt.), Gary Young, Carl O'Brien, Kenneth Roche, Aidan Roche, Lee Roche, Anthony O'Connor. Subs. - Stephen O'Callaghan for K. Roche (33), Danko Rezende Paulino for L. Roche.
Referee: David Jameson (Wicklow).