Nolan shines in fine Ferns win
Ferns United were in impressive form as they pounced for four goals to give the visitors from Ballaghadereen a real lesson in finishing in this F.A.I. Junior Cup fifth round tie played in Ferns on Sunday.
Ferns United 4 Ballaghadereen 1
Ryan Nolan shone as he dazzled the visitors' back four with a tremendous second half hat-trick to prolong their stunning cup run and earn a place in the sixth round.
While Nolan was the star in the finishing stakes, there was much to admire too in the play of the central defensive pairing of John Breen and Tomás Hawkins, while Tommy Dwyer and James Tonks ruled in midfield on the resumption.
The second-half saw Ferns sparkle up front as both Robert Vickers and Ryan Nolan found their way past the visitors' determined back four, with the clinical finishing of Nolan being one of the highlights of this excellent victory.
Given their league struggle, this was a surprisingly revitalised Ferns outfit.
Quite how they turned their recent form around will leave for much soul-searching, but this was their classiest display of the season as they took full advantage of the deficiencies in the visitors' back four, while their own defence was simply outstanding as they provided an unmovable wall in front of goal.
With the full league programme falling foul of the weather, this victory will give Ferns a real boost when they return to domestic action.
And they will hope to now bring this form to the league as they begin their bid to move up the table away from the relegation zone.
They have many games in hand which should help lift them to safety over the coming weeks.
While Ferns have some outstanding individuals, the manner in which they controlled this game was the result of a tremendous team effort. They built from deep in defence, and with midfield in firm control, they began to create the chances up front, as the Ballaghdereen back four was unable to cope with the quick attacks down each flank and swift ball into the danger zone.
In keeping with games of this nature, the visitors defended in numbers through the opening phases, with the quick counter-attacking football posing quite a few problems for the home side.
Just 15 minutes in, in what was the game's first clearcut chance, the visitors' centre-forward, Danny Browne, fastened on to a breaking ball to beat 'keeper John Thorpe with a low effort into the bottom corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
It would have been harsh on Ferns to have to go in a goal down at the break as both Vickers and Nolan had brought some fine saves out of visiting 'keeper Dermot Horan. And they deservedly grabbed an equaliser just two minutes before the break when Jonny Dwyer found the net from close in to make it 1-1 at the interval.
The goal really settled the home side who started the second-half impressively, taking the lead when Ryan Nolan curled a beautiful free-kick over the wall into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Strong defensive play had denied the visitors' quick counter-attacking, while 'keeper John Thorpe handled a couple of difficult efforts superbly. Ferns had to wait until the 70th minute to extend their lead, with Nolan drilling a superb left-footed effort past 'keeper Horan.
And nine minutes from the end he completed his hat-trick with another clinical finish, this time from the edge of the area when he beat Horan with a rising effort to the left corner of the net to make it 4-1.
Ferns United: John Thorpe, Patrick Skelton, John Breen, Tomás Hawkins, Frank Devereux, Gavin Sludds, Tommy Dwyer, James Tonks, Robert Vickers, Ryan Nolan, Jonny Dwyer. Subs. - Anthony Dwyer, Martin Redmond, John Doyle, Derek Thorpe.
Ballaghadereen: Dermot Horan, Josh Gallagher, Bob Dowey, Gavin Conway, James Horan, Lee Keegan, Shane Duffy, Cormac Rush, Danny Browne, Dylan Edwards, Seamus Dunning. Subs. - Terry Ryan, Seán Fleming, Danny Smith, Gerry Wall.
Referee: Nicholas Boland (Wexford F.L.).