Rovers rule roost
It eventually became a reality for Shamrock Rovers as they dazzled in the sun to hand cup finalists Kilmore United a real mauling and a four-goal defeat to lift the Wexford Football League Premier Division title at the third time of asking in Enniscorthy on Sunday.
Shamrock Rovers 5 Kilmore United 1
Manager Nicky Murphy was thrilled as his Rovers outfit got the necessary three points with their depleted forces.
For Murphy it took a late appeal against a proposed eight-match ban to allow him take his place in the dug-out, but there was no such luck for Premier Division player of the year, James Carty, who began a six-match ban, while 'keeper Lee Murphy also missed the game with a two-match suspension.
Shamrock Rovers have been building towards the title in the last three weeks, but a draw with Courtown Hibs and defeat to then reigning champions, North End United, saw the title race go right down to the very last day of the league campaign.
But there were no mistakes on this occasion as the Cathedral town side totally dominated the 90 minutes, completely outplaying their opponents.
Right through the second-half they simply toyed with the visitors, and had they maintained the tempo of their first-half play their winning margin could have been greater.
For Kilmore United this was a total demoralisation just seven days before the cup final.
Having just preserved their Premier status, one expected a determined performance but sadly the heads fell after the concession of an early opening goal to such an extent that it left many wondering how they have made it through to the cup final, as they were totally out-played, out-thought and out-fought in a one-sided 90 minutes of football.
Luckless Rovers had missed out on securing the title in their previous two games, but there was to be no struggle on this occasion. They took the lead at the end of eight dominant opening minutes when Danny O'Reilly slotted home a penalty after Ricky Dwyer had been brought down on the left edge of the area.
Kilmore will wonder how they had restricted their opponents to one goal through the opening 20 minutes as they were pinned back on defence.
However, the goal of the game, if not the season, arrived after 23 minutes when Marty Kelly cut in from the right before firing a superb 25-metre shot across goal into the opposite corner of the net, giving 'keeper Kevin Keating no chance to leave it 2-0.
Kilmore's solitary response was for an Aaron Goff free-kick to be tipped over by stand-in 'keeper Seán Allen for a fruitless corner kick.
However, eight minutes before the break the crucial points were well and truly secured when Emmett Quirke drilled a low left-footed shot to the net, making it 3-0 which was how it remained to the interval.
The struggle became even greater for Kilmore on the resumption as Rovers sprayed the ball around in celebratory fashion, turning the game into a one-sided affair, before they added their fourth after 58 minutes through a second O'Reilly penalty, this time after Martin McKeown had been brought down by William Murphy.
Four minutes before the end Kilmore pulled a goal back with Paul Murphy left with a simple tap-in after 'keeper Allen dropped a high ball. Having even won the corner count 15-3, Rovers set the celebrations really in motion one minute from the end with a tremendous John O'Connor goal after a fine individual run into the area, leaving them easy 5-1 winners. and this after substitute Eamonn O'Brien had crashed another effort off the crossbar.
Shamrock Rovers: Seán Allen, Danny Carroll, Mikey Dempsey, Seán Miller, Ricky Fox, John O'Connor, Ricky Dwyer, Marty Kelly, Emmet Quirke, Danny O'Reilly, Martin McKeown. Subs. - Eamonn O'Brien, Trevor Breen, Seán Wildes, Eddie O'Connor, Podge Doyle.
Kilmore United: Kevin Keating, Conor Whelan, Jason Malone, Peter Goldsmith, William Murphy, Darren Naughton, Shane Goff, Graham Healy, Mark Doyle, Daithí Miller, Aaron Goff. Subs. - Paul Murphy, David Moore.
Referee: Seamus Kelly.