North End shake off the shackles
Wexford Football League: North End United 4 Rosslare Rangers 1
An improved second-half performance saw North End United shake off the shackles to begin the new year with a well-deserved win against a stubborn Rosslare Rangers outfit in their Wexford Football League Premier Division clash in Hollygrove on Sunday.
The Sky Blues were reliant on set-pieces as they took a 2-1 lead into the interval thanks to goals from Paul 'Patsy' Malone and Gary Dempsey, but they played with more freedom after the change of ends and Adam Beary and Kyle Dempsey added to their tally.
That said, Rangers were unlucky not to add to Lee Devereux's first-half leveller themselves and they brought plenty to an absorbing contest.
Both sides took a while to dust off the cobwebs after the Christmas break, but Rangers were undone in the 16th minute when 'Patsy' Malone threw his head bravely at a Shane Dempsey near-post corner and expertly directed it past goalkeeper Steven Cogley.
Their celebrations were short-lived however, with Lee Devereux adjusting his body well to meet a Mark Furlong pass before lifting a deft volley over the head of Dylan Furlong three minutes later.
Devereux then had a gilt-edged chance to fire the seasiders in front when he got his head to an Aaron Goff corner, but he failed to get a firm connection and the ball drifted harmlessly wide.
Tenacious tackler 'Patsy' Malone was often in the thick of the action, and in the 22nd minute his cross was cleared to Shane Dempsey at the edge of the area, but the midfielder drilled his shot wide.
Moments later Malone won a challenge in typically tigerish fashion and the ball again fell to Dempsey, with Cogley being forced to tip his strike around the post.
The pair combined again in the 25th minute, with Malone meeting Dempsey's inswinging corner with a header, but his effort was cleared off the line as North End began to crank up the pressure.
The hosts did get their noses back in front ten minutes from the interval and again Shane Dempsey provided the assist with a corner.
His flag-kick found the unmarked Gary Dempsey and the experienced campaigner was never going to miss, thumping a header past Cogley.
North End wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and two minutes after regaining the lead they almost had their third.
Shane Dempsey showed great vision to find the rampaging Craig McCabe on the left wing, and when the full-back pulled the ball back for the impressive Rhys Murphy, he dragged his shot wide of the target.
Another Dempsey corner caused concern in the Rangers rearguard just before the half-time whistle when a defender sliced the ball goalwards, but to the relief of the visitors it was cleared off the line, to leave them with a fighting chance for the second-half.
The champions clearly wanted to put the game to bed as quickly as possible after the change of ends and went for the jugular, with Gary Dempsey cutting inside and curling an effort towards the far post that was well clawed away by Cogley.
They didn't have too long to wait though, with Shane Dempsey finding Adam Beary in the 57th minute and the striker accepted the invitation, confidently sliding the ball into the far corner of the net.
To their credit, Rosslare Rangers didn't let their heads drop and Lee Devereux twice threatened to give them a glimmer of hope of an unlikely comeback.
In the 63rd minute he ran on to a pass from substitute Cian Meyler but saw his effort saved by Dylan Furlong, and seconds later he went around the goalkeeper, but couldn't squeeze his effort in from an extremely tight angle.
It was then game, set and match with 67 minutes on the clock as Adam Beary teed up Kyle Dempsey, who waltzed past the goalkeeper and tapped the ball to the net.
Beary had an opportunity to grab North End's fifth with ten minutes remaining after being put through by substitute Paul Murphy (Kilmore), but Cogley was smartly off his line to make the block.
North End United, who face Shamrock Rovers in a clash of the heavyweights on Sunday, will be happy to make a winning start to 2019 despite having a lengthy injury list, while Rosslare Rangers have plenty to be positive about for the remainder of the campaign despite this defeat.
Meanwhile, North End have been handed a tasty incentive to get past Ayrfield United in the Leinster Senior Cup, with the winners facing SSE Airtricity League of Ireland side Longford Town.
North End United: Dylan Furlong, Warren Broaders, Robin Dempsey, Gary Delaney (capt.), Craig McCabe, Rhys Murphy, Paul Malone, Shane Dempsey, Kyle Dempsey, Gary Dempsey, Adam Beary. Subs. - Paul Murphy (Kilmore) for S. Dempsey (70), Lee Wadding for Malone (75), Ciarán Carthy for Beary (80), Ayman Yousif for Murphy (80).
Rosslare Rangers: Steven Cogley, Niall Walsh, Emmet Byrne, Gearóid Byrne (capt.), Conor O'Reilly, Mark Furlong, Shane Pettit, Aaron Kehoe, Aaron Goff, Danny Furlong, Lee Devereux. Subs. - Barry Quirke for O'Reilly (42), Rob Cousins for Kehoe (HT), Cian Meyler for Pettit (53), Seán Stewart for G. Byrne (72), Ben Morris for Furlong (86).
Referee: Seamus Kelly.