Holders St. Michael’s had to rely on goalkeeper Derek Breen, who produced two saves in a penalty shoot-out, to overcome an unlucky North Tipperary District League side Thurles Town in an epic John Delaney Cup semi-final played at the Greyhound Stadium, Thurles last Wednesday.
Saints won 4-2 on penalties after the game finished 2-2 at full time
St. Michael’s, who have won this competition on both occasions since its inception in 2010, didn’t have it all their own way with Thurles Town matching them in most departments. Despite St. Michael’s taking the lead twice, Thurles hit back on the stroke of half-time and then against the odds snatched a deserved equaliser in the 90th minute to force a penalty shoot-out.
Thurles Town’s tactic was to hit on the break through Tom Brophy and Luke Jordan and both had chances to put the home side in front in the opening half an hour. In one-on-one situations, St. Michael’s goalie Derek Breen came quickly off his line to narrow the angle to keep it scoreless.
For St. Michael’s Michael Heffernan (re-signed from Kilmallock) set up Pa Quinn, only to see Town’s custodian Davy Coppinger produce an excellent diving save. But the Town ‘keeper couldn’t be faulted in the 44th minute when the raiding Paul Tobin at the second time of asking cut the ball back from the end line for Pa Quinn to tap home. Right on the stroke of half-time Thurles hit with a counter-attack down the left wing that ended with Paul Tobin bringing down Tom Brophy in the penalty area. From the resultant penalty former St. Michael’s striker Padraic Fogarty sent Derek Breen the wrong way to leave it all square at the break.
Thurles opened the second half brighter and had clear-cut opportunities to take the lead for the first time on the hour mark, with Robbie Jordan put through one-on-one with the ‘keeper, but Derek Breen narrowed the angle and saved. Then Luke Jordan was put through by Padraic Fogarty, only to blaze his shot over the crossbar. Those let-offs saw St. Michael’s applying pressure on the Thurles defence, only to find Davy Coppinger producing a number of top-class saves to prevent Richie Ryan, Pa Quinn and a Paul Breen header from a corner-kick finding the back of the net.
When it looked like Thurles had weathered the storm they were caught on the counter-attack after 73 minutes. A Thurles Town attack that the St. Michael’s defence somehow managed to clear ended with substitute Jimmy Carr cutting back the ball to Pa Quinn, whose first-time volley from 16 yards proved unstoppable.
Thurles, who by this stage had lost the services of both Ben Brophy and Padraic Fogarty through injury, refused to drop their heads and continued to take the game to their more illustrious opponents. Then with the stopwatch showing two minutes into injury time Thurles levelled the tie. With the high profile defence of St. Michael’s caught ball-watching Eoin Dorney was unmarked and he had the simple task of heading home Benny Connolly’s centre to the delight of the home support.
As this competition goes directly to penalties, it was down to the lottery of spot-kicks to decide the outcome. St. Michael’s went first with Paul Breen scoring, which was followed by a diving save from Derek Breen to deny Tom Brophy. However,with Paul Tobin, Richie Ryan and Jimmy Carr successful for Saints and Eoin Dorney and Robbie Jordan likewise for Thurles, the home side had to score their next penalty to stay in the competition, but another diving save by Derek Breen from substitute Benny Connolly secured St. Michael’s their passage to a third successive decider.