Dreams of glory in the Leinster FA Junior Cup were shattered for Willow Park when Padraig Dully’s charges made a tame exit at the hands of Hanover Harps last Sunday afternoon at DPD Park.
The Carlow visitors fully deserved to advance to the fourth round against a disappointing Willow Park team. Harps opened the scoring just before the half time break while three goals in less than 10 minutes during the second half sealed Willow’s fate.
With just a single defeat from their six League games played, Willow were quietly optimistic of having an extended cup run. There was little between the teams in the opening stages but it was obvious that Hanover looked to have a significant physical presence that unsettled the hosts.
Willow had few chances throughout the 90 minutes. Brian Malone did have an early opportunity to open the scoring as he forced the Harps keeper into making a good save. It was one of the few times though that Trevor O’Reilly was tested between the posts for Harps. Graham Delaney fired wide for Harps, while a corner kick kept up the pressure on the home goal.
A free kick from Harp’s Mark Davis on the left flew across the goalmouth and just wide. Two further corners kept Hanover on the offensive with Delaney having another chance when lobbing wide as the keeper advanced.
Willow were struggling and a corner kick on 34 minutes was their last piece of action in the opening half. Harps made the breakthrough five minutes from the break when Phil Neenan sent in a deep cross to the back post where Davis got ahead of his marker to fire to the net. Willow still had a fighting chance when just a goal in arrears but Hanover would kill off the home challenge after the break.
Willow failed to respond to the challenge and had few further chances to turn the tie around. Dylan Stewart fired across the goalmouth from the left, but the second goal arrived at the other end after 64 minutes.
Substitute Martin Bambrick sent in a cross from the right which was headed home by Dylan Walsh. The tie was settled midway through the second half when Harps scored for a third time. A short corner from Davis to Delaney saw the cross pick out Ben Dorgan who had little difficulty in heading to the net.
As home heads dropped, Harps completed the scoring after 72 minutes. Substitute Anthony McGrath took advantage of more slack marking to fire home past the keepers left. With now only pride to play for, Willow enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the final 15 minutes.
A corner kick was earned with Brian McCormack then off target with a shot from in front of the posts. A consolation score proved elusive and a poor home performance was summed up when substitute John McGowan fired harmlessly wide late on from the right. The better team advanced and Willow can have little complaints at the outcome.