WILLOW PARK 0 REGIONAL UTD. 3
Willow Park can have few complaints with the outcome as they made their exit from the FAI Junior Cup at DPD Park last Sunday afternoon.
The open draw for the fifth round had paired Padraig Dully’s men with tough opposition as Regional United have competed at the latter stages of the competition in recent seasons. The Limerick outfit were only denied a place in last season’s semi-final for the second time in a decade due to an off-field objection. Having beaten Sheriff by the odd goal in five after extra time, the Dublin team still advanced when Regional were found to have played an unregistered player.
Home advantage is always crucial in any cup competition, but Regional are well used to overcoming the odds in recent seasons. Willow were on the back foot from the start as the visitors upped the pace considerably from the usual Combined Counties league fare.
Having disposed of Athy Town in the previous round, this was another major step up for Willow. Dully’s men needed a positive start but were always chasing the game once going behind. It was an evenly contested tie though in the early stages. A chance for Regional to take the lead saw Peter Sherlock having to clear the ball off the goal line.
The scoring was opened from a free kick routine. Kieran O’Connell got on the end of the delivery to power a header to the net. O’Connell then turned provider to knock the ball down with former Limerick FC player Edward O’Dwyer providing the finishing touch. Two nil then to Regional at half time leaving Willow with a major task when play resumed.
The Limerick outfit played to their strengths throughout and were always dangerous from dead ball situations. O’Dwyer showed his big-time experience of the League of Ireland and was easily man of the match. The midfielder had played against Athlone Town in Limerick FC’s unsuccessful 2019 First Division campaign.
The home team rallied somewhat after the break and Brian Fogarty gave a glimmer of hope with a well struck shot from distance which the keeper saved early in the half. It was the hosts first decent effort on goal and showed that Willow were still a danger when given the chance.
Stephen Mullan then set up Fogarty whose effort was blocked. Regional though ensured their passage to the sixth round with a third goal midway through the half. The build-up down the right saw the ball whipped in and O’Connell completed his double with a well-placed strike to the keeper’s left, a goal which ended the tie as a contest.
Willow were second best having been out muscled and outplayed but, to their credit, never gave up the fight. Bryan McCormack had a chance to fashion a consolation score but was off target from close range following more good work by Fogarty.
Willow Park will have to wait to get the defeat out of their system as they are not back in domestic action until next weekend.