United's high hopes dashed in cup clash

Galway United's Stephen Walsh comes under pressure from Bohemian’s captain Keith Buckley in action from the Sports Direct Men's FAI Cup semi-final, Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

Galway United's Stephen Walsh comes under pressure from Bohemian’s captain Keith Buckley in action from the Sports Direct Men's FAI Cup semi-final, Eamonn Deacy Park on Saturday. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

The occasion and the atmosphere that surrounded the FAI Cup semi-final on Saturday suggested Galway United were back in the big time. The performance was creditable, but the outcome was an eerie echo of the past.

It was the fourth time United have fallen at the penultimate stage since the heroics of ’91. Finn Harps, Shelbourne, Derry City and now Bohemians have all come to town and broken Galway hearts.

The disappointment in Eamonn Deacy Park to lose 0-1 was testament to the expectations the first division champions have cultivated during an incredible season.

As the dust settled, there was an appreciation of the quality of the opponents and the gulf that needs to be bridged next season. Assistant manager Ollie Horgan identified Jonathan Afolabi as the difference between the sides.

Recently called up to the Irish senior squad, the bustling striker created the goal for Dylan Connolly, and would have converted another two on another day. Ali Coote was also classy off the left and he hit the woodwork too in the first half.

United will take plenty of pride from their endeavours, but there will be some lingering frustration that they were slightly sluggish in the first half by their own standards. They also failed to create clear-cut chances when Bohs were reduced to 10 men for the final 30 minutes.

James Talbot, another previously called up by Stephen Kenny, was untroubled in the visitor’s goal. There was pace and energy introduced from the bench, and Francely Lomboto made a miraculous comeback to take some part. But neither he, nor his fellow subs, could unlock a robust rearguard.

There was also some controversy when Stephen Walsh, who toiled impressively as always, was hauled down in the box in injury time by Bohs' skipper Keith Buckley. Neil Doyle’s failure to award a penalty will be remembered for some time by the United faithful.

The following Tuesday in Terryland the occasion contrasted strongly with the glamour of Saturday. A few hundred hardy souls braved the inclement weather to witness Waterford’s visit.

It was a game that had loomed large in the calendar before United won the league with six games to spare. However, they had to fulfil their fixtures and in doing so protect an unprecedented 100 per cent home league record.

They started the game, dismissed by many as a dead rubber, with trademark intent. There were only three changes from the emotionally draining game on Saturday.

Walsh had a couple of big chances in the rain, but was stopped impressively by Sam Sargeant in the visitor’s goal. However, Ed McCarthy was not to be denied when he drove at the defence from the left and coolly curled into the corner of the net for a deserved 1-0 lead. The second was an equally impressive finish by McCarthy from a Brendan Clarke long kick-out. It bounced in front of the Waterford back four and skidded into the Limerick winger’s path, who took it on his left this time and picked out the near corner of the net with ease.

Wassim Auoachria made it three with a tidy finish after a fabulous solo run and pass from David Hurley, and although Waterford grabbed a late consolation goal for 3-1.

 

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