While the quality on offer at South Park last Saturday afternoon was at best mediocre, the passion and will to win of both sides was evident to all in the healthy crowd. Such fervour may have prevented the two form teams from performing to their optimal, but it also lent itself to a nail-biting and feisty city derby.
Seconds after kick off Ian Burke thundered into his opposite number, Anthony Kelly. The tone was set. Yet for all the intensity, there was an apparent lack of flowing football with chances at a premium. Both goalkeepers were largely redundant early on with Adrian McPhilbin’s difficulty in gathering a tame Mattias O’Malley effort typifying the netminders’ early anxiety.
West enjoyed greater possession during this period, without seriously threatening. Tommy Lally’s men were largely confined to long range efforts which McPhilbin was more than equal to. Thomas Caldwell excellently chased down a cross-field ball, but his delivery to the box was scuffed by Dara Ryan.
Hibs’ early lethargy subsided as half-time approached with the best chance falling to Mark Moran in the penalty box. Moran though, who repelled countless airborne deliveries all day, couldn’t find the target when scooping over. The equally excellent Stephen Walsh, Moran’s central defensive partner, also had a chance late in the half when he blazed wide with a glancing header. Patsy Forde’s whistle sounded after an Ian Burke free kick from close range was again repelled.
Again West set the tempo but when an unfortunate bobble thwarted Caldwell with the goal at his mercy, extra-time and penalties loomed ominously. Caldwell’s fortune pivoted moments later, though, as an inviting Dara Ryan delivery was only half cleared, with the break falling to Caldwell who despatched with aplomb.
Hibs’ reaction was instant and will no doubt have encouraged Kevin Cassidy and company, with the Bohermore outfit surging forward time and again. Tommy Ward vigorously protested when he had a strong penalty claim turned down and the temperature was further raised when West’s O’Malley received a second yellow for a lazy tackle on David McDonagh. Hibs failed to capitalise on their advantage, with a Walsh headed effort from a Mark Moran free kick their best chance.
Moran watched the closing minutes from the sideline for a late tackle when exposed, earning him a straight red. His team mates tried to salvage extra time, but the staunch West rearguard endured the late onslaught much to the delight of the locals.
Neither team displayed near what they are capable of, but West will not be overly perturbed by this as winning is all that matters in such derbies. With league and cup ambitions alive, the healthy strength in depth in the green and white’s squad will be sternly examined in the coming months. Hibs appear best equipped to thwart West’s gallop to the title as they too have real quality in their ranks and can now concentrate on domestic duties.
West United: Padraig Lally; John Egan, Keith McHugh, Tom Burke, Seamie Rabbitte; Mike O’Malley (Simon Murray, 72 ), Ian Burke, Dara O’Neill (Miko Nolan, 29 ),Thomas Caldwell; Dara Ryan (Gary Fitzgerald, 82 ), Mattias O’Malley.
Galway Hibs: Adrian McPhilbin; Colm Connolly, Mark Moran, Stephen Walsh, David McDonagh (Alan O’Donnell, 83 ); Patsy Ward (David Burke, 49 ), Brian Griffin, Anthony Kelly, Keith Ward; Alan Shaughnessy, Tommy Ward.
Referee: Patsy Forde.