Flat caps at the ready, it’s time for the Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup

The fifth round of the Irish Cup is always an exciting time for Irish football fans, with the teams from the Premiership and the Championship entering the competition, throwing up the possibility of some famous cup giant-killings. The result of the weekend may have been Championship side, Queen’s University teaching Irish Premiership champions and 43-time Irish Cup winners, Linfield a lesson, but a contender for match of the day was an all-premiership clash between second-from-bottom Institute and third-from-bottom Dungannon Swifts at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.

Struggling in the league with a new-found rivalry to be settled

Going into the game, both teams would have been looking forward to a break from league football. Institute have struggled of late, with their last win coming over Coleraine at the end of November. Their only point since then was against the visitors, Swifts, ending in a 2-2 draw at Stangmore Park. The Swifts also haven’t had the most enjoyable time in the league, with two 5-0 defeats preceding a 2-0 defeat last time out against Glentoran. Their last point was against Institute, in which they had their captain Seanan Clucas sent off during the match.

After the final whistle in the last clash between the two sides, there were a further three red cards. Gareth Brown and Niall Grace (Both Institute) and Douglas Wilson (Swifts) were sent off alongside Clucas. All four were all given a three-match suspension for violent conduct. This fixture marks the return of these players meaning a lively encounter was expected.

Changes on and off the pitch

Change was at the forefront for both teams as the Swifts coaching team have had a shake-up lately with assistant manager, Chris Wright, and first-team coach, Peter Kennedy, both leaving Stangmore Park. For Stute, its changes within their playing squad. Last time out against Linfield, they gave 17-year-old Oran Brogan his debut for the club while there was also a return to the club for 22-year-old Alex Pomeroy. Since that match, Stute have made the signing of former Shelbourne youth striker, Ahu Obhakhan.

Managers call on players to relax and play with freedom

Swifts manager Kris Lindsay said in his preview of the tie on the Swifts’ Twitter page, “It gives us a break from the pressures of trying to pick up points in the league. We have a certain degree of freedom to do and try and win the game.” Lindsay also confirmed that Clucas and Wilson were both to return from suspension, with Callum Byers, Corey McMullan, Sam Johnston, and Daniel Hughes all currently injured.

Stute Manager Sean Connor spoke to the Derry Journal, where he spoke of how his team can relax in this tie, but also hoped for a cup run, “The boys can maybe go and relax and see if we can go on a wee cup run. When I came here my job was to keep this team in the division and I still believe we can do that and when I get these reinforcements, I believe we can do it even more.

Managers rotate their team, with survival in the league being the main focus

Stute had made 3 changes from their last time out against Linfield with Paul Wells, Niall Grace, and Gareth Brown replacing Rory Brown, Brendan McLaughlin, and Jack Bradley in the starting XI. Swifts made four changes to their team: Douglas Wilson, Seanan Clucas, Caolan McAleer, and Rhyss Campbell all starting, while Callum Byers, Ben Gallagher, Terry Fitzpatrick, and Oisin Smyth were all dropped. Smyth was a late drop out for the Swifts side, with Campbell taking his place in the starting XI.

Institute Starting XI:

Dungannon Swifts Starting XI:

The First Half – Swifts dominate but Stute stay in the match.

The game started in a lively fashion with the drama of the last meeting between these two sides not forgotten, with heavy challenges being put in from the start. The first chance of the game fell to the Tyrone side, with a free-kick from the left, just outside of the box, being placed well over the bar.

After only five lively minutes at the Brandywell, it was the visitors who found themselves in the lead, against the run of play some may argue. Late call-up Rhyss Campbell tapped in a low cross from the right-hand side, after the referee played advantage in favour of the Swifts.

Swifts managed to carry the momentum from the goal, with Institute’s first real chance not coming until the 14th minute, with Brown and Burke combining well on the right-hand side. The rivalry between the players was obvious to all in attendance. Niall Grace was booked for a challenge, leading to arguments occurring on the touchline between the coaching staff of both sides.

Swifts had a freekick in the 19th minute which forced a stunning save from Stute keeper Wells, with the resulting corner headed over the bar. The first substitution of the game came in the 22nd minute of play, with Jack Bradley coming onto the pitch to replace the booked Grace who was on the verge of being dismissed from the game. Grace proceeded to walk straight down the tunnel, failing to acknowledge his manager and has since been placed on the transfer list. The battle between Brown and Clucas was heating up as well, with Clucas lucky to get away without a card, getting involved in every stoppage in the match, confronting the referee each time.

The final 15 minutes were better for the hosts, with Burke and Brown linking up well on the right-hand side in the 32nd minute, and with a shot from Brown going wide of the left-hand post. Burke continued to show his class, creating a chance from bad ball down the left-hand side, crossing into Pomeroy who couldn’t make the most of the brilliant play by Burke.

Dungannon put the pressure on Wells, leading to one of his kicks being charged down. The Swifts also took advantage of their blistering pace up front, countering from a Stute freekick, which resulted in a shot that was saved by Wells. As the first half was coming to a close, Institute drew level through Gareth Brown as a stunning free-kick into the danger area from Burke was headed by an unmarked Brown.

Stute ended the half the happier of the two sides though Swifts had plenty of chances with Wells keeping Stute in the game for the most part. The managers would have had plenty to say in the changing rooms at half-time, with it being worth pointing out that no Institute players were warming up at half-time. Connor obviously wanted to make it clear what he wanted from his players in the second half.

The second half – It’s not over until the final whistle

The second half started with Institute dominating the game with Bradley and Burke creating multiple chances and controlling the game. After putting in many late challenges and having multiple words with the referee, Clucas got booked in the 52nd minute – much to the pleasure of the Stute fanbase. Wells again was called into action straight after, gathering a cross from Waide.

A clash of heads between Clucas and McCauley led to a stoppage in play. McCauley was able to continue but Clucas had to leave the pitch with the challenge leaving a strong mark on his forehead and was replaced by Fitzpatrick.

The officiating of this match was one of concern for many within the crowd. Swifts had an opportunity on goal, hitting the side netting. This, however, was thought to be offside, with a missed handball in the process, according to the Stute fanbase. Despite this, it was another let-off for Institute.

Swifts continued putting the pressure on the Stute defence, bringing on Ben Gallagher for Waide. Gallagher made an instant impact for the Tyrone side, lobbing Wells from outside the box, and after a mix up at the back, later put the Swifts in front at the Brandywell.

It was going to take something special for Institute to get back into the game. After Swifts had three opportunities to increase their lead, Stute countered and equalised. Burke, who was having a brilliant game up to this point, hit a screamer from outside the box into the top right corner aided by the hand of keeper Bryne.

Institute made their second change of the match in the 87th minute with Brendan McLaughlin replacing McCauley. The end of the game was dramatic with Swifts putting a low driven cross into the box and Crown getting the slightest of touches to knock the ball back to safety in Wells. The 94th minute saw one of the most controversial moments of all the Irish Cup ties, with Dungannon taking a late lead through Carvill that would almost certainly be the winner. This however looked to be offside, with the linesman not being in the correct position at the time, leaving Institute heartbroken yet again by Carvill.

Swifts made a late substitution in order to defend their lead as Caomhan McGuinness came onto the pitch for McAleer. The final whistle then blew, knocking Institute out of the cup with Dungannon Swifts progressing into the round of 16.

A proper cup tie that went to the last kick of the game

The late winner capped off what was a fantastic cup tie. Both teams fought to the death, with the Swifts coming out on top. Stute would feel as if they are unlucky not to be on the pitch for another half an hour, with decisions going against them quite frequently. Swifts would have felt they deserved more, again with one to two decisions going in favour of Stute that could have easily gone the other way.

Burke sublime despite being knocked out of the cup

My man of the match was Institute’s right midfielder, Cormac Burke. Despite being on the losing side, he controlled the game and capped it off with a stunning strike from outside the box. His cross for the first Stute goal was sublime in wet and windy conditions. His link-up play with Brown was fantastic when the two were on the same side after a set-piece. When Brendan McLaughlin came on late in the game, Burke moved into centre midfield, continuing to put in an impressive display. The four other players that were contenders for man of the match for me were Gareth Brown, Jack Bradley, Ryan Waide, and Rhyss Campbell.

Player Ratings – Swifts’ frontline make the difference, despite strong Stute midfield performance.

Institute: Wells 7, Borgan 6, Crown 6, Curry 7, C McLaughlin 6, Grace 4 (Bradley 8), McCauley 6 (B McLaughlin 6), Burke 9, Brown 8, Pomeroy 6, McCready 6.

Dungannon Swifts: Bryne 6, Coyle 6, King 6, Wilson 6, Teggart 6, Clucas 6 (Fitzpatrick 6), Lowe 7, Carville 7, Campbell 8, McAleer 7 (McGuiness 5), Waide 8 (Gallagher 7).

Managers Reaction – Lindsay speaks of his delight, while Connor gives Stute the silent treatment

Swifts manager Lindsay spoke to the Swifts’ Twitter page about how he was delighted that his team managed to win the game, “Delighted with the win, cup competitions are all about getting into the hat for the next round, and we have done that.

Stute boss Connor took a different approach with his team as he spoke with the Derry Journal: “I have just had the players in there for 30 minutes after the game. I think this group of players think if you aren’t coming in shouting and screaming at half-time and after a match, then you aren’t scalding them, well I have just hit them with a few home truths.

Looking Ahead – Back to reality for the league strugglers

It’s Dungannon Swifts who have left the Brandywell the happier side. They will face Newry City in the round of 16 and this tie will be played on Saturday 1st February at Stangmore Park. Before that, they face Ballymena United at home, Linfield away at Windsor Park, before hosting Institute at Stangmore Park. Stute face Glenavon away at Mourneview Park, before hosting Glentoran and heading to Stangmore Park for another clash between these two sides.