A crammed Turners Cross were treated to an absorbing FAI Cup semi-final replay last night. Defeat for either side would spell the end of their season. This made the early tension almost unbearable. Remarkably, this was the first cup game at Cork’s home ground this season. Ultimately it was the holders who grasped the nettle after a fine first-half performance.
Bohemians were forced into two changes from the game at Dalymount Park. The suspended duo of Dan Casey and Daniel Kelly were replaced by Rob Cornwall and Dan Grant. Cork also made two changes. Steven Beattie was injured in the first game and was replaced by Conor McCarthy. Crucially, Graham Cummins would come in up top for Ronan Coughlan.
Helter Skelter is the phrase that would best describe the first twenty minutes. Unsurprisingly, neither side were afforded any space on the ball. The midfield exchanges proved to a battlefield. Despite neither side creating many opportunities early on, one could not but be impressed by the sheer effort and intensity of both sides.
However, after the twenty-minute mark, the Leesiders were really starting to dominate the ball. Importantly for Bohs though, they were looking resilient. However, they were finding it difficult to get their foot on the ball. Cork were pressing high and created an opportunity on 22 minutes. Their high-press proved successful and lead to Keoghane striking from just outside the area. His effort was deflected and Supple made an easy save.
The Gypsies were resorting to hurried clearances and by now Cork were ramping up the pressure. Then, on 30 minutes, Bohs resistance was broken. Cork were awarded a free-kick in what you would think a non-threatening position. Just about 45 yards out slightly to the right of the centre of the pitch. The delivery was quite low yet somehow Bohs failed to clear and the ball made its way to Graham Cummins who stooped an angled header low past Shane Supple. Despite a very defendable free-kick, Cork lead 1-0.
On 30 minutes it went from bad to worse for Bohemians. A long ball found Graham Cummins who flicked on a header towards the already moving Karl Sheppard. He beat the cover and rounded the keeper to coolly finish with his left boot. The home crowd were sensing victory. Suddenly Cork were two goals up.
Cork were causing serious problems by this point. But Bohs managed to keep it at two as the half time whistle blew. It was a very satisfactory first-half display by the home side. A lot of food for thought for the away side going into the interval.
Into the second half and the Leesiders seemed very content to let their opponents have the ball and only press when they reached their half. Bohs could now get their passing game together albeit mainly in their own half.
58 minutes had passed and something sensational occurred. Ian Morris clearly had enough. He took the initiative and arrowed an absolute bullet from all of 40 yards out. The strike was as clean as a whistle as it flew past McNulty into the top left corner. A real take a bow moment. Out of nothing, the Gypsies were in the game.
Tension was in the City air. Cork were nervous. They seemed devoid of energy and inspiration. The intensity of the opening half disappeared. Cork were happy to surrender possession. For their part Bohs were getting the ball wide but not creating anything clear-cut. With ten minutes to go John Caulfield’s men were retreating further. Keith Long’s players continued to battle on, but the defensive shield of the home side was proving impossible to breach. Cork’s bus was well and truly parked.
Finally, the referee brought proceedings to a close. By doing so, he had ended the brave challenge of the team from Dalymount. Bohs will be disappointed, but the focus for them must be to keep this young team together and aim to finish higher in the league next season. Cork will be relieved and ultimately their first-half display was sufficient. They will now contest their fourth final on the bounce when they take on newly crowned league champions Dundalk in the final. The clash of the two best sides in the country will take place on November 4th in the Aviva Stadium.