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Sligo Rovers 4-0 UCD AFC



Airtricity League Premier Division


SLIGO ROVERS  (2) 4                   UCD  (0) 0

O’Grady 42, Amond 44.

Blinkhorn 76, Foran 82


The Showgrounds, Sligo, Saturday 14th 2010 ko 1945


By Brian de Salvo


If you, post the Manchester United debacle, are despondent about the quality of Irish domestic football, take a trip to Sligo.   There, against the spectacular backdrop of Benbulben, manager Paul Cook is assembling a team to make a poet sing.


It’s only just under a month ago since UCD last visited the Showgrounds and lost a thrilling match in the last seconds of added time.   This time it was no contest, although merely to be on the bill of such an exhibition merits commendation and the visitors played their part, never sacrificing the principles of good football to expediency.


The shape of things to come was displayed early on and, inevitably, it was Joseph Ndo who provided the first hurrah.   His brilliantly executed back heel flick was the kind of thing you see from freestylers who entertain spectators prior to kick off with fancy footwork.   But this was the heat of match play and Ndo’s trickery, having wrong footed the UCD defence dropped the ball perfectly for Davoren to exploit the gap.


Sligo move into third place in the Airtricity League Premier table win this win and were scheduled to meet league leaders Shamrock Rovers, the other form team, in the semi-final of the EA Sports Cup three days later.   Paul Cook’s team selection reflected this but key players were unavoidably absent, Richie Ryan through suspension, John Russell and keeper Richard Brush through injury.   Gavin Peers, Danny Ventre and Matthew Blinkhorn started on the bench.


The Students had a restricted squad too with Bolger suspended and Shortall, Harding, Corry and David McMillan all injured.   With so many senior players not on view, the fare served up for an appreciative crowd of over a thousand was even more commendable.   Rovers had the edge in tempo; UCD’s neat football was easy on the eye but produced little end product.   Indeed it was not until the eighty eighth minute that home keeper Gibson was tested, turning Kilduff’s piledriver over.


By then it was all over.   Derek Foran, brought into central defence for Gavin Peers, had a storming game and forced Ger Barron to a fine finger tip save from a powerful header as early as the 16th minute.   Barron was busy enough throughout the first half but there was nothing he could do about the two goals in three minutes just before half time that secured the points for Sligo.   The first came from a stunning volley by Conor O’Grady from a superb left foot cross from Romaund Boco, returning to Sligo’s colours.   The Students were still reeling when Amond exchanged a neat one-two with Gary McCabe and shot low past the keeper.   Game over.


Only focused defending and poor finishing prevented the second period from developing into a rout.   Martin Russell rang the changes, the most interesting of his substitutions being the introduction of Irish Under 21 international Karl Moore on the left after an hour.   Moore, a product of Manchester City’s academy, made six League One appearances with Millwall last season.


Just when it looked as though their dedication was going to reward UCD with a respectable scoreline, Sligo brought Matthew Blinkhorn off the bench and, with a quarter of an hour remaining, he smashed home a third goal despite Andy Boyle’s best efforts to put his body in the way.   Six minutes later, as the visitors wilted, the exuberant Foran increased keeper Barron’s frustration when he rose first to a corner on the right and completed the scoring with a powerful header.


I previously thought the lack of depth in the Sligo squad would rob them of sufficient stamina to win major honours this season.   Now, having seen eighteen excellent different players wearing the bit o’ red in a month, I’m not so sure.   Shamrock Rovers may be the current favourites for the title but it would be no bad thing for Irish soccer if the Rovers from Sligo took the blue riband.   Tuesday’s game may give us a clue.   All I can do, as the man said, is “Sing whatever is well made.”


SLIGO ROVERS: John Gibson; Alan Keane, Derek Foran, Jim Lauclan, Iarflaith Davoren; Gary McCabe, Conor O’Grady, Joseph Ndo (Danny Ventre 69), John Dillon (Eoin Doyle 76) ; Romauld Boco, Padraig Amond (Matthew Blinkhorn 69).


UCD: Ger Barron; Paul O’Connor, Evan McMillan, Andy Boyle, Ciaran Nangle (Michael Leahy 72); Stephen Roche (Graham Rusk 72), Robbie Creevy, Keith Ward; Dwayne Wilson (Karl Moore 63), Ciaran Kilduff, Chris Mulhall.


Referee: David McKeon