When St Mary's put it up to the mighty Shamrock Rovers


February 5, 1984 - St Mel's Park

St Mary's FC 0, Shamrock Rovers 3

FOR all their power and reputation Shamrock Rovers had to play second fiddle to St Mary's during the opening 40 minutes of this rip-roaring Cup tie at St Mel's Park, Athlone, on Sunday.

The local junior side brought honour and pride to the club from this tigerish performance against the current kingpins in Irish football. And but for the linesman's flag on one occasion and a harsh refereeing decision on another that 3-0 scoreline could just as easily have read 2-1. It was a typical cup tie display by the local side who refused to be overawed by the League of Ireland leaders as they hit them with everything they knew looking for a goal all through the first half.

But the actual clear cut chances were few and far between although the approach work was always of an extremely high standard. It was in this department, by contrast, that Rovers gained the upperhand. From the 3rd minute onwards they carved enough openings to have had at least five decent opportunities. Nonetheless Mary's can look back on that opening forty minutes with the greatest of satisfaction. Seldom, if ever, has a non-league side played so well against such top-class opposition.

Indeed many sides have come to St Mel's showing fewer ideas over an entire game than Mary's showed in the first quarter of an hour.

The Westmeath Independent coverage.

Mary's lined out with strength at the back, plenty of flair and steel in midfield and real poaching power up front. Gerry Quigley at centre-half looked very accomplished, Christy West at rnjdfield was an inspiration. His main job was to see that Pat Byrne didn't do too much damage. As it happened in the first half West looked far more dangerous. At this stage, too, Peter Keenan looked particularly good. He appeared to have no problem in rounding former Manchester United player Anto Whelan and was eventually to be hacked heavily on two occasions for this efforts.

At the other end Tom Walters, with the tough job of marking Liam Buckley, got in a super tackle on the flanker before he could turn and do damage.

Just five minutes from the break they powered their way into the lead. Steedman took the corner on the left. O'Brien got to it first, but Brendan King flung himself at the ball and managed to fingertip it off the crossbar. But the half clearance only fell to the feet of O'Brien again and this time he had more space to shoot at. The ball hit the left hand side of the net and Mary's hopes were ruined. They, however, refused to believe it.

They lashed into the attack when they faced into the stiff wind in the second half. It so nearly came off for them. Keenan's artistry bewildered the Rovers midfield and his flick on to Dully was pushed further forward to Coughlan.

He charged away with only Jodi Byrne to beat, kept his cool and picked his spot. His, and the rest of his side's frustration was understandable when the score was disallowed, but the linesman deemed him to have been offside when the ball was played.

For two or three minutes after that Mary's released their disappointment by whipping up the fervour even more. They shook Rovers with their football and had us believing that just maybe they would get back on terms.

But the Milltown club contained them patiently and then gradually imposed their will on the remainder of the game. Their second stemmed once more from a Steadman corner. Campbell got to the ball before anyone else and headed clinically to the back of the net. Noel King's emergence as the real driving force behind Rovers became all the more marked as he and O'Brien gave Campbell plenty of shooting practise.

In the last twenty minutes a little of Mary's composure understandably evaporated. They were pinned virtually in their own penalty area, for long periods and had to resort to last gasp efforts on a number of occasions. Yet they never panicked and most times tried to play their football.

They were struck a cruel blow in the last minute and really, they deserved better, Noel King was robbed by Gerry Quigley in the Mary's area, but referee, P. J. Walsh decided, he had been brought down. It was a harsh decision by any standards and the resulting goal from Jacko McDonagh certainly squeezed the last ounce of credit from Rovers performance. It was still a very respectable score from a Mary's point of view. After the match Seamus Hayes professed himself happy with the result. He was of the opinion, however, that had Coughlan's goal been allowed and a different decision implemented in the, King-Quigley incident then the final score would have been so much closer. He himself, and his fellow defenders, Greene, Walters, Quigley and keeper King, performed with distinction. Tommy McArdle in midfield, had his hands full with O'Brien, but led his team well. Nicholson and West provided the solidity and guts on which this memorable performance was built.

Up front Peter Keenan must take the honours. A smashing player on the ball, he was, no doubt, one of Rovers big pre-match worries when they spied on the side. A measure of his contribution can be gauged by the fact that the two Rovers bookings were as a result of tackles on Keenan.

Kevin Coughlan made an excellent target man and ran himself silly off the ball. His obvious confidence on the ball was evident and his striking skills didn't let him down. Padraig Dully tired visibly, but he had done his share by then. After the match, St. Mary's officially and "publicly thanked Athlone Town for the St. Mel's facilities and the committee for their help and co-operation.

Man of the match: Christy West.

St Mary's - Brendan King, Jimmy Greene, Gerry Quigley, Seamus Hayes, Tom Walters, Christy West, Pauric Nicholson, Tommy McArdle (Capt.), Peter Keenan, Kevin Coughlan, Padraig Dully. Subs. Gavin Drummond for Dully (72nd minute); Gerry McHugh for Nicholson (75th minute).

Shamrock Rovers - Jodi Byrne, Anto Whelan, Jacko McDonagh, Dermot Keely, Kevin Brady, Pat Byrne, Liam O'Brien, Noel King, Neville Steedman, Alan Campbell, Liam Buckley.

Referee - P. J. Walsh (Limerick).


FOOTNOTE: This win qualified Shamrock Rovers for the quarter finals. They eventually reached the final, only to lose, after a reply, to UCD.