Waterford United 1 – 0 SD Galway
Waterford United earned their three points against a resilient Salthill Devon Galway in a hard-fought, sometimes scrappy, but always absorbing match at the RSC on Friday night. Though never hitting the heights of the previous weekend’s performance against Limerick, the home side were nevertheless the better side on the night, but they had a number of scares along the way, particularly late on as their inability to kill the game off lead to a nervy final quarter hour.
The Blues had the better of the early exchanges, though without causing too many problems for Liam Grant in the Galway goal. Ben Ryan twice found himself well placed for headed chances from left wing crosses – Dylan Mernagh and Paul Phelan providing the ammunition – but got under both. Just short of the half hour a fine move down Waterford’s right side saw Ryan and Willie John Kiely combine well, the latter setting up Gary Dunphy for a volley just wide of the right hand post. Dunphy was involved again two minutes later when, breaking through the middle and about to pull the trigger, he was caught late by Eugene Creaney earning a yellow card for the Devon captain. More severe punishment was to follow as Gary Dempsey stepped up to sweep the 25-yard free kick into the top right corner via the fingertips of Grant.
Salthill’s response was swift, and a brace of dangerously inswinging corners caused mayhem in the home area, as one eluded Packie Holden, leaving Paul Carey to clear Mikey Gilmore’s header off the line, the second time in two games. Three minutes later the vistors were again left cursing their luck as Enda Curran strode through the defence to crash a 20 yard effort off the butt of the left post, and the rebound off Dylan Mernagh and behind. But the Blues finished the half on the attack. Peter Higgins was almost set through on 40 minutes but Grant was out swiftly to smother, and shortly afterwards a goalmouth scramble saw Seamus Long strike goalwards, only for Ronan Conlon to block on the line.
The visitors posted the first shot in anger after the break, Mike Tierney firing just wide of the near post from long range within seconds of the restart, but the Blues were soon back on the front foot, and Ben Ryan brought a superb low save out of Grant on 52 minutes. Ten minutes later quick thinking from Paul Phelan almost set up Willie John Kiely from a free kick, but the striker prodded wide of the far post, and the flag was up for offside in any case. Devon showed their teeth with an Enda Curran free kick that drifted wide of Packie Holden’s right post, but United were back on the attack moments later. Gary Dunphy went close, firing narrowly wide from distance at the second attempt after neat approach play from Kiely. Seamus Long then went closer still with a blistering volley, again just off target, as the all-important second goal just would not come.
The precariousness of United’s position was thrown into sharp relief on 75 minutes, when Mikey Gilmore somehow wriggled through Craig Burns’ tackle only to snatch his shot wastefully wide. Minutes later Brian Gaffney was almost in, picking up on a dreadfully slack clearance but heading straight at Holden. And right at the death Gilmore had one more sight of goal after Mike Tierney salvaged a deep cross, but he fired wildly over the top. And so the Blues saw out the final moments, not hanging on as such, but a bit more anxiously than they might have liked, and a second win on the spin sees them jump into a share of second place on the league table.
Blues: Packie Holden; Paul Carey, Craig Burns, Seamus Long, Dylan Mernagh; Ben Ryan, Gary Dunphy, Gary Dempsey, Peter Higgins, Paul Phelan; Willie John Kiely (Peter Keegan 87) – subs: Robbie Hughes, John Frost, David Breen, Jamie Cross, David Cooley, Jason Keane
Goals: Dempsey 29
Booked: Mernagh, Kiely
Devon: Liam Grant; Paddy Quinlan, Eric Browne, Cian Fadden, Tommy Bradshaw; Ronan Conlon (Eduardo Dusi 73), Mike Tierney, Eugene Creaney, Brian Gaffney (Charlie Burke 88); Mikey Gilmore, Enda Curran – subs: Ronan Burke, Brian Geraghty, Jason Murphy, Willie Enubele
Referee: Keith Callanan (Cork)