Waterford United 4 – 0 Salthill Devon
Waterford United’s attacking line-up proved too good for Salthill Devon at the RSC last night, a game which, for the home fans, marked several very pleasing ‘firsts’.
Paul Walsh made his third stint debut to the delight of the home fans, and was an instant hit, going off to a huge round of applause five minutes from time. Adam McSherry made his home debut and first start, notching two goals, and thus emulating David Grincell’s RSC start against Fingal in 2008, and the Blues set what must be a club record of 27 seconds between goals to wrap up the win.
A very attacking formation saw McSherry and Conor Sinnott start in midfield, with two out-and-out wingers and Paul Murphy and Willie John Kiely up front. The early exchanges saw both sides probing without much penetration, but as the game settled down it was the home side that began to create half-chances. Murphy, Kiely and Dwayne Wilson were all off target early on, but the latter did have the ball in the net on 21 minutes. Referee Sean Grant had blown for a free kick on the edge of the area just before the winger drove home, and the free was blazed over the top. Three minutes later the Blues had a second chalked off, Kiely two yards offside as he guided in Sinnott’s right wing free kick. Moments later Etanda Nkololo, by far Devon’s most potent threat on the left wing, went on a menacing run foiled by a timely Seamus Long tackle, but otherwise the visitors rarely looked dangerous.
The Blues though kept on knocking on the Salthill door. Six minutes from the break Walsh, having an impressive debut, whipped in a cross from the right. Kiely just beat goalkeeper Ronan Forde to the ball, but couldn’t beat Paddy Quinlan on the line. Then three minutes later the long-threatened opener arrived, Walsh involved again as he held up Long’s crossfield ball in the right corner, feeding it back for Sinnott to swing in an exquisite cross to the far post, where Wilson rose unopposed to head home his first league goal for United.
After the break, Salthill started the brighter. Kenny Browne had to look lively to cut out Ronan Conlon’s ball in to danger man Nkololo, and Paul Carey had a short scare as his clearance cannoned off Ray Winters before flying harmlessly wide, but the home side were soon back in the ascendant, and they killed the game off on 58 minutes. McSherry superbly controlled a neat Walsh ball through the middle, chesting into his stride as he advanced into the right of the area, and firing low past Forde and inside the far post from 12 yards. Seven minutes later a lovely move saw Wilson get to the left endline, his driven cross from the left almost setting up Kiely six yards out, but the defence got enough of a block to allow Forde make the save.
A clever Nkololo free kick from 25 yards, low and wide of the wall but also the right post, didn’t trouble the home side, but they did go close on 75 minutes, as Colm Horgan went on a mazy and seemingly unstoppable run through the middle of the Blues defence, shooting from the penalty spot but finding Kevin Burns in outstanding form with the reaction stop. Sub Brian Nolan matched that moments later with a surging run of his own from deep, playing a deft one-two with Murphy, but just failing to get the decisive strike.
That was soon forgotten on 86 minutes though, as a record-setting series of events saw two rapid-fire goals add gloss to the result. First McSherry brilliantly chested down Gary Dunphy’s pass into the path of Murphy, who volleyed home in style from 20 yards. The strains of ‘Fiesta’ had barely died away in the stand when it was required again, as Sinnott won the ball from the restart and sent McSharry clear in the left channel, the Clonmel man coolly slotting past the advancing Forde and into the far corner, a full 27 seconds after Murphy’s effort. Two minutes later McSherry had the chance to wrap up a classic hat-trick, but his header from Sinnott’s cross was too close to Forde. And with the last kick of the game Gary Keane was desperately unlucky to see Forde pull off the save of the night to claw behind his shot on the turn after Dunphy had played him in.
Blues: Kevin Burns; Paul Carey (Brian Nolan 54), Kenny Browne, Seamus Long, Michael Coady; Paul Walsh (Gary Keane 85), Conor Sinnott, Adam McSherry, Dwayne Wilson; Paul Murphy, Willie John Kiely (Gary Dunphy 69) - subs: Sean Barron, Shane Barrett, Shane Dempsey
Goals: Wilson 42, McSherry 58, 86, Murphy 86
Salthill: Ronan Forde; Ray Winters, Paddy Quinlan, James Whelan, Gearoid O’Leidhinn; Gerry Dolan (Timmy Molloy 71), Colm Horgan, Emmet Shaw (Jason Lyons 84), Etand Nkololo; Ronan Conlon, Charlie Burke (Brian O’Grady 74) - subs: Bernard Power, Mike Quirke
Booked: O’Leidhinn, Dolan, Quinlan
Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford)