FAI SSE Airtricity Under 17 League Quarter Final
Shamrock Rovers 1-0 Dundalk FC
The players of the Under 17s may very well have asked Stephen Rice today what he wanted for his 34th birthday and he may very well have asked that they win for themselves a place in the semi-finals of the league. They delivered but did it the hard way as there was only one goal in it but they created no shortage of chances in the first half.
Dundalk posed minimum risk up front and the Rovers rearguard, marshalled by Gavin Bazunu, were, in a word, brilliant. The Hoops began well driving forward and applying plenty of pressure. Thomas Oluwa could only look on in the 11th minute as his low drive sailed past the far post. Right full Alex Dunne made a great burst forward in the 18th minute and passed to James Clarke.
Dunne continued his run to receive the ball back from the midfielder and presented himself with a scoring chance but Dundalk ‘keeper David Odumosu got down low to save.
Six minutes later Danila Bogdanov struck the upright in what was another good chance for the Hoops but it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Jamie Farrell sliced the ball out left to Peter Shields during a good move by the visitors but Martins Olakanye was excellent in his interception and took the sting out of the situation. Soon after that Gavin Bazunu was forced to jump to a height to save from a high ball that came in from the right.
Another Bazunu save in the 36th minute was played out to James Furlong who set Oluwa up for a run down the left. Oluwa passed to Clarke who went close with a header over the bar. The decisive moment in the game came in the 38th minute when Oluwa delivered into the box to Bogdanov who again hit the metalwork, this time the crossbar, but Olakanye, after a twist and turn got his foot to the ball and squeezed it into the net to make the score 1-0. Four minutes later the Hoops had a good opportunity to double their score when this time Andy Spain sent Oluwa on another run with the winger supplying Bogdanov who drove his chance wide.
It took a long time for the second half to ignite. Oluwa was the provider in the 63rd minute for Clarke to have a pop but Odumosu made a very good save. Dunne had a good moment in the 66th minute when he put in a critical tackle but the ball broke and Bazunu again went high to take possession. A defensive error in the 74th minute allowed Dundalk’s Jamie Wynne advance on Bazunu but a brilliant tackle by Cian Kelly earned the appreciation of the crowd. There was a late flurry in the game with both sides enjoying some good moves. After some good pressure from the Hoops in the 78th minute midfielder Toby Owens could only watch as his shot went over the bar.
Guarding a one-goal lead is always a dangerous task and Dundalk almost grabbed a late equaliser but thankfully for the Hoops Wynne’s low shot travelled wide of the far post. The Hoops have now qualified for the semi-finals and are potentially just 180 minutes from winning the Under 17 league, a feat last achieved by Shamrock Rovers back in 2015.
Shamrock Rovers: 1. Gavin Bazunu, 2. Martins Olakanye, 3. Alex Dunne, 4. Andrew Spain, 5. Cian Kelly, 9. Danila Bogdanov, 10. James Clarke, 16. Thomas Oluwa, 17. Jordan Tallon, 19. Toby Owens, 20. James Furlong.
Substitutes: 25. Shane O’Rourke, 6. Conor Behan (for Clarke 79 mins), 7. Dean McMenemy, 8. Thomas Hannon, 14. Emmanuel Odeniyi, 23. Shane Nealon, 11. Jack Kelly.
Report and photos here by Robert Goggins