Waterford FC advanced to the final of the Mark Farren Under 17 Cup after a remarkable game which saw John Furlong and Gary Hunt’s side beat Shamrock Rovers 4-2 after extra time at Ferrybank’s Village Grounds on Tuesday last.
After the leading the game 2-0 thanks to first half goals from Colm Whelan and Darryl Walsh, the Blues were pegged back by a Dean Williams brace as Rovers upped their game in the second half but two extra time goals means a home final against Sligo Rovers next month.
The large crowd were still coming in the gate when the hosts struck the front after only 22 seconds when Regix Madika whipped in a cross from the right that found the head of Colm Whelan and he beat keeper Kalvin Geraghty with a super glancing header.
The Blues had a golden chance to double the lead from the penalty spot on three minutes when Ciarán Brennan was brought down just inside the area by defender Adam O’Connor. Jack Larkin hit the post and when the rebound came to Dean Beresford, he also struck the woodwork.
A second Blues goal did arrive on 19 minutes when goalscorer Whelan put in a brilliant left-wing corner kick that found Darryl Walsh at the near post and he beat Kalvin Geraghty with a neat header from deep inside the area.
The hosts thought that they were celebrating a third goal ten minutes later when Jack Larkin cracked in a shot from just outside the penalty area but the ball seemed to touch Colm Whelan in an offside position and referee Gary Fitzgerald ruled it out after consulting with his assistant Noel Purcell.
Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Kalvin Geraghty made two brilliant saves in the opening minutes of the second half when he kept out a close-range effort from Colm Whelan, who had raced onto a headed pass from Regix Madika, turning the ball out for a corner kick.
Jack Larkin sent in the resulting corner from the right of the penalty area and after Adam O’Connor headed the ball into the path of Darryl Walsh, his well-drilled effort was also superbly kept out by the Tallaght netminder.
Geraghty was called into action to make another smart save on 51 minutes when Regix Madika got free down the right before crossing to the back post for Lee Costello but his effort at the back post was well saved as the Blues tried to put the game to bed.
Shamrock Rovers got themselves right back into the game on 68 minutes when Jack Kelly got past the challenge of Darryl Walsh down the right channel to cross to the back post where Dean Williams touched home from close-range.
The men from Tallaght were back on level terms nine minutes later when Kelly put in a delivery that wasn’t dealt with by the Blues defence and it was Williams that was on hand to tap home the loose ball from deep inside the area.
Blues defender Greg Waters came to his sides rescue with a brilliant double block to deny Williams a certain hat-trick before Rovers keeper produced a top save to deny Jack O’Donnell a goal after he fired in a shot from the right.
It was Kalvin Geraghty that produced two stunning saves to deny Colm Whelan in the final minutes, the second after the striker cut in from the right but the netminder did well to turn the ball around the posts for a fruitless corner at his near post.
With extra time called into play to decide the outcome of the game, it was Rovers that started the first period on the front foot with Blues keeper Charlie Heffernan produced a top save on 93 minutes when he somehow denied Conor Behan with the rebound also blocked by the home defence.
A second Waterford penalty was awarded by match referee Gary Fitzgerald with one-minute remaining in the first half of extra time when Colm Whelan was clipped in the area and although he tried to stay on his feet, the contact brought him to the floor and after dusting himself down, he beat Geraghty from 12 yards.
The Blues put the game to bed in the fourth minute of second half injury time when Rovers keeper Geraghty picked up a back pass and when the ball was laid into the path of Darryl Walsh, he drilled the ball to the net to end the game as a contest. Rovers had captain Andy Spain sent off seconds later for a foul on Ciaran Brennan.
Waterford FC: Charlie Heffernan, Kallum Broaders, Lee Costello (Torik Adegoke 76), Adam Conway, Darryl Walsh, Greg Waters, Jack Larkin (Sean Tracey 110), Dean Beresford, Ciaran Brennan (Sam Dwyer 110), Colm Whelan, Regix Madika (Jack O’Donnell 76)
Shamrock Rovers: Kalvin Geraghty, Darren Prendergast, Eric Abulu (James Clarke 64), Andy Spain, Adam O’Connor, Jack Priestly, Dean Williams, Martins Olakanye (Emmanuel Odeniyi 105), Conor Behan (Jay Nwanza 105), Reece Murphy (Kenny Cunningham 46), Adam Murphy (Jack Kelly 46)
Referee: Gary Fitzgerald assisted by Noel Purcell and Ian O’Keeffe