Friday Night Lights

 

Job done. Just about. It was not the most convincing or free-flowing display you’re ever likely to see from the Reds, but the most important thing is that we’re in the draw for the next round. There was a real sense of trepidation amongst our small group as we trooped through Clonturk Park en route to Tolka from the alehouse we were plotted up in on the Drumcondra Road. Would we be treated to another dreadful night at the hands of non-league opposition? The ghosts of Crumlin and Sheriff still loom large around these parts. Fucking shitty night for a game, rainy heavy dark evening. With the gleaming floodlights coming into view, one of the chaps speculates as to whether or not the game is still on, such is the lack of any sort of crowd noise. As we cut down the lane that leads us onto the Richmond Road, the realisation that one of the other ties in the round, Waterford- Mervue, has already been rained off is greeted with a few  sardonic snorts from the lads.

The Reds start the brighter and should be ahead by a couple of goals within the opening 15 minutes. A wild clearance from a Cherry Orchard defender is only kept out by the fingertips of his keeper, thus sparing the latter’s blushes as a nailed-on cert for OG of the year. The crowd is sparse, and a far-cry from the reasonable attendances in 09 and 11 against the aforementioned LSL outfits. The inclement weather may have been the excuse many were looking for to stay away. The third game in 7 days, 15 brick in on a drizzly night to watch the Reds slug it out against a pub side? No thanks, seems to be answer from most.

Shelbourne are going through the motions but comfortably on top without playing well. Chances are being created and spurned. Please, please, please do not let this be another one of those nights. And then the breakthrough……….for the visitors. A ball from our right hand side isn’t cut out and makes its way into our penalty area. Glenn Cronin and one of their forwards both slide in together to win the breaking ball, and the Orchard man’s leg seems to strike Cronin’s shin. Surreally, and to the bemusement of the assorted hardcore in the New Stand, the referee points to the spot. Former Shels talisman (snigger) Marc Hughes tucks away the spot kick. 0-1, and the shock is on.

In fairness to the shirts, they didn’t let this setback entirely disrupt their game and within a few minutes have the ball in the net only to see the equaliser ruled out by the linesman’s flag, presumably for offside. The visitors lead doesn’t last long however as a surging run from Gareth Matthews sees the full back needlessly taken down by an Orchard defender. HEWHW does the needful from the spot and levels the Reds up before the break, his second converted penalty in five days- lets hope the big man is rediscovering his goalscoring touch.The half ends on a sour note- some AntoAndDeco League thug tries to break Daws’ leg- the Shels midfield very lucky not to be seriously injured following a horrific and reckless tackle. Unbelievably, the ref only books the non-leaguer; particularly galling when Shelbourne players have been receiving their marching orders for a lot less all season long. You know the crowd is really abysmal when you walk into the bar after the half-time whistle and there’s not even a one-person queue.

 

The second half is a scrappy affair, as it begins to dawn on the home fans that Cherry Orchard are probably the worst non-league team we’ve faced in many a year, on a par with the Rockmount team we gave a hiding to ten years ago. We can’t seem to get the breakthrough, there’s plenty of endeavour but not enough craft, and for all our possession we’re still looking too narrow. We have yet to seriously test them on the wings, although Barry Clancy seems to be getting  a bit of joy down the left. Please no fucking soul-destroying midweek replay. Please. Casso misses a great chance from close range, and later when one-on-one with the keeper, steers his low shot wide of the far post. It’s just not happening for the diminutive Ringsender tonight. Glenn Cronin is then desperately unlucky to see a thundering volley creep wide. Would have been a wonder goal.

We’re still, surprise surprise, looking jittery at the back. Our defence are too hesitant to clear their lines, and allow the ball to bounce in and around the 18 yard box far too often. Anxiety is growing in the stands. Lorcs looks like hes on a go-slow this second half- he can’t get going, really lacking pace tonight. Just not at the races. Gareth Matthews is having a dreadful game, his second in the space of 5 days after his Dalymount horror show on Monday. He’s definitely the weak link in an already shaky back four.

Conan Byrne is introduced for the enterprising Barry Clancy. Regulars down the Dumcondra End exchange quizzical glances; yes, we need a goal but Clancy has been arguably our best player this evening. Will this turn out to be another one of Alan Mathews bizarre substitutions or will it be an astute masterstroke from the Reds manager? Masterstroke it would appear! Within a few minutes of the change, we’re ahead- a brilliant cross from Casso is nodded home by HEWHW. Relief, serious relief. We’d only just settled down celebrating that goal when Co Byrne picks the ball up just outside the box and smashes it low and hard to the bottom right hand corner of the Cherry Orchard net. No chance for the keeper. Game over. Surely.

Of course not, who do you think you support? One of the clichés I hate in football is when some morose, self-depreciating  fan of some club or other says something along the lines of “Y’know X (insert fans team), we never like to make it easy on ourselves”. Usually this sort of remark can be dismissed as a sort of supporter stock phrase, but in Shels case it is actually true. Within two minutes of giving ourselves a two goal cushion, Gareth Matthews inexplicably makes a total bollocks of a routine clearance, ends up on his arse and allows the Orchard striker a handy finish past Delany. 3-2, fuck. What in the name of fuck was Matthews doing for that? It capped off a truly awful defensive display from the full back.

Lets be honest, you’d be almost disappointed with the Reds if they didn’t give you a minor coronary going into injury time. We manage to become even more jumpy at the back, if that we were possible. A Cherry Orchard corner. Bouncing about the penalty area. Driven towards goal. Back of the net written all over it. Taken off the line by a Shelbourne head. Christ on a Ducati, how do we manage to get ourselves into such crises? What should have been a routine victory against brutal non-league opposition sees hanging on for dear life at the death. The game ends, and no one around me is ecstatic, excited or reassured. Just relieved. Very fucking relieved.

So what did we learn?

  • Barry Clancy has put in a great claim over the past week for a regular starting place on the left wing. For all his limitations, he’s done well out there as of late, our Barry.
  • No matter who we have in goal, we continue to look jittery and disorganised at the back. This need to be sorted as soon as possible, although we’ve been saying that all season.
  • Gareth Matthews is really struggling. Whatever about his ability to join the attack, he struggles with the fundamentals of defending. On Monday and Friday again, he was shown up by some fairly substandard wingers.
  • We might get away with missing chance after chance against this calibre of opposition, but in the next round we won’t be so lucky. We need to become more clinical in front of goal, since we seem incapable of keeping a clean sheet down the other end.
  • Our season will still be alive going into September.
  • Lorcs can excite and infuriate in equal measure. Excellent Monday night in Dalymount, was a no-show for the second half of last night’s cup tie.
  • Conan Byrne is developing a habit of coming off the bench and scoring screamers. Why can’t he produce this sort of magic on a more regular basis and how can we get the best out of an evidently talented footballer?
  • No matter how good/terrible they are, we never, ever seem to have it too handy against non-league sides in the FAI Cup.

Anyway, we’re through to the last eight, so maybe we should all cheer up and try and enjoy it. Roll on Monday night’s draw, winner of Waterford/Mervue in Tolka, ta.

Monday’s goals

Relive the main talking points from Monday night’s derby draw at Dalymount.

Highlights courtesy of jafrazer.

From the RI Unred archive – April 2005-The man who would be king

Over the coming months, Reds Independent will be posting a number of articles from the past that for one reason or another never made it into print. With the football kicking off again this weekend across the water, RI delve into the archive to look back at the emerging talent that would one day become one of Ireland’s brightest EPL stars.

Weso scoring agsint the Junkies

One of the few resurfacing criticisms of the current Reds side is that sometimes the midfield lacks creativity and guile. Undoubtedly valued and effective, the pragmatic midfield partnership of Byrne and Crawford is often accused of sacrificing flair for attrition and workmanlike displays. This often has the negative effect of the attacking options becoming a little one dimensional and direct, where at times the football takes on the appearance of that which occurred under Keely. Thankfully, the belated return of Joey Ndo would seem to redress this. Joey was fantastic last Monday week when he came on against Portadown at Shamrock Park. His passing was crisp and accurate, his vision superb, and was very unlucky not to get that crucial second goal with a lovely curling effort that just went past the keeper’s left-hand post. Hopefully, he can get a run in the team and generate a few more attacking options for the Reds.

However, it would be particularly unfair if this issue went by without recognizing the impact Wes Hoolahan has made this term. Wes has been phenomenal this season, and it’s great to see this acknowledged with an extended run in the team. His marvellous dribbling skills are as good as ever, but what has really added to his game is his physical strengthening. One of the reoccurring complaints about Wes over the past few years was that he was a bit lightweight and hence a liability in midfield due to the physical nature of domestic game. Clearly, he’s been working on his physique and this has added a dimension to his game. The days when some hardened EL veteran could brush Wes off the ball easily thankfully appear to be in the past. In the game against the stains here at Tolka, the combination of his strength and skill has often too much for them to handle and were forced into fouling him continuously. His pace and trickery ensure that the opposition are in for a tough game when they play against him. Hopefully the refs will give this gifted star the protection he needs and deserves, as there’s enough “footballers” in this league willing to kick lumps out of players like Wes.

Another criticism some fans have of Wes is that there is still a tendency for him to take too much out of the ball and try to beat the entire opposition on his own. Whilst this remains the case a little bit, it should be acknowledged that this has been restricted somewhat this season. In fairness to Hoolahan, I think that this aspect of his game is something fans should accept as an unfortunate consequence of such a talented player. A player of this calibre will often instinctively do these things. And while this can unquestionably frustrate supporters at times, it can equally excite and delight them on other occasions.

Also, Hoolahan’s passing has improved this term too. I think he’s realised that not every pass has to be the killer pass to set up a chance. Now, he is willing to give the simple ball. Having said, when Wes does play a well timed through ball, it’s usually to devastating, defence-splitting effect. His delightful pass through to Stewy Byrne for the third and critical goal against the scum in April is an example of this. I also think his crossing has come on leaps and bounds. Wes has had a good run at left-wing the last few weeks and he capped that with a precision cross for Jayo’s goal at Shamrock Park. His overall awareness has improved, and he seems less reluctant to have a shot now either-as demonstrated with his well-taken goal against pats.

Overall, it’s great to see such a raw talent develop as a player with Shels and go some way to fulfil his massive potential. Well done Wes.

And now for something completely different….

A few weeks ago, Rté took a break from its usual brutal domestic football coverage, getting offended by lads singing naughty songs, and showing its regular tedious dross to repeat the now infamous 1975 documentary on the Reds, In My Book You Should Be Ahead, as part of their TV50 series. The documentary was a behind the scenes, warts and all, exposé on various aspects of the club in the lead up to the 1975 Cup Final against Home Farm. Considered a snapshot of the time, fans are treated to the views of fans, players and directors as the trials and tribulations of running and supporting a football club are laid bare for all to see. Whilst many Reds and LoI fans in the main consider falling crowds, public apathy, stagnation of the game and declining standard of grounds as being synonymous with the modern state of the league, this eye-opening documentary proves that these sentiments are not a contemporary phenomenon at all and have been part of the fabric of Irish football for the past four decades at least. Highlights include a look at what you could have won as Irishtown Stadium lies idle, as well as a hilarious and unforgettable scene set in Clarkes in Ringsend. Anyway, you can enjoy it here……

Reds v UCD- August 10th

courtesy of Ciaran Doyne

It’s mid-August, and this Friday’s game against UCD sees Shelbourne reach a particularly important juncture in the season. Following our bye week, afforded due to the untimely demise of Monaghan United, we sit comfortably in 6th place a good winning-streak away from the coveted European and Setanta Cup places. A win this weekend for the Reds could be the catalyst for a late season surge for a top 4/5 finish, whereas anything less than 3 points will surely condemn us to a lower half finish what with a tough run of fixtures on the horizon.

The previous meeting between the sides produced arguably Shels best performance of the campaign to date and although the Students should never be taken lightly, surely a similar display to that of Belfield in May will see the three points winging their way to Tolka. The imminent return of Glenn Cronin from injury will be a massive boost for the shirts and will add some much needed steel in the centre of midfield. We’ll need to him to be on top of his game to shackle the likes of Paul Corry and Paul O’ Conor. Kev Dawson has come into his own in recent months, but Daws always excels when he has a ball-winner alongside him in there to do a lot of the graft.

As someone on the forum pointed out recently, we’ve yet to see a back four of Shortall- Boyle-Paisley-Fitzgerald turn out for the Reds. This is arguably our strongest back line and at this rate surely deserves an outing to shore up our leaky defence. Continuity, or a lack thereof, has been the key to our defensive problems all year. Changing your back four every week or every second week is bound to cause confusion, consternation and a lack of cohesion especially in the Premier Division against a higher calibre forward. With a bit of luck, these four will get a run together as we enter the business end of the season.

On another note, it seems Dean Delany has been unfairly scapegoated yet again by the manager. We all know at this stage Deano is persona non grata with Mathews, but surely Delany represents a more stable and reliable choice between the sticks for the remainder of the season ahead of the hapless Skinner or the erratic, error-prone Bennion. Yes, Delany has made a few errors over the past 12 months- but dropping him every time he does so only serves to undermine the confidence of our number 1. And yet, the other keepers in our squad seem to be afforded more patience when it comes to making mistakes.

One thing you can be sure of; the Reds won’t make it easy for themselves. A start like the last time the sides met, however, will ease the nerves somewhat and hopefully give us the platform to go on and emerge victorious.

Enjoy the game.