Fairview Rangers earned the bragging rights last Sunday afternoon following a 0-1 away victory over fierce rivals Pike Rovers at Crossagalla in the FAI Junior Cup. In truth, the game never lived up to it’s pre-match billing as so often can be the case when the stakes are so high.
In particular, the first half was a very tense affair with neither side threatening to open the scoring and defences were well on top. Eoin Hanrahan cut inside substitute Liam Byrnes who was introduced early in place of the injured Dermot Fitzgerald but his shot was easily dealt with.
Fairview started the second half with a real purpose and Ross Mann almost directed Eddie Byrnes corner into the net but his effort travelled just wide. The visitors had another big chance when Gary Neville spilled a Clyde O’Connell free-kick but captain Jeffrey Judge couldn’t control the rebound and blazed over.
The goal the game desperately needed arrived on the hour as Mann’s cross wasn’t cleared by Pike and it looked as though Robbie Kelleher had bundled the ball home. However, it was former Limerick man O’Connell who got the last touch on the line to send the away support into raptures.
It proved to be the decisive action of the game and Fairview held out for a massive victory and passage through to the FAI Junior Cup quarter-finals. It was a disappointing day for Pike who failed to test Aaron Savage outside of a Keith Mawdsley effort late on.
Fairview manager Jason Purcell will be delighted with how his side nullified Pike’s threats on the day. Jamie Enright and Liam Byrnes had very solid outings at left and right-back respectively and as a result Eoin Hanrahan and Evan Patterson were unable to supply for Johnathan Grant.
Colin Daly was afforded no space by a combination of Steven Bradley and Mark Slattery and the latter put in a performance reminiscent of that in his Carew Park days. Fairview’s dangerman Ross Mann was full of running and aided by the evergreen Robbie Kelleher, both players did not give Robbie Willliams and Pa Mullins a moments peace.
If the last three meetings between these bitter rivals are anything to go by, the Hoops might be fearful of relinquishing some power in Limerick. Outside of a recently successful three year period for Janesboro, Pike have enjoyed the title of Limerick junior soccer’s best side for the majority if not all of the last decade.
However, the fact remains that Fairview are the only team in the last 21 months to inflict defeat on Williams side within the regulation 90 minutes. Both sides along with Ballynanty will be battling it out for the league title and if both sides win their respective Munster Junior Cup last 16 ties, they will also meet in the provincial tournament.
Not to mention the small matter of a Tuohy Cup semi-final also. By the end of the season, both clubs will be extremely familiar with each other and as was evident yesterday, both sets of players already are. It is great to see the re-emergence of the rivalry.