Pike Rovers made it through to the fifth round of the FAI Junior Cup with a 2-0 away victory over Ballynanty Rovers in the clash of the Limerick District League heavyweights at Limerick Institute of Technology on Sunday afternoon. Two second half goals from Steven McGann and Conor Kavanagh produced the win for the southsiders.
In a very tentative opening period, both sides struggled to create chances. The home side’s best chance came courtesy of a Kieran Hanlon flick on which evaded the head of Kevin Nolan at the back post by inches.
In response, Pike could have taken the lead when Kenneth Meehan failed to deal with a long ball as Johnathan Grant played it into the path of McGann who squared it across the six yard box but Grant was unable to reach the ball on the stretch.
Eoin Hanrahan and Derek Daly traded shots for each side but neither threatened the goalkeepers as the half drew to a close.
While Ballynanty enjoyed the advantage of a strong breeze in the first half and looked the more likely, it was roles reversed in the second period as the visitors took control.
Ian Fletcher picked up possession on the halfway line and played a through ball for Steven McGann and just as it looked as though goalkeeper Stephen McNamara had dealt with the danger by closing him down in the box, McGann regained possession before rounding McNamara and slotting the ball into the net.
Moments later, the visitors could have doubled their lead when substitute Keith Mawdsley crossed from the left and Grant looked destined to head home but he misdirected the effort wide.
As Ballynanty began to push for an equaliser, they were almost caught when a clearance from Fletcher found it’s way into the path of Mawdsley, whose scooped effort was palmed away by McNamara.
Then came a controversial and decisive moment in the game as Shane Walsh delivered a free-kick from the right hand side and referee Nigel Casey awarded a penalty for handball. Ballynanty were adamant that the ball had hit the hand of a Pike player but the referee had no doubt that it was a spot kick.
Following long protestations, Conor Kavanagh coolly slotted the penalty beyond McNamara to send Pike on their way to victory. McGann and Mawdsley had further chances to extend the lead but a combination of McNamara and last ditch defending kept them out.
With time running out, a great solo run from Connor Ellis ended in the former Limerick FC man crossing into the box but neither Nolan or Michael Guerin could connect.
In truth, the away side were worthy winners and they now advance to face Newcastle West Town at home in the last 64.
Ballynanty Rovers: Stephen McNamara, Shaun Kelly, Ken Meehan, Daragh Hughes, Michael Guerin, Derek Daly, Jason Hughes, Connor Ellis, Kevin Nolan, Adrian Power, Kieran Hanlon (Thomas Lyons)
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville, Wayne O’Donovan, Pat Mullins, Robbie Williams, Ian Fletcher, Conor Kavanagh, Steven McGann, Colin Daly (Paddy O’Malley), Shane Walsh, Eoin Hanrahan (Keith Mawdsley), Johnathan Grant (Evan Patterson)