Avondale United 2
AVONDALE United are through to the semi-final of the FAI New Balance Intermediate Cup as they narrowly defeated Midleton 2-1 in an enthralling match at Avondale Park on Sunday afternoon.
An incredible free kick from Jake Hegarty had given Midleton an early lead but a Josh O’Shea penalty and a close-range finish from Danny O’Connell was enough to send Avondale through to the final four of the national competition where they will face fellow Cork side Rockmount.
Midleton are currently second bottom in the Beamish Stout Munster Senior League Senior Premier Division, five points and two places behind their opponents who have played a game more although both sides have matches in hand on their rivals.
The visitors started the game the better side and they threatened to take the lead inside the opening minute but Ray Lally’s deflected shot flashed across the face of the goal.
Last season’s league winners continued to control proceedings in the early stages with Tijani Aibor trying his luck from distance but the midfielder’s tame strike was easily saved by goalkeeper Sean Barron.
Midleton was finally rewarded for their fast start as they deservedly took the lead in the fourth minute thanks to a stunning strike from Jake Hegarty.
The forward took the responsibility for a free kick 25 plus yards from goal and emphatically drilled the ball over the wall and into the top right corner of the net.
That goal seemed to spark Avondale into life and they went close to levelling the scores almost immediately.
But after the lively Danny O’Connell surged towards the end line and pulled the ball back to Josh O’Shea, the United striker just couldn’t scramble the ball home past a determined defence.
Midleton looked certain to double their advantage with just eight minutes on the clock as former Cork City striker Danny Morrissey rounded the goalkeeper and passed to Hegarty who was better placed but the Avondale defence recovered to clear the danger.
The match eventually settled into a more composed tempo following its frantic beginning although Hegarty almost added another well-executed free kick to his tally but on this occasion, his shot curled just wide of the far post moments past the quarter hour.
And just past the half hour, the entire complexion of the game changed as moments after Danny Morrissey had strong penalty appeals waved away by the referee, Avondale broke with pace and were awarded a spot-kick of their own.
Josh O’Shea blasted the penalty just out of the reach of the Midleton keeper and into the bottom left corner to make it 1-1.
Things soon got worse for the Magpies as with the first half drawing to a close, Avondale completed the turnaround as they took the lead when Danny O’Connell latched onto a free in behind the defence and slotted it into the bottom left corner from close range.
These sides met in the league recently with Avondale securing the three points thanks to a narrow 1-0 win at Knockgriffin Park at the beginning of January.
The seven-time winners of this Cup used all their experience in the second period to restrict Midleton to few chances with the best falling to the head of Kevin Murray but it was saved by Barron.
United ought to have sealed their progression in injury time but with O’Shea off the pitch, Hughie O’Donovan was given the opportunity to score from a penalty but couldn’t take it.
That gave Midleton hope but it wasn’t to be their day as their final effort deep into injury time clipped the top of the crossbar following a corner as Avondale hung on and they will now take on Rockmount for a place in the final at the Aviva Stadium.
AVONDALE UNITED: Sean Barron, Danny O’Connell, Ryan Hogan, David Kiely, Mark Horgan, Declan Cahill, David O’Leary, Hughie O’Donovan, Mark O’Sullivan, Josh O’Shea, Cathal O’Neill.
Subs: Vinnie O’Brien for Cathal O’Neill (45), David Shovlin for Josh O’Shea (71), Eoghan Lougheed for Ryan Hogan (83), Karl Caulfield for Danny O’Connell (88).
MIDLETON: Andrew O’Donoghue, James McCarthy, Kelvin Kruschel, Kevin Murray, Gary Collins, James Leahy, Ray Lally, Tijani Aibor, Jake Hegarty, Danny Morrissey, Emmet Cotter.
Subs: Cillian Hurley for Gary Collins (62), Alan Healy for James Leahy (78), Damien Daly for Ray Lally (90).
Referee: Finbarr Murphy.