Category: Archive

Irish fail to extend party after the deluge

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By half-time, their much fresher Albanian opponents were three goals to the good. Some in the Irish camp said that mental as much physical tiredness was to blame for the sort of mistakes that wouldn’t have been seen in the earlier rounds. But with manager Paul Doherty’s critique ringing in their ears, the players went out and gave it everything. As often happens to teams going all out, they conceded a fourth. Shortly afterward, Conor Hunter fired home a penalty to make it 4-1. Realistically, the Irish needed to have converted one of their better chances earlier in the half, but they continued to press fiercely nonetheless until the final whistle.
The match was really won and lost the previous night. Many neutrals were expecting an Argentina vs. Cyprus final. It was 1-1 as the first game wound its way towards fulltime at 7:45. Argentina may have been playing for extra time against the Albanians, who’d had two players sent off. But the under-strength side upset that plan by scoring just on the whistle.
Next up at 8:15 were Ireland and Cyprus. The latter were favorites because the team was based around the well-funded Cosmopolitan Soccer League powerhouse Pancyprian Freedoms, whose teams won no less than five trophies last season, including the U.S. Amateur Open Cup. But the Irish, undaunted by the Group of Death, weren’t about to wilt at this point. The two sides fought a relentless titanic, though goalless, battle to the 90-minute mark. Thirty minutes of extra time failed to produce a decider, and so it went to penalties. Alan Reilly saved the first two from the Cypriot kickers, taking a little of the pressure off his Irish teammates. Cheered on by an enthusiastic and vocal Irish crowd, Sean Purcell, Pat Kelly, Hunter and Alan O’Hara each calmly slotted home. A fifth kicker wasn’t required.
It was 11 p.m. Ireland had won, and the fans savored the moment in the New York City night. It proved to be the high moment, but there were others good ones, too, over the course of the tournament. Ireland’s pro international teams, whether from the Republic or the North, don’t produce many hat-tricks, but we saw two in the five games at Copa – one by Hunter in the must-win game against Trinidad & Tobago (it was 3-2) and another by Kurt Smith in the 5-2 quarterfinal victory over Jamaica.
And the Irish added much to the fun and the spirit of the tournament and some of the best games. In his blog at www.copanyc.us, organizer Spencer Dormitzer compared Irish coach Doherty to the ancient Celtic legend Dagba. He wrote: “known as the ‘Lord of Life and Death’ Dagba controls all in his path. Doherty’s players certainly feel his wrath…”
But the Donegal-born boss, who usually associates Celtic legends with Parkhead in Glasgow, had only had nice things to say about his players when it was all over.

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