By Pierce O’Reilly
The Irish Rovers first team got the second half of their season off to a flying start at the weekend with a 5-0 victory over East Meadows at sunny Whitestone. The victory was all the more impressive for Coach Hopper’s team in light of the previous day’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout the Big Apple. After a period of sustained pressure in the opening 20 minutes, Tony O’Donnell was put in the clear and rounded the East Meadows keeper to put the boys in green on their way. Ten minutes later, David Gray had the Rovers two up with a crisp drive from the edge of the box. A goal that Gray will remember as he returns to an Irish jersey.
With the Rovers well in command, a third was added just before the interval by the impressive Stuart Duffin after a great buildup involving no fewer than eight Rovers players. After easing up for the most part in the second half, the Rovers went up by four when Dave Petitt planted a firm header to the back of the net from a corner kick. The romp was completed when big Paul McGlynn added to his
Season’s tally with a pile driver from 20 yards out. Afterward, Coach Hopper expressed his delight with the result, saying that the Rovers must keep this momentum going for the tougher duels that lie ahead.
In Div. I reserve football, it took a last-gasp equalizer from super sub Eddie Beji to salvage a precious point for Ray Quinlan’s men. The Rovers were unable to turn their superior first-half possession into goals and on a number of occasions Mick Daly and Andy Hill were denied by the inspired goalkeeping of the East Meadow’s custodian. Against the run of play East Meadows took the lead in the 35th minute after the ball fell kindly for the East Meadows striker, who finished clinically. Despite the hard grafting of Kevin Kenny and Brian Monahan in midfield, it looked like the Rovers were going to pay the price. However, Beji had the last laugh with his razor sharp finish in the last minute. In a frantic last few moments, it took a goal line clearance from stalwart Willie Dempsey to give Rovers a share of the spoils. Others to impress for the Rovers included Dave Ballantine and Dave Quigley.
Meanwhile, the Over 30s played a friendly and had a comfortable 5-2 victory over East Meadows with player-coach Joe McGreevey netting a brace. Dave Quigley’s neat header put the Rovers 3-1 up at halftime. In the second half, Mark Hoctor beat the offside trap to seal victory for the home side. With five minutes remaining, Brain Bain made it 5-2 with a bending free kick from the corner of the box.
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Rovers travel to Istria next Sunday in their bid to extend their lead at the top of the table and retain the Championship. Istria were beaten by N.Y. Bosnjak, 2-1, and dropped to seventh. Currently Rovers are four points clear with the game in hand over Integral. Oceanside lay a further two points behind in third place.