Bell push Rovers all the way

by James Hendicott

SHAMROCK Rovers had slightly too much for ten-man Bluebell United as the last two remaining Dublin sides played out an enthralling contest at the Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
Bluebell – who had taken their illustrious, professional rivals from two tiers above to extra time in the Leinster Senior Cup last year – had dubbed the contest the “biggest game in the club’s history” and reverted the contest to Tallaght after being drawn at home in the FAI Cup quarter-final.
Andy Noonan’s Red Cow side were far from intimidated, though, as they enjoyed early spells of possession against The Hoops, and more than held their own in the opening period.
Goalkeeper Andy McNulty had needed to be in sharp form in the early minutes for the underdogs, stopping a close range effort after a goalmouth scramble five minutes in, but it was Gary Seery who was proving the Leinster Senior Sunday club’s greatest outlet.
His dribble through the Rovers defence on ten minutes almost found the prolific Shane Stritch, while Aaron Richardson also had a solid sight on goal. Instead Rovers found themselves in front, with Brandon Miele – also prolific up top this season – finding some space to bash the ball past McNulty.
Bluebell hit back almost immediately, deservingly equalising as Seery got in front of Trevor Clarke to lash in for the amateurs, his goal coming from a cross from former Rovers player Dean Ebbe.
Miele was to strike again, though, his form clear to see as he placed the ball perfectly into the corner of the Bluebell goal to give the pros a 2-1 half time lead in a competitive contest.
Some fine saves from the popular McNulty kept Bluebell in the contest for a few minutes longer after halftime, as he was forced into action several times with Rovers on the up.
The Tallaght side eventually took advantage, though, with Connolly rocketing the ball past McNulty as he found space in the box off a Miele pass.
A moment of madness then saw Bluebell captain Anthony Griffiths sent off for the slightly senseless act of stepping on Simon Madden, having already been booked. While Shane Stritch and Rovers defender Lee Grace combined to rifle home a cross and pull the contest back to 3-2, the deficit and man disadvantage was always going to be a tough ask against high level opposition for the Red Cow club.
Instead, Miele was to complete his hat trick and bring the score to 4-2, played in by Clarke inside the box to blast past the temporarily blue-bearded LSL goalkeeper, a former star at rivals Bohemians.
A great showing by Bluebell considering the calibre of the opposition, but they’ll have to content themselves with a League of Ireland scalp and now concentrate on regaining their third tier crown. Some showing.

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