Firhouse Clover made history on Sunday afternoon as they booked a place in their first-ever FAI Intermediate Cup final with a 2-0 replay win over Letterkenny Rovers in Killinarden.
Goals in either half from Rory O’Connor and Conor were enough to earn Clover a day out at the Aviva Stadium on May 12, where they’ll face Maynooth University Town.
The LSL Sunday Senior side fell at the final hurdle in 2015, losing to eventual winners Crumlin United in the semis, when current manager Keith Baker was part of Peter Flood’s coaching staff.
There was little doubt in Killinarden – the game having been moved from IT Tallaght due to an unfit pitch – as Clover led early and never looked like surrendering it. O’Connor – injured in the first game and only back in training since Thursday night – opened the scoring with barely five minutes on the clock.
Carl Forsyth intercepted after goalkeeper Rory Kelly telegraphed a short kick-out and played it to O’Connor, who showed composure to guide the ball into the bottom corner.
Byrne and Michael Doyle went close during a one-sided opening period, before O’Connor was inches from doubling his tally from Doyle’s low cross.
The striker lasted just half an hour before suffering a recurrence of the hamstring injury that plagued him in Letterkenny and was replaced by the experienced Gerry Bambrick.
Clover continued to press high and force mistakes, and they put the game beyond Letterkenny six minutes into the second half as Byrne drilled his shot into the corner.
“We started on the front foot and didn’t let them settle into the game,” Baker told the Dublin Gazette.
“After seeing them in the first game, we knew pressing them high up the pitch would suit us. We forced them into a lot of mistakes from the back.
“Up there, there wasn’t a kick of the ball between the two teams. I thought both teams were very good. But we were a different animal at home.
“We were very good going forward and we were a solid unit as usual at the back. That’s our seventh clean sheet in the competition, which speaks for itself.”
What was more impressive about Clover’s performance was that they did it without captain Darren Forsyth, who was suspended after getting two yellow cards in Letterkenny.
Letterkenny were missing a man of their own in midfielder Pajo Rafferty, who shipped a 12-month ban from the FAI following an altercation with the referee in the wake of his dismissal two weeks ago.
Forsyth will be back for the final, while Baker expects O’Connor to be fit for the showcase in Lansdowne Road, having rushed himself to be fit for Sunday’s game.
They have games to make up in Sunday Senior – where they’re not clear of relegation but could also conceivably finish in the top three – but a first Intermediate Cup win would be something special.
“A few lads on the committee have been with the club for years and have put so much hard work into the club: Kevin Flynn, John Cullen, Dennis Murphy and Paul Behan.
“It’s great for the club that we can get the final for them, because they’ve done so much work for the club and for the community.”