Blues book their place in the Shield semi-finals

Freebooters A ................2

Freebooters A ................2

Freshford Town ..............1

FREEBOOTERS A team moved into the final four of the Maher Shield, but had a battle on their hands to see off a resurgent Freshford Town.

There may be a division between the teams but Freshford, who are charging towards the top flight following their return to the local game, gave the hosts a testing time at the Fair Green on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon.

It looked like they were on a hiding to nothing when they fell behind inside a minute. Town were cut apart by a brilliant defence-splitting pass from James Kelly. With Freshford in disarray, Eddie Clifford sprang from midfield and coolly tucked the ball inside the right post.

Fine save

Freshford could so easily have been two down within a matter of minutes. Keith Mulcahy provided the opening with a great cross which Damien Raggett volleyed first time, but Shane McGree made a fine save to keep his side in the game.

’Booters kept their foot on the gas, but Freshford showed they also had a potent attack. Paul Guinan almost shot his side level when he curled a 14th minute free-kick over the Blues wall, but Graham Doyle went full stretch to his right to push the ball out for a corner.

That chance seemed to galvanise the visitors, and it was no surprise to see them grab an equaliser five minutes later. Full-back William Looby created the opening with a quick throw to Farrell, who did well to turn his man in the box and drive a shot across the target. Striker Ger Doheny dived at the delivery but couldn’t connect – not that it mattered, as the ball found the inside of Doyle’s right post.

The sides began to cancel each other out after that, but as half-time approached Freebooters went in search of another goal. They should have grabbed one when Raggett sprang the offside trap and stepped on to Eddie Clifford’s 37th minute pass, but McGree made a fine save from close range.

McGree was called upon again just a few minutes later to ensure parity remained. This time William Flood poked a low ball in from the left for John Hayes to connect with, but McGree stayed up long enough to get his outstretched right foot behind the shot and deflect it away to safety.

Attacking prowess

Freebooters kept up their attacking prowess in the second half, and found a way to restore their lead within ten minutes. Ironically, it started from the back – goalkeeper Graham Doyle’s booming kick-out was taken down by John Hayes on the left. A clever ball inside sent Aaron Broaders on his way, the striker breaking his stride only to slip the ball beyond McGree’s right hand.

They almost copperfastened their place in the semi-finals in spectacular fashion on 65 minutes. Standing over a free-kick, James Kelly caught Freshford napping with a squared pass across to Broaders.

The striker ran on the rolling ball and hit it first time. The strike, from a considerable distance, dipped and swerved through the air, but somehow McGree got behind it and flicked it away from the top right corner.

Freshford gave a concerted effort in the final stages, as they pushed for a way back into the game. Sub Liam Hickey lent his support to the attack, forcing Freebooters to defend tightly. One late move saw Hickey link up well with Jonathan Doheny, the duo firing in a teasing cross, but James Kenny couldn’t keep his header on target.

Freebooters A: Graham Doyle, Jamie Lynch, James Kelly, Derek Brennan, Eamon Lyster, Eddie Clifford, John Hayes, Keith Mulcahy (Paul O’Brien, 60 mins), Aaron Broaders (Ger Hayes, 82 mins), Damien Raggett, William Flood (Dessie Hayes, 56 mins).

Freshford Town: Shane McGree, William Looby (Jonathan Doheny, 68 mins), Darren Burke, Jamie Burke, Jimmy Kavanagh, Ned Phelan (Michael Burke, 61 mins), Paul Guinan, James Kenny, David Burke, Ger Doheny (Liam Hickey, 83 mins), Stephen Farrell.

Referee: Pat Conroy.

Shield semi-finals

DAMIEN RAGGETT will have to get the better of his old club if Freebooters A are to make the final of the Maher Shield.

The Blues striker and his city team-mates - including brother Mark - have been drawn away to Stoneyford United in the Shield semi-finals. The other game sees the Lions host Evergreen A in Durrow. No dates have been announced for the games.