United's physicality prevails in dominant performance

Galway United stormed into the quarter-finals of the Sports Direct FAI Cup with a thumping 5-1 win over Premier Division UCD on Monday night in a game that was abandoned the previous Friday.

There were farcical scenes that night as the match kicked off while Storm Betty raged. Puddles had already formed on the pitch before kick-off due to the incessant rain, and the situation deteriorated as the rain intensified. There was a grim acknowledgement in the stands that the game would not survive for 90 minutes, but the players were made to continue for 45.

United dominated in the downpour and were 2-0 up at half-time before referee Rob Harvey eventually called time. United were ordered home to return for restart at 0-0 on Monday night. The issuing of tickets rather than refunds to supporters would have been comical had it not come during a cost of living crisis.

Credit United’s administrators who footed the travel bill for the return fixture for those lucky enough to be able to attend on a Monday. That spirit of defiance was carried on to the pitch and perhaps spurred by the injustice, United tore into the tie when it restarted on Monday.

Up front Stephen Walsh and Wassim Auoacharia terrorised the young students with their power and pace. A tight offside decision went against United as they pressed early. Ed McCarthy stole clear on the left and drilled a low cross that Walsh dispatched, but the referee’s whistle had already sounded.

United soon took the lead when Wassim Auoacharia scored in the fifth minute having been played through by a long ball before deftly chipping in for a 1-0 lead.

Once again United’s physicality told. They won the duels well and were dominant in the early exchanges. However, the students settled and were tidy in possession in the middle third. United, though, were far more direct and broke forward in numbers whenever they won the ball back.

They carried a threat at set-pieces too as David Hurley’s deliveries and McCarthy’s long throws threatened to double the damage. So it was after 16 minutes when Walsh stole clear and earned a free on the edge of the student’s box. It went short to Hurley, who drilled home emphatically to reclaim the 2-0 lead that had been stripped from them.

The game settled thereafter, and though the students knitted some nice passes together, they lacked a cutting edge to trouble United’s solid and experienced defence. Going forward United were ruthless.

David Hurley has scored an incredible 18 goals from midfield this season, but none as impressive as the goal to make it 3-0 and effectively end the contest. A free was awarded on the edge of the box. Ronan Manning again touched it to Hurley, who drove a spectacular effort hard and high and past Kian Moore.

Not to be outdone, Manning flashed home in the 46th minute when the ball broke in the home box. He pounced before sending a sumptuous strike to the bottom of the net to seal a sensational first-half with a 4-0 lead.

The commanding lead gave John Caulfield the opportunity to introduce Oisín O’ Reilly, Maurice Nugent and Rob Manley off the bench. Manley was barely on three minutes before he steered home in the 70th minute.

The match petered out - United content with their lot and perhaps with one eye already on a cup quarter-final. Oisín O’ Reilly was unlucky to divert the ball into his own net for a late UCD consolation that made little material impact.

For their exploits, United earned a difficult at home to Dundalk in the quarter-finals. Guided by Galwayman Stephen O’ Donnell, the Lillywhites will pose a big challenge, but one the Tribesemen will relish.

Before this, Cobh come to Galway tomorrow night. United will be eager to maintain this incredible run of form to put the title to bed as soon as possible and carry the accruing confidence into the Dundalk game.

 

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