Seaford Rock United 3-4 Liffey Wanderers (a.e.t.)
Tom Cullen Cup
8 April 2015
A valiant defeat on a night of Shakespearean tragedy in Blackrock.
Not many classic Seaford matches result in a Seaford defeat, but few have ever borne witness to so much pathos, farce and folklore as this Cullen Cup quarter final.
It shouldn’t have even been close. Liffey Wanderers, doyens of amateur football in the capital, were in the midst of an extraordinary rampage through the Leinster Senior League. which saw them win sixth successive promotions to reach the summit of the non-league game in Ireland. Back in 2015, they were making light work of the division above Seaford, winning 18 of their first 21 matches, and were a few weeks away from their ultimate success: winning the FAI Junior Cup at the Aviva Stadium.
Seaford, on the other hand, were In a deep pit of despair. Mired in a relegation battle, the previous fortnight had seen them take hidings in consecutive hidings against Rathmichael Shankill and Ballyoulster United – worldbeaters neither – conceding eight without scoring any. The cup tie had been scheduled awkwardly for Seaford, on a Wednesday evening to accommodate the visitors’ fixture list, and key players Caoimhin Fahy, Mark Hanratty, Paul Murphy and Mark Sullivan were all ruled out. Privately, the objective within the camp was to keep the score down and concentrate on a vital relegation six-pointer against Jobstown the following Sunday.
No surprise therefore that after a confident start, Liffeys took an early lead. But Seaford hit back inside the first quarter of hour courtesy of a brilliant finish from Harry Crowe. The beanpole striker controlled a long clearance by keeper Edd Ryan before nutmegging a defender and sending keeper Philip O’Connor the wrong way.
From then on, Liffeys were lacklustre, and Seaford inspired. Mike O’Neill and Rory O’Huiginn were tireless in midfield, driving Seaford on, while Collie Dolan buzzed in front of them and Crowe occupied the Wanderers defence with his superb aerial ability and adhesive first touch. A couple of vital saves from Ryan maintained parity – until the 82nd minute. Seaford won a free kick on the edge of the box. With the regular free-taker Hanratty unavailable, Stephen Kane grabbed the ball, and curled an unstoppable strike into the top corner. Bedlam ensured. Kane fatefully removed his shirt in celebration., causing the referee to produce a second yellow card of the match.
Heartbreakingly, the Liffeys response was instant. From a free kick of their own on the edge of the box, they worked a clever training ground routine, enabling Danilo de Souza to make it 2-2.
Into extra time, and for Seaford’s remaining ten, the task was more daunting than ever. The visitors made it 3-2 almost immediately. From a break down the left, a back-post cross was stabbed goalwards, taking a cruel deflection before finding the corner, despite Ryan’s brilliant effort to keep it out. Another break, this time down the right, led to a fourth for the visitors.
And yet Seaford kept going. In the second period of extra time, Sullivan - fit enough only for a place on the bench - nicked the ball off a defender and finished brilliantly from range to bring it back to within one goal. In one final siege on the Liffeys goal, Seaford were sure they’d earned a penalty when O’Connor manhandled Matty Tappin, but amidst chaotic scenes the referee’s whistle signified only the end of the match.
It was, at least, a heartening performance from Seaford. A win over Jobstown the following Sunday proved a big step towards safety, even if the team somewhat stumbled over the line, losing their last three fixtures and beating the drop only due to their rivals’ failings. Liffeys, for their part, saw their cup run ended in the semi-finals by Tullamore Town, again after extra time. One suspects that cup exit doesn’t live as long in the memory.