We hoped the game would live up to the hype and I certainly think we got value for money after making our way into Ferrycarrig Park…
In boxing terms, it was a trilogy fight and we got two heavyweights going toe-to-toe. North End had the advantage coming into the game with a victory and a draw over their opponents during the league campaign. North End had also recently won the league seeing off Rangers by three points (Rangers’ only defeat of the season was to North End).
Considering all of this and the fact that North End would have the more experienced squad in terms of winning competitions, I think they would have been slight favourites going into the game.
The game started in that manner. North End seized the initiative early and had the majority of the ball. At the same time, both defences were well on top in the early stages with Gary Delaney marshalling the North End backline alongside Robin Dempsey while Paul Murphy was alongside Stephen Moloney who was putting his body on the line, so much so that he had to be withdrawn on the hour mark after a collision early in the first half.
North End broke the deadlock with a header from Robin Dempsey from a corner. It was a massive goal to open up the game.
From there, I expected North End to go from strength to strength and put Rangers to the sword to look to end the tie early. The opposite happened. It seemed as though that goal settled Gorey Rangers down rather than rattle them. Gorey Rangers really grew into the game and began to play some excellent football.
They evened up the score around the 30-minute mark. Glen O’Brien beat his man down the right flank, played the ball into Cormac “Bressie” Breslin who swivelled and played an excellent through ball to the onrushing Adam Territt who poked home past the keeper. Rangers were really in the ascendency following the equaliser.
It looked like both sides were heading in at the break level when in stoppage time, Gary Murphy cut in from the right hand-side and whipped a delightful cross in with his left foot that onrushing midfielder Gavin O’Brien managed to get to first and send into the back of the North End net. A real sucker punch for North End right before halftime.
I expected an all guns blazing approach from North End in the second half. I expected them to come out firing looking to get back into the tie and show why they have been the dominant side in Wexford for the past decade, but I feel I was left wanting. I thought they would have a little more to offer on the day and I never felt as though the Rangers backline were ever too worried, their keeper never had to make too many saves either.
Things went from bad to worse for the Sky Blues as Adam Territt raced clear down the left wing after producing a lovely touch to knock the ball past his man. He ran away from everyone and produced a calm finish when it mattered to slot past Charlie Heffernan in the goal and put one Rangers hand on the cup with about 30 minutes to play. North End pushed hard but struggled to create any clear-cut chances.
They seemed to lose their shape as they shoved men forward in hopes of getting back into the game but largely they resorted to pumping long balls down on top of the Rangers defenders which they dealt with impressively. North End did manage what turned out to be a consolation goal deep into injury time, that goal needed to come at least 10 minutes earlier to give them any real hope.
This fixture has grown into a rivalry in recent years. Obviously, it is hardly a derby game with 50km between the two sides but it has grown into a competitive rivalry, similar to Man United and Chelsea in the late 2000s or Man City and Liverpool currently as both sides have been competing for the major honours in recent years.
There were some heavy challenges and clashes from both sides with neither shirking a challenge nor willingly giving the opponent an inch and they gave us a truly great game.
After a season that finished with one North End win, one Gorey Rangers win, a draw, a league title to North End and a Wexford Cup to Gorey Rangers, it could be seen as very much honours even between the two sides for the season. My money would be on the pair of them competing for the major awards again next season as they do battle again.
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