Stalemate in first leg encounter as Galway United rage at the end
A disappointing game at the Carlisle Grounds left this semi-final all to play for both sides. On a cold and blustery evening, neither side were able to find the necessary breakthrough.
The key moment of controversy came a few minutes before the end. The away side believed they had a legitimate shout for a penalty for a late challenge in the box. John Caulfield showed his displeasure at the end.
Bray made four changes from the surprising 4-2 loss to Wexford. Andrew Quinn, Mark Byrne, Ryan Graydon and Joe Doyle came into the side at the expense of Dylan Barnett, Darren Craven, Luka Lovic and Callum Thompson dropping to the bench. Galway United had the luxury of resting most of their first-choice side for the game at Turner’s Cross. Only Maurice Nugent retained his place from that encounter.
The home side were keen to put recent poor form against them to the back of their minds as they started brightly. Brendan Kavanagh swivelled to volley goal-wards on a ball into his path. He was unlucky to see it go just over. They were on the front foot again as Conor Clifford set up Joe Doyle. His whipped cross went just wide of the target. The former was proving to be a constant menace to the Galway defence.
Galway struggled to get meaningful possession in the early stages but began to come more into the game as the half continued. Conor McCormack begun to stamp his authority on matters and his duel with Kavanagh was proving to be quite even.
The midfield battle was proving to be somewhat of a stalemate as the game became scrappy in nature. Both sides were flying in with tackles and neither could carve out a clear opportunity.
Unfortunately, some of this poor play continued into the second half. Bray had a good opportunity from a set-piece, but it was over complicated by Clifford and Kavanagh before going wide. Galway were also guilty of wayward shooting as they wasted a promising breakaway. Wilson Waweru then had a chance when found one-on-one with Brian Maher. He delayed the shot which allowed the goalkeeper smoother the effort.
The Seagulls knew the imperative was on them to try and find a breakthrough as the home side. They begun to see a sustained period of pressure as Galway were pushed back. Lovic came off the bench to provide some freshness and he was unlucky no-one was around to connect with an opportunity that went across the face of the goal.
At the other end, the Galway management staff were furious with a booking for Padraic Cunningham. He went down under pressure in the box but was booked for alleged simulation. John Caulfield also picked up a yellow card for words to the officials.
Bray did have a late chance as the game drew to a close from a free kick. It was played into the box but confidently gathered by Conor Kearns. He received a free for a push as he collected the ball to the frustration of the home support.
As-you-were for both sides then at the end. Both will know that a significant improvement is needed ahead of the second-leg at Eamonn Deacy Park. They face up to one another again on Sunday with a 17:00 kick-off.
Bray Wanderers: Brian Maher; Andrew Quinn, Daniel Jones (Luka Lovic 56), Mark Byrne, Aaron Barry (c); Richie O'Farrell, Brandon Kavanagh, Ryan Graydon, Conor Clifford; Gary Shaw (Darren Craven 72), Joe Doyle.
Subs not used: Jack Ross, Kian Clarke, Dylan Barnett, Sam Verdon, Steven Kinsella, Darragh Lynch, Jamie Bowden.
Booked: Mark Byrne (39), Conor Clifford (63).
Sent off: None.
Galway United: Conor Kearns; Stephen Walsh, Conor O'Keeffe, Joe Gorman, Gary Boylan (Shane Doherty 76); Wilson Waweru (Padraic Cunningham 76), Maurice Nugent, Conor McCormack (c), David Hurley; Mikie Rowe, Ruairi Keating.
Subs not used: Killian Brouder, Carlton Ubaezuonu, Christopher Horgan, Mikey Place, Dean O'Shea, Luke Denison, Alex Murphy.
Booked: Conor O'Keeffe (46) ,Padraic Cunningham (83) John Caulfield (93).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Gavin Colfer
extratime.com Player of the Match: Conor McCormack