Doona magic ends Cork's treble ambitions as Shamrock Rovers will face Dundalk in EA Sports Cup final
SHAMROCK R 1 CORK CITY 0
THIS was not the kind of game that ever looked likely to finish with the euphoria of a pitch invasion.
But after 120 minutes of perspiration without inspiration, Shamrock Rovers winger James Doona produced a goal that triggered one at Tallaght Stadium.
The substitute swivelled in the area before sending in a left footer that broke the resolve of a Cork side that had defended brilliantly with ten men for 78 minutes.
They were seconds away from a shootout when Rovers finally struck to end City's ambitions of a domestic treble. Manager John Caulfield was also sent to the stands in a fiery encounter that was short of real quality.
Shamrock Rovers boss Stephen Bradley won't lose too much sleep over that after finally registering a win over a Cork side that has consistently given him problems during his tenure. His team will now take on Dundalk in the decider on September 16.
The main talking point in this game came three minutes shy of the interval when visiting centre half Alan Bennett was dismissed for an off the ball shove on Dave Webster as they wrestled to follow-up a shot from Jimmy Keohane.
Cork were furious as tempers spilled over, with all 22 players getting involved, but they had to regroup to cope with the stiff task that lay ahead.
Prior to that, it had been even enough battle with the best chance falling to Rovers' Gary Shaw. They should have created more opportunities against ten men with Caulfield sending in Conor McCarthy to fill the void left by Bennett with young striker Conor Ellis withdrawn.
McCarthy slotted in next to Ryan Delaney who adapted well to the senior role on this occasion after a few tough moments without Bennett in recent weeks.
It took them a while to make inroads, though, with Cork solid after the resumption and succeeding in keeping Rovers at arm's length. That said, they were almost punished for standing off at one point when a Ronan Finn thunderbolt inspired a fantastic stop from Mark McNulty who pushed it onto the post.
With 20 minutes to go, the hosts did break through when Brandon Miele wasted a one-on-one that was created by Gary Shaw.
Otherwise, Rovers controlled possession without being dominant in the key battles. Greg Bolger and Garry Buckley worked hard in the middle for City with Karl Sheppard leading the line on his own. Their discipline was impressive, with the natives frustrated by their side's decision making in the final third.
Cork reduced their options, and they only faced one major scare in the final minutes of regulation time, when McNulty raced from his goal to deny Madden before David McAllister blasted the rebound over.
It was the kind of miss that suggested an extra thirty minutes was coming, although Caulfield would watch it from the stands as punishment for a comment made to the fourth official.
Rovers did look like a side with a holding midfielder too many and the introduction of Doona for McAllister in the early stages of extra-time addressed that.
They were nearly caught on the counter in the aftermath with Sheppard firing wide, but Bradley's men began to spend more time in the Cork box and had claims for a penalty waved away when Madden went down after a push from Shane Griffin.
At that point, it looked as though spot kicks would be required to settle the evening. But Doona had other ideas, capitalising on a Michael O'Connor flick to set off frenzied celebrations.
Shamrock Rovers – Chencinski, Madden, Webster, Byrne (Carpenter 59), Clarke; Finn, McAllister (Doona 95); Connolly, Burke, Miele; Shaw (O'Connor 101)
Cork City– McNulty, Beattie (Morrissey 90), Bennett, Delaney, Griffin; Bolger, Keohane; Sheppard (Campion 101), Buckley, Dooley; Ellis (McCarthy 42)
Ref – N Doyle (Dublin)