Doyle strike keeps Sligo on glory trail
SLIGO ROVERS 1
SHAMROCK RVS 0
Dubliner Eoin Doyle got the only goal of the game to dump Shamrock Rovers out of the FAI Cup last night.
The Sligo Rovers striker rattled the net with a first-time effort on 26 minutes, as the Bit O'Red got the better of Shamrock Rovers for the third game in succession to book their place in the semi-finals of the competition.
The holders had a moment of real anxiety in the four minutes of stoppage-time, however, as Stephen O'Donnell's free-kick looked to hit a Sligo player on the arm.
Referee Alan Kelly was unconvinced though, and maybe there was a little bit of justice for the home side, who also had strong calls for a handball in the area waved away by Kelly at the start of the second half.
Richie Ryan also smacked a free-kick off the crossbar in what was another thoroughly enjoyable contest between two well-matched teams.
With one eye on the forthcoming Europa League ties and their league title challenge, boss Michael O'Neill made six changes to the team beaten by Rubin Kazan last week.
In came youngster Sean Gannon, Billy Dennehy, Karl Sheppard, Ciaran Kilduff and former Sligo players Richard Brush and Gary McCabe.
Gary Twigg, Rohan Ricketts and Ronan Finn were among those left on the bench by the visitors.
Sligo Rovers made two changes from the team that defeated Bray last week, with Aaron Greene returning from injury and Raffaele Cretaro recalled.
The suspended Danny Ventre missed out, while John Dillon was back on the bench despite scoring the late winner when these sides last met at the Tallaght Stadium 10 days previous.
The Hoops started the livelier of the two teams, with Sheppard getting in behind Jason McGuinness and forcing a diving save from Sligo 'keeper Brendan Clarke on five minutes.
The striker had an even better chance three minutes later, when he beat the offside trap and raced onto a McCabe pass.
Clarke came rushing out to save, but Sheppard took it round him, only to see Alan Keane race back to prevent his shot from crossing the line.
Gannon's free-kick created an opportunity for Dennehy on 13 minutes, but the home side rejigged their line-up, with Ndo coming into the middle of the park and Cretaro switching to the right, enabling the hosts to get a grip on proceedings.
They had a great chance to break the deadlock on 22 minutes, as Dan Murray's clearance dropped to John Russell and he released Doyle, but the striker's shot flew just past the far post.
But he made no mistake with his second chance, firing home from close range after brilliant work from man-of-the-match John Russell, Ndo and Greene, who provided the final ball into the area.
The home side lost centre-back McGuinness to a shoulder injury before the interval, with Derek Foran coming on as a replacement.
But they started the second half strongly, with Keane's cross leading to the penalty calls, and Craig Sives making a good tackle to cut out Russell's dangerous ball.
Gary McCabe tried his luck from distance for the visitors, before Michael O'Neill sprung Finn, Twigg and Ricketts from the bench to try and force their way back into the game.
But Ryan almost doubled his side's advantage on 71 minutes, after Doyle was fouled on the edge of the penalty area, and the Sligo captain saw his free-kick crash off the woodwork.
Doyle and substitute Matthew Blinkhorn also had chances on the counter-attack in the closing stages, while Twigg was unable to beat Clarke from the one chance that fell his way late on.
The Hoops shouted loudly for a penalty in stoppage-time, but the home team deservedly held on to reach their third successive FAI Cup semi-final.
Sligo -- Clarke, Keane, Peers, McGuinness (Foran 42), Davoren, Ryan, Russell, Greene (Kirby 80), Ndo, Cretaro (Blinkhorn 82), Doyle.
Shamrock Rovers -- Brush, Gannon, Sives, Murray, Stevens, Dennehy (Finn 57), O'Donnell, McCormack (Ricketts 73), McCabe, Sheppard (Twigg 62), Kilduff.
REF -- A Kelly (Cork).