Sheppard gives Rovers edge
Sligo Rovers 0
Shamrock Rovers 2
Shamrock Rovers put one foot in the Setanta Sports Cup final after a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 defeat of 10-man Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds last night.
Ronan Finn and Karl Sheppard fired home the goals in either half, and Sligo 'keeper Brendan Clarke also had to make a number of good saves.
And the Bit O'Red will also be without midfielder John Russell for next Tuesday's second leg in Tallaght, after he was sent off for a late tackle on Pat Sullivan just 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute.
The league champions were the only team to have scored against Sligo this season going into the game, and they repeated the feat on 27 minutes. The ball broke to Finn on the left side of midfield and he sauntered past Richie Ryan's challenge before firing a 25-yard thunderbolt high to Clarke's right and into the net.
Two minutes later, the home side were forced into an early change, as Raffaele Cretaro came on up front in place of Matthew Blinkhorn, who picked up a back injury. Cretaro was involved in creating the home side's best chance of the half, which came five minutes before the break.
Aaron Greene and Joseph Ndo were also involved, before Cretaro dummied a shot and instead teed up Ryan, whose effort flashed wide of the post.
Clarke made a good save just six minutes into the second half, diving to keep out Dean Kelly's ambitious strike after a stray pass from Greene.
Some more sloppy play from the hosts presented the Hoops with two almost identical chances over the next three minutes, but Clarke twice dived to make great saves from Finn and then Kelly.
Clarke denied Finn again from close range soon after, but there was little he could do to prevent Sheppard from heading home the second in front of the posts after a great cross from Pat Sullivan.
Sligo reacted by introducing Russell for Kirby, and the former Galway midfielder forced Alan Mannus into a save at his near post just two minutes after his introduction.
At the other end, Clarke was again called into action to deny Gary O'Neill, after the striker showed great strength to create a shooting chance from the corner of the box.
And the night went from bad to worse for the hosts, when Russell slid in on Sullivan, and referee Alan Kelly brandished a straight red card.
They did go close from another Ndo corner, but Gavin Peers couldn't keep his header down after rising highest in the area.
Sligo -- Clarke, Keane, Peers, Foran, Davoren, Doyle, Ndo, Ryan, Kirby (Russell 59), Greene (Dillon 71), Blinkhorn (Cretaro 29).
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Sullivan, Murray, Oman, Stevens, Rice, McCormack, Sheppard (Kavanagh 88), Finn, Kelly (Dennehy 66), O'Neill (Kilduff 75).
Ref -- A Kelly.