Security fears for Linfield tie
SHAMROCK Rovers and Linfield will clash in the Setanta Sports Cup for the first time next month as the draw for the quarter-finals paired the Hoops with the Blues following Rovers' 2-0 win away to Coleraine last night.
In the other ties in the last eight, Glentoran's reward for a win over St Patrick's Athletic last night is a quarter-final meeting with Sligo Rovers, while Cork City take on Crusaders, and there will be at least one League of Ireland side in the last four as Derry City play Drogheda United.
The FAI and the Garda Síochána will now work closely with Rovers to put security arrangements in place for Linfield's visit to Dublin for the first leg of the quarter-finals, on Monday March 4th, with Rovers due to play in Windsor Park a week later. The clubs have previously met in the European Cup, in 1984, but have never clashed in the Setanta Cup.
Linfield have visited Dublin a number of times to play in the Setanta Cup since the competition was introduced in 2005, playing Shelbourne (2005, 2006), St Pats (2008, 2010) and Bohemians (2010) and those games have largely passed off without incident, but Gardai will be aware that tensions will be heightened due to the ongoing controversy in Belfast over the flags issue.
All four games played in the North last night went ahead without any security problems but it's a concern that a planned Irish League game on Saturday, between Crusaders and Cliftonville, was called off on the advice of the PSNI because of a protest outside Crusaders' home ground, Seaview, over the flying of the union flag.
Rovers earned their quarter-final spot with a scrambled injury time goal from Ciaran Kilduff.
Extra-time loomed with Rovers cancelling out Coleraine's first-leg lead courtesy of an early Mark Quigley goal.
But then Kilduff reacted fastest as the Coleraine defence failed to clear a cross and he stabbed the ball past keeper Michael Doherty.
Earlier, Doherty had denied James Chambers when he brilliantly touched his shot onto the crossbar.
Rovers, impressive in the opening stages, took the lead and levelled the tie after only six minutes.
Gary McCabe's right-wing cross left Doherty uncertain about coming off his line for the ball. As he delayed, Quigley outpaced the home defence, ran into the space and crashed a volley into the net from six yards.
Coleraine looked to be on the ropes and McCabe attempted a speculative long-range shot which drifted wide.
However, the visitors ran out of steam and Coleraine gradually eased their way into the game. Stephen Lowry and Paul Owens combined to produce Coleraine's first opening after 27 minutes but Lowry could not get the direction on his header inside the box.
Only a save by Doherty and the woodwork saved Coleraine from falling further behind in the second half.
When Owens went charging through at the other end Rovers' skipper Pat Sullivan sent him to ground and was relieved to see only a yellow card issued by Arnold Hunter. Rovers finished with a flourish and it was left to Kilduff to punish Coleraine's defence, drilling his shot past Doherty.