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Sheppard double seals deal

PAT Fenlon emptied his bench and won a place in the last four of the FAI Cup for Shamrock Rovers as sub Karl Sheppard turned around a replay which looked like a lost cause.

Dundalk are on their way to winning the league title and last night at Oriel Park they appeared to be on their way to to the Cup semis, Stephen Kenny's side leading 1-0 with 10 minutes left thanks to Pat Hoban's first-half goal.

But subs Sheppard and Kieran Marty Watters turned the game on its head as Rovers conjured up two late goals, keeping alive thieir dream of a first FAI Cup win since 1987.

Friday's drawn game was a tight affair with little to do for both keepers, but there was more to entertain the crowd in last night's replay.

And Rovers needed all the guile and experience of their veteran defenders to cope with all that Dundalk threw at them.

The Hoops could even have gone behind as early as the seventh minute when a clever through ball from Mark Rossiter found its way to Kurtis Byrne but the Tallaght man's shot was well wide.

And on 32 minutes the Rovers goal was under threat again, this time from what would have been a self-inflicted wound. Kurtis Byrne swung in a cross from the left and Rovers full-back Luke Byrne, possibly deceived by the flight of the ball, attempted a clearance but he miscued and almost scored an own goal.

Darren Meenan had been a constant threat to Rovers all night and he crafted the opening goal five minutes before half-time, his free-kick was perfectly flighted for Hoban and the big striker had a free header to power home his 19th goal of the season.

Just three minutes into the second half Hoban was again the threat from a Meenan ball, Hoban's effort coming off the crossbar.

Hoops boss Fenlon made early changes to try and rescue the game, subs Kieran Marty Watters and Stephen McPhail both introduced by the hour-mark while Sheppard was also thrown into the fray. And it was Sheppard who pounced on 80 minutes to grab the equalising goal for Rovers.

Seán O'Connor made the vital intervention in central midfield, dispossessing Richie Towell, and O'Connor's ball was perfectly weighted for Sheppard to sprint through and slide his shot past Peter Cherrie.

And Sheppard still had unfinished business as he came up with the winner three minutes from time. Again the goal came from a breaking ball, Marty Watters supplying Sheppard with the pass, and while the striker had to work for the finish he showed coolness to beat Cherrie for the winner.