Duffy strikes late to break rovers hearts
Rovers 0 Dundalk 1
They left it late, but Dundalk sealed their place in the FAI Cup final against Shamrock Rovers when they overcame a tricky Sligo Rovers side at The Showgrounds on Sunday evening.
Michael Duffy's 89th minute strike proved the winner, breaking the hearts of the majority of the 4,079 who packed the Showgrounds on the night.
It looked as though the game was headed for a replay on Tuesday week at Oriel Park, until Vinny Perth's side eventually broke down a steely Rovers defence.
The hosts had not contested the semi-final of the FAI Cup since they last won the competition in 2013, the interest in the fixture clear to see as The Showgrounds was a sell-out for the evening.
The Lilywhites, on the other hand, have become accustomed to featuring in the FAI Cup final/ Vinny Perth's side have contested the last four consecutive FAI Cup finals, and need to win the cup in order to claim the treble.
Kris Twardek was first to test the waters after two minutes on Sunday, with his attempt going over, before Rovers were dealt a massive blow as talisman Romeo Parkes was forced off after 12 minutes due to a knee injury.
Ed McGinty had to be alert in the Rovers goals to keep out Michael Duffy's free-kick, before the former Celtic youngster bravely raced off his line to fist the ball clear of the head of Patrick Hoban inside the box.
Liam Buckley's side should have taken the lead on 22 minutes when David Cawley's curling free-kick was nodded just wide of the target by John Mahon.
The Bit O'Red felt they should have had a penalty just seconds later when Ronan Coughlan appeared to be clipped in the box by Daniel Cleary, but referee Rob Harvey was unmoved by the claims.
Replays have shown that it was a stonewall penalty, much to the annoyance of the Rovers faithful.
The Louth men suffered a huge blow of their own just before the half hour mark when Patrick McEleney was unable to play on when he picked up an injury. He was replaced by Robbie Benson.
Twenty-year-old McGinty kept out Sean Hoare's header from Duffy's corner just before half-time to keep the current cup holders at bay.
The Bit O'Red netminder was on hand again nine minutes after the re-start to keep out Hoban from close range when he got on the end of Daniel Kelly's cross from the right.
There were further shouts for a penalty from the home side when former Cork man Danny Kane went down in the box, but once again Rob Harvey was not interested.
Dundalk stalwart Chris Shields dragged a shot wide with ten minutes left on the clock as the visitors enjoyed a good spell of possession.
The league champions should have taken the lead on 84 minutes when substitute Sean Murray fired over from a good position after Duffy's initial effort was deflected into his path.
Rovers were defending extremely well despite the Lilywhites making life difficult for the last ten minutes, and it looked as though Shamrock Rovers would have to wait another nine days to find out who they would meet in the final.
That was until the 89th minute. Rob Harvey awarded a free-kick to Dundalk just outside the box when Lewis Banks brought down substitute Georgie Kelly.
The resulting free-kick was floated in by Sean Murray, and nodded back into play by the aforementioned Kelly.
The ball fell perfectly for the ever impressive Duffy whose left footed volley flew past Ed McGinty to break the hearts of everyone involved with the Bit O'Red on the day.
Dundalk will now contest their fifth FAI Cup final in as many years, when they take on Shamrock Rovers. For Rovers, it's a return to league action this Saturday when they host Shamrock Rovers at The Showgrounds on Saturday evening.
Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Lewis Banks, John Mahon, Kyle Callan McFadden, Danny Kane; Kris Twardek, David Cawley, Daryl Fordyce, Regan Donelon (Niall Watson, 63); Ronan Coughlan, Romeo Parkes (Ronan Murray, 12).
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Daniel Kelly (Sean Murray, 68), Chris Shields, Patrick McEleney (Robbie Benson, 28), Jamie McGrath, Michael Duffy; Pat Hoban (Georgie Kelly, 87).
Referee: Rob Harvey.