Monday 18 December 2017

Elding has the last word to seal epic triumph for Sligo

Drogheda United 2 Sligo Rovers 3

Anthony Elding, Sligo Rovers, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Elding, Sligo Rovers, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Elding lifts Raffaele Cretaro on to his shoulders as they celebrate after the game BRENDAN MORAN / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THIS was, in many ways, a final to sum up the League of Ireland season.

THIS was, in many ways, a final to sum up the League of Ireland season.

There was drama and refereeing controversy, pleasure and pain, and an uncertain sense of what it means for the future. It sure was entertaining. All that will matter in Sligo this morning, however, is that the cup belongs to Rovers again.

They snatched it in a chaotic finish to a thrilling game, throwing away the lead in the eight minutes of injury-time before regaining it in remarkable circumstances when supersub Danny North teed up Anthony Elding for an incredible winner.

The sense of injustice in the Drogheda camp stemmed from the incident which put the Bit O'Red ahead for the first time, the 84th-minute strike from North which followed on from his 79th-minute leveller. Referee Paul Tuite, who booked Drogheda skipper Derek Prendergast for a foul on Alan Keane, allowed the introduction of Sligo substitute Ross Gaynor after walking the defensive ball back 10 yards.

As the Louth men waited for a whistle, Joseph Ndo performed a training ground move he calls the 'Loop de loop' scooping the ball over the wall where North, who admitted that he was expecting a whistle too, made a great run to smash a right-foot volley past Michael Schlingermann.

Suzanne Dunne from Kintogher followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Suzanne Dunne from Kintogher followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Sligo Rovers fans (L to r) Eamon wimsey & Pierce Henry both from Tubbercurry followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Sligo Rovers fans (L to r) Eamon wimsey & Pierce Henry both from Tubbercurry followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Aaron Greene, Sligo Rovers, encourages his son Jack, aged 4, to lift the FAI Ford Cup after the game. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Danny North, Sligo Rovers, celebrates with his daughter Mia Grace, aged 2, after the game. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Sligo Rovers fans (L to R) Declan O' Boyle and Daire o Boyle (10) from Barroe, Tony Kelly from Strandhill Road & Jim Kelly from Kilmaimham followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
(L to r) Shane Mckeon (10), Conor McKeon (6) & Rory o Donnell all from Leitrim followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Pictured are (LtoR) Grace O'Boyle, Emma Scott, Aoife Killgallen, Hilary Waters, Gemma Carter and Hazel McGowan before the FAI Ford Cup final where Drogheda United lost to Sligo Rovers at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: El Keegan
Pictured are cousins Lorcan and Kenneth Mitchell, 9, from Ballina, Co Mayo before the FAI Ford Cup final where Drogheda United lost to Sligo Rovers at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: El Keegan
(L to r) Sligo Rovers fans Fleur Kinsella & Claire McManus both from Sligo town followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
(L to r) Shane Mckeon (10), Conor McKeon (6) & Rory o Donnell all from Leitrim followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Danny North, Sligo Rovers, with his daughter Mia Grace, celebrates with the FAI Ford Cup after the game. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Pictured are Shannan Mulrooney, 20 from Ransboro, Sligo and Enya Clarke, 20, from Caltra, Sligo before the FAI Ford Cup final where Drogheda United lost to Sligo Rovers at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: El Keegan
Sligo Rovers players celebrate with the FAI Ford Cup after the game. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Sligo Rovers players lift the FAI Ford Cup after the game. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Anthony Elding, Sligo Rovers, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal. FAI Ford Cup Final, Drogheda United v Sligo Rovers, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
(L to r) Sean Kerrigan (11), Ciara Kerrigan(7) & Liam Kerrigan (13) all from Tubbercurry followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
(L to r) Shane McKeon (10), Conor McKeon (6) & Rory O' Donnell all from Leitrim followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
(L to R) Drogheda United fans Steve McMullen Glen Kelly, both from Blanchardstown, followng the FAI Ford Cup match between Sligo Rovers & Drogheda United at the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

"When he moved from the wall, I looked at him and that means you can play," argued Ndo.

Furious Drogheda players disagreed, and charged after the official. Prendergast's second yellow was the consequence.

"One of the lads grabbed him on the shoulder," explained the aggrieved player. "He turned out and pointed at me and said he was giving me a yellow. I says 'I'm grabbing my players away from you, I want to have a word.' He gave me the yellow card and then, all of a sudden, he just got word in his ear that I was already booked and he looked as shocked as anyone."

Both Prendergast and Declan O'Brien claimed that Tuite was contrite afterwards, but the Dubliner refused to comment. He is a popular official who the players like. "He's a very good ref but he got it wrong," said O'Brien, "Everyone in the ground knows it was a mistake."

The neutrals in the 17,573 crowd would also have recognised that it gave Ian Baraclough's side an undeserved lead. They had struggled for an hour as Mick Cooke's well-drilled unit refused to let the favourites relax, pressing high up the park and working their socks off.

ADVANTAGE

They deserved the half-time advantage that came from a 13th-minute counterattack which was started and ended by midfielder Paul O'Conor with superb link work from Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy and, eventually, overlapping full-back Shane Grimes.

At the interval, Ndo delivered a wake-up call to his colleagues in the dressing-room. "We were panicking a little bit," he said. "I told them we needed to play our own game."

That message failed to seep through immediately, though, as Drogheda continued to look dangerous every time they broke. Indeed, the Boynesiders were enjoying a period in the ascendency when a Gavin Brennan header was chalked off for a soft foul on Alan Keane.

Sligo centre-half Jeff Henderson, who had struggled, hobbled to the sidelines to be replaced by Evan McMillan and the new arrival duly committed a foul that led to a free and a subsequent goalmouth scamble which culminated with Elding, of all people, clearing a Mick Daly effort off the line. A key moment.

"That could have clinched it for us," said O'Brien. "But we didn't need a second. A clean sheet wins the game and we switched off."

The favourites capitalised, with North, who was told on Saturday he'd be in reserve, sent in for Raffaele Cretaro. His goalscoring instinct urged him to spin away from his position on the post when Ndo swung in a corner, meaning that he was in the right place to swoop when the ball came his way via touches from Elding and the Drogs' Alan Byrne.

With Gavin Brennan slow to react, he levelled. Then came the free and the associated mayhem, but there was plenty more to come. With all of their subs used, Sligo were reduced to 10 when stalwart Gavin Peers was stretchered off with a serious looking knee injury.

Drogheda, to their credit, regrouped and probed as Sligo dropped deeper, and in the 92nd minute they squared it up when David Cassidy's punt found the rampaging Ryan Brennan, who steered the ball past Gary Rogers to prompt wild celebrations.

The Drogheda joy was short-lived as Sligo gathered themselves from the restart, Keane won possession, the tricky Kieran Djilali crossed, and North expertly chested into the path of Elding, who did the rest with a sharp turn and left-foot volley into the roof of the net.

"I've never experienced an emotion like that in all of my life," said the well-travelled 31-year-old. "I was crying running off celebrating, it was a fantastic feeling. I don't think you could have written a script like that."

Like 24 of the 27 players involved, he was officially out of contract when Tuite called time after Baraclough's men successfully defended a late, late corner from the Louth men.

Reality bites quickly, but this final will live long in the memory.

Drogheda United – Schlingermann, Daly, McNally, Prendergast, Grimes; Byrne (Hynes 90); Cassidy, P O'Conor (Rusk 77), R Brennan, G Brennan; O'Brien.

Sligo Rovers – Rogers, Keane, Peers, Henderson (E McMillan 65), Davoren; Ndo, Ventre; Cretaro (North 70), Djilali, Greene (Gaynor 84); Elding.

Ref – P Tuite (Dublin)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport