Sunday 17 December 2017

Cup kings Sligo do it again

Dundalk 0 Sligo Rovers 1

Sligo Rovers team celebrate with the cup after the game
Sligo Rovers team celebrate with the cup after the game
Sligo Rovers’ David Cawley and Dundalk’s Chris Shield collide during the Setanta Sports Cup Final in Tallaght Stadium. Photo Ray Lohan
Sligo Rovers team celebrate with the cup
Richie Towell, Dundalk, in action against John Russell, Sligo Rovers
Seamus Conneely, Sligo Rovers, in action against Dane Massey, Dundalk

Sean Ryan

PAUL O'CONOR went a long way towards exorcising the demons of losing three Cup finals last year with Drogheda United when he scored the goal that earned Sligo Rovers victory at Tallaght Stadium yesterday.

Dundalk enjoyed plenty of possession and created a succession of chances, but couldn't find the target and, on the few occasions they did, 'keeper Gary Rogers saved comfortably.

The decisive goal came after 12 minutes, when John Russell took a quick free to Aaron Greene on the right wing. He skipped around Dane Massey and crossed low, with O'Conor arriving at the near post to steer the ball home.

Prior to that, Dundalk had the better of the chances, with Richie Towell shooting over following a mis-kick by Jeff Henderson in the first minute, and Daryl Horgan, played in by Towell in the sixth minute, finding the side-netting.

The chances continued to come Dundalk's way after the Sligo goal, with Pat Hoban heading just wide from an excellent Massey cross; he then shot over when the ball broke to him in the penalty area.

It wasn't until the 26th minute that Sligo 'keeper Rogers had to make a save, when he got down to hold a fierce drive from Towell.

An injury to Joseph Ndo forced Sligo to switch their line-up, with Dan Ledwith coming in on the left wing, and Greene moving to midfield behind lone striker Danny North.

Another excellent Massey cross found Hoban, but his diving header went just wide of the post just before the break.

Referee Arnold Hunter issued his first yellow card on the 50th minute when he booked David Cawley, who was played into trouble by an under-hit Danny Ledwith pass. The second card followed 10 minutes later when Ross Gaynor took down John Mountney.

Dundalk were piling on the pressure in their search for an equaliser but a Mountney kick went across the goal and out over the far touchline, while Towell wasted their best chance when, played in by Massey, he shot narrowly over.

The game ended in near farce as conditions became impossible following several heavy downpours. Passes were becoming more often misplaced or left short, while players who tried to dribble the ball found it impossible to progress on an increasingly wet surface.

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny emptied his bench, bringing on Kurtis Byrne, Ruairi Higgins and David McMillan, but all to no avail, although Byrne flashed a shot across goal that had Rogers beaten, while McMillan latched on to a Byrne pass and saw his lob clawed to safety by Rogers' fingertips.

So Sligo's recent great run of Cup success – three FAI Cups and a League Cup – continues, and they add their name to a short but illustrious list of winners of the All-Ireland Setanta trophy. Spare a thought, though, for captain Alan Keane, who was denied the chance of leading his team when he suffered an ankle injury in training and was replaced, very capably, by Seamus Conneely.

Dundalk: Cherrie; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields (Higgins 73); Horgan, Mountney (Byrne 66), Towell, Meenan (D McMillan 79); Hoban.

Sligo Rovers: Rogers; Conneely, E McMillan, Henderson, Gaynor; Cawley; Russell, O'Conor, Ndo (Ledwith 34), Greene; North.

Referee: A Hunter

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