Sport League of Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Dominant Rovers rise to the occasion



A NEW name was added to the list of Setanta Cup winners last night, when Shamrock Rovers came out on top after an intriguing final at Tallaght Stadium before a sell-out crowd of 6,000.

The breakthrough goal came after 65 minutes when a mistake by rookie defender Michael Hector gave Ronan Finn the chance to cross the ball into the Dundalk box for Gary O'Neill to blast to the roof of the net from 10 yards.

The best chances in the first half came from free-kicks, with Dundalk's Mark Quigley bringing the best out of Alan Mannus on the half-hour, and Rovers' Billy Dennehy smashing his placed kick against the post with Peter Cherrie well beaten.

In the hectic minutes just before the break each side had chances, but a superb saving tackle by Colin Hawkins denied Rovers' midfielder Finn after O'Neill had got the better of Hector, and then Dundalk winger Daniel Kearns was clean through but shot well wide of the target from outside the box.

Finn had a great chance to break the deadlock five minutes into the second half when the ball broke to him inside the Dundalk box, but Cherrie spread himself well to save and the ball rebounded off Finn over the line.

Dundalk, who had lost midfielder Stephen McDonnell after nine minutes when he made a saving tackle on Finn, suffered a further blow in the 57th minute when experienced striker Jason Byrne had to come off with a hamstring injury. Manager Ian Foster re-shuffled his pack, replacing him with midfielder Keith Ward.

In the 64th minute, Rovers brought on leading scorer Gary Twigg, and in practically their next attack they broke the deadlock with O'Neill's goal.

Dundalk tried hard to get back on terms playing a neat passing game, with wingers Ross Gaynor and Kearns prominent, but they missed their leading scorer and target man Byrne.

At the other end, Dennehy hit the crossbar from wide on the left, but shot wide when presented with an easier chance inside the penalty area.

In the 86th minute, a good ball from Pat Sullivan gave Twigg the chance to wrap the game up, but while his shot beat Cherrie, it came back off the post. Rovers finally got the second goal their dominance deserved when, in the third minute of injury-time, Dennehy's shot from 20 yards hit the inside of the post and rolled over the line.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Sullivan, Oman, Murray, Stevens; McCormack, Rice (Twigg, 64); Shepherd (McCabe, 77), Finn, Dennehy; O'Neill.

Dundalk: Cherrie; Madden, Hawkins, Hector, N Murphy; Kearns, Bolger, McDonnell (Bennett, 9), Gaynor (Breen, 85); J Byrne (Ward 57). Quigley.

Referee: A Kelly (Cork).

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