Michael Duffy's late strike breaks Sligo hearts to send Dundalk into FAI Cup final clash with Shamrock Rovers
Sligo Rovers 0 Dundalk 1
Michael Duffy’s last-minute winner ensured the hunt for a historic first treble remains on the cards for Dundalk.
The winger smashed home the only goal of the game at the death to break Sligo Rovers’ hearts and book the league winners’ place in the November 3 showpiece decider with Shamrock Rovers.
A replay looked likely as the game petered out in the second half, but Duffy crowned a memorable week with another crucial goal.
Dundalk boss Vinny Perth said: "We are one game away now from creating a little bit of history. But if you look at the players’ performance there, I thought it was a little bit different from us. I thought we started well and finished the game strong. But we had to win it a bit differently.
"I don’t think Gary (Rogers) had too many saves to make, but at the same time, it was a proper cup tie and a great occasion to be part of.
"Full credit to Sligo and their fans for what they created, and we were really proud to be part of it.
"But I just feel that there is big moments in this team, and we seen that again with Michael putting one away.”
In front of a crowd of 4,079, Rovers were looking to reach the final for the first time since 2013 against a team that has contested every final bar one since then.
Despite this, the home side gave an early indication that they were in no mood to stand back in awe of the league champions when Romeo Parkes outmuscled Chris Shields inside the Dundalk half in the first minute and created a shooting chance for Kris Twardek.
But they suffered a blow on seven minutes when Parkes twisted his knee when battling with Sean Gannon for possession. The attacker tried to keep going but lasted just two more minutes before he had to be stretchered off and replaced by former Dundalk player Ronan Murray.
The visitors had settled into the contest by this stage, with Duffy, Patrick McEleney and Patrick Hoban becoming prominent. Hoban was fouled by Daryl Fordyce at the edge of the area, presenting Duffy with a good chance from a free-kick, but the winger could only guide it into the arms of Rovers keeper Ed McGinty.
The home fans were screaming for a penalty midway through the half after Ronan Coughlan was clipped in the area by Daniel Cleary. Referee Rob Harvey weighed up the situation before waving play on.
And Dundalk were then to suffer an injury blow of their own, as McEleney pulled up with a hamstring problem and had to be replaced by Robbie Benson.
Jamie McGrath had the first opportunity of the second half but hooked his effort clear of the target from a good position.
The home crowd were calling for a penalty once more when Danny Kane went down inside the area under a challenge from Gannon, but again the man in the middle was unimpressed.
Substitute Sean Murray injected a bit of life back into the visitors’ challenge late on, but he snatched his effort over the bar on the turn with five minutes remaining after Duffy’s initial effort bounced invitingly for him.
But the winner came at the death after another Dundalk sub, Georgie Kelly, headed Murray’s free-kick into the path of Duffy who volleyed his side into the final once again.
Sligo Rovers: McGinty, Banks, Callan-McFadden, Mahon, Donelon (Watson 64), Kane, Cawley, Fordyce, Twardek, Parkes (Murray 11), Coughlan.
Dundalk: Rogers, Gannon, Hoare, Cleary, Massey, Shields, McEleney (Benson 28), D Kelly (Murray 68), Duffy, McGrath, Hoban (G Kelly 87).
Referee: R Harvey.