Shamrock Rovers 3 Finn Harps 2
Simon Madden broke Finn Harps’ hearts with a last-minute winner at Tallaght Stadium after the Donegal side had stormed back from 2-0 down.
With a change to a 3-5-2 formation, and full debuts for Sam Bone (18) in midfield and 17-year-old striker Dean Dillon, Rovers started purposefully and were ahead inside two minutes.
It was a goal out of nothing as midfielder David McAllister found space some 30 yards out to smash a thumping right-footed drive that arrowed to the back of the net off the underside of Ciaran Gallagher’s crossbar.
Another cracking goal doubled Rovers lead 12 minutes later as skipper Ronan Finn collected Trevor Clarke’s ball in from the left and got his head up, before planting a crisp 25-yarder in off Gallagher’s near post.
Despite losing striker Ciaran O’Connor to injury, Harps worked hard to try to get back into the game with winger Caolan McAleer and striker Danny Morrissey working Tomer Chencinski and hitting the post respectively before half-time.
Harps enjoyed plenty of the ball in the second half, and pulled a goal back on 71 minutes.
Sean Houston played McAleer in and the winger drilled the ball under Chencinski into the net.
Northern Ireland international – and former Hoops winger – Paddy McCourt then shot a 76th minute free-kick through the home wall to equalise.
But Rovers had the final say with a 90th-minute winner as substitute Michael O’Connor got to the end line to cross, and when Harps failed to clear, right-wing back Madden lobbed a delightful volley into the far corner of the net.
Shamrock Rovers – Chencinski; Lopes, Devine, Webster; Madden, McAllister (Boyd, 80), Bone (Miele, 67), Finn, Clarke; Burke, Dillon (O’Connor, 68).
Finn Harps – Gallagher; Boyle, Cantwell, Coll, Harkin; McAleer, McCourt, Bonner, Morrissey (Dsane, 68); Houston; O’Connor (Molloy, 24).
Referee – S Grant (Wexford).