WATCH: Wonder goal from Pat McEleney seals League Cup for Dundalk with win over Shamrock Rovers
THEIR league crown may be about to leave them after three years but Dundalk can still produce the style and a goal in each half saw off Shamrock Rovers in yesterday’s EA Sports Cup final.
David McMillan’s fifth-minute header set the Lilywhites on their way at Tallaght Stadium and any potential Rovers comeback wasn’t helped by losing teenage midfielder Aaron Bolger to a second yellow card with 25 minutes left.
Dundalk’s sixth League Cup victory, their first since 2014, was sealed by a delightful shot from Patrick McEleney nine minutes from full-time and another from substitute Thomas Stewart in stoppage-time.
With both teams coming into the final chasing their eight straight victory, the first goal was always going to be crucial. Dundalk grabbed it after just five minutes and seldom looked like ceding the lead.
Rovers had to operate without their cup-tied rock at the back, Lee Grace, but his absence couldn’t excuse the woeful defending that contributed to the winner.
From Michael Duffy’s out-swinging corner, McMillan was afforded the time and space to power his header into the top corner, skimming off the head of Rovers defender Simon Madden on the way.
Rovers, lagging 12 points behind Dundalk in third spot of the Premier Division, offered little by way of an immediate response in the final third with former Lilywhites Michael O’Connor and Ronan Finn struggling to make an impression.
Instead, it took a reflex save by Tomer Chencinski from Robbie Benson’s close-range back-heel on 18 minutes to prevent the Hoops falling further behind.
As the interval approached, David McAllister twice came close to equalising. Firstly, the midfielder’s stooped header struck the near post and, on the stroke of the whistle, an audacious overhead kick veered just a yard wide.
For all the possession Rovers enjoyed on their home turf after the break, they rarely threatened Gabriel Sava in the Dundalk goal. Once Derek Tomney issued Bolger with a red card following a rash challenge on Niclas Vemmelund, it was one-way traffic for the Louth side.
After McMillan’s shot fizzed past the post, Dundalk were more accurate six minutes through a superb team goal. Full-back Sean Gannon and Jamie McGrath combined on the right to allow McEleney charge into the box before lobbing a pinpoint shot high into the top corner.
Gaps continued to emerge in the numerically inferior Rovers side and Dundalk took full advantage by adding a third. Gannon was once again the architect, telegraphing a pass into Stewart, who stroked the ball home from 10 yards in his first action after coming on.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Chencinski; Madden, Webster, Lopes, Clarke; McAllister (Doona 85), Finn; Connolly (King 56), Bolger, Miele; O’Connor (Shaw 69).
DUNDALK: Sava; Gannon, Hoare, Vemmelund, Grimes; Shields, Benson; Duffy, McEleney (O’Donnell 90), McGrath (Kinsella 88); McMillan (Stewart 90).
Ref: D Tomney (Dublin)