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Sunday 18 February 2018

Sligo Rovers withstand Dundalk pressure and atrocious weather to claim Setanta Cup

Sligo Rovers 1 Dundalk 0

SLIGO Rovers withstood Dundalk pressure and the atrocious weather to claim Setanta Cup success at a muddy Tallaght Stadium this afternoon.

Paul O'Conor's first half strike was enough to secure a sixth trophy in the space of four years for Rovers, with the cross-border trophy completing the full set of major honours in a golden era for the Bit'O'Red. Dundalk, on the other hand, continue their 12 year wait for cup joy.

In a game played in schizophrenic weather with periods of sunshine outnumbered by ferocious showers that had ruined the pitch by the end, Dundalk had more chances but the Connacht side delivered the only goal.

They crafted it brilliantly in the 13th minute, capitalising from a spell of pressure in a period that emanated from an uncharacteristic mistake by Dundalk skipper Andy Boyle.

After a resultant corner was cleared, Ian Baraclough's side won a free that was quickly taken, and Aaron Greene duly danced past Dane Massey and teed up O'Conor who found the target with an expert flick.

That was a little harsh on Dundalk, who had forged the first major opening when Towell had teed up Daryl Horgan for a shot that found the side netting.

Once they recovered from falling behind, they shaded the remainder of the first half without really carving an outstanding opening. A pair of Pat Hoban headers that missed the target and a speculative Massey attempt that sailed over were the sum total of their efforts.

Sligo had another problem to deal with when Joseph Ndo hobbled off, thus prompting a reshuffle which saw Greene move centrally and Danny Ledwith come in on the left flank.

Kenny's charges emerged with purpose and John Mountney was utilised as a runner from midfield  and became Dundalk's main outlet when they sought to move the ball from back to front quickly.

They were struggling to find clear sight of goal, however, with Towell scooping over when he crept into space and the final ball lacking otherwise. Rovers had chances too with Ledwith twice finding decent positions and he arguably should have squared for Danny North as he squandered the best of those opportunities.

With 23 to go, Kenny withdrew Mountney and sent in Kurtis Byrne as support for Hoban and he almost restored parity immediately with a right footer that was pushed to safety by Gary Rogers - although the Northern Irish officials erroneously awarded a goal kick.

Dundalk sprung another striker from the bench in the form of David McMillan and he called into Rogers into action with a lob that the Meathman pushed to safety but, as the conditions worsened, the Louthmen ran out of ideas. Indeed, when injury time came around and the game entered the realms of tragi-comedy with the ball stuck in puddles, Hoban appealed to the referee to suspend play. The plea fell on deaf ears, with the whistle greeted by Sligo cheers.

Sligo Rovers: Rogers, Conneely, McMillan, Henderson, Gaynor; Ndo [Ledwith 35], Cawley; Russell, O'Conor, Greene; North

Dundalk: Cherrie, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields [Higgins 74]; Meenan [McMillan 79], Mountney [Byrne 67], Towell, Horgan; Hoban

Referee: Arnold Hunter [Fermanagh]

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