Wednesday 17 January 2018

The game at a glance

Man of the match

Joseph Ndo (Sligo Rovers)

While Ciaran Kelly's heroics grabbed the headlines, it was Ndo who shone over the 120 minutes. He was run close by team-mates Romauld Boco and Alan Keane, whose fitness came to the fore as others faded in extra time. The Cameroon man showed his class and comfort on the big stage by relaxing when others panicked and spreading the play effectively to utilise the strengths of Boco and Gary McCabe.

Talking point

Could Sligo Rovers have won the league if they had this team together at the start of the season? Paul Cook was respectful to Shamrock Rovers afterwards, but he couldn't help but raise the point himself. The re-signing of Boco, the addition of centre-half Jim Lauchlan and a consistently fit Ndo have certainly made a considerable difference. If they keep this group together, then yesterday's match could be a prelude to next year's title race.

Ref watch

Tom Connolly started poorly by stopping play for a foul on Danny Ventre when the Sligo man had released Eoin Doyle before he was brought unceremoniously to the deck. Connolly remembered the advantage rule later on, but was generally far too card happy. There was no real nastiness in the game, yet eight yellows had been dished out before Stephen Bradley received his second caution. Connolly did get that decision right, though.

Crowd watch

Much of the talk in the build-up had been about the attendance and, sure enough, 36,101 people flocked to the Aviva Stadium. Both clubs were well represented, with the upper tiers also attracting a healthy number of neutrals who availed of the general price. The only section really empty was the premium level, which has generally been packed with kids or '3' customers for Ireland internationals. The atmosphere was lively enough, although it was flat in extra-time as nerves intensified.

And finally

Can domestic football build on this? Sure, this wasn't a classic but then, as Cook pointed out afterwards, it took a while for players used to plying their trade in front of 1,800 to come to grips with an audience of 36,000. The cup final has varied in importance over the last decade, even taking place before the end of the season in the early adjustment to summer football. With a trip to this stadium as the reward, the fuss around this final should give the competition a real shot in the arm.

Irish Independent

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