Shootout heartbreak for Dundalk as Rovers win the FAI Cup
Dundalk’s treble dream fell at the final hurdle as Shamrock Rovers won a dramatic FAI Cup Final 4-2 on penalties after the game finished 1-1 after extra time.
Aaron McEneff looked to have given Rovers the win in normal time, when his 90th minutes penalty put Rovers in front, but Michael Duffy levelled for Dundalk with a sensational half-volley in the fourth minute of stoppage time to keep the final alive.
The goal gave Dundalk supporters huge belief but, after a tense 30 minutes of extra time, Rovers converted all four of their spot kicks, whilst Michael Duffy hit the crossbar and Alan Mannus saved from Daniel Cleary.
It was a valiant effort by Dundalk after a fantastic season, but Rovers take the spoils as they win the cup for the 25th time in their history.
There was a great atmosphere in the Aviva Stadium at kick-off and the game began at a frantic pace.
After early shots from Sean Murray, Gary O’Neill and Aaron Greene, Rovers created two decent openings within a couple of minutes.
First of all, a Jack Byrne ball over the top put Aaron Greene in space only for the striker to shoot wide with his left foot on 13 minutes.
Greene then dispossessed Daniel Cleary to the side of the box on the Rovers left. the striker crossed to find Ronan Finn in space inside the six yard box but the former Dundalk striker’s attempted click at goal was miscued and Dundalk cleared.
Graham Burke was next as he shot from 20 yards but it was wide of the target also and Dundalk had their first real opportunity when Dane Massey fired a free-kick over from just outside the box which never troubled Alan Mannus.
The next 20 minutes or so was fairly static with both sides cancelling each other out for the most part with little chance of note either side.
Dundalk finished the first half the stronger with as Sean Murray found the head of Brian Gartland from a corner however it was palmed away by Mannus.
That routine was almost followed on the stroke of half-time when Murray had a free-kick in a similar corner position and his cross found Gartland’s centre half partner Daniel Cleary but his header was inches wide of the post.
The Lilywhites had the better of the chances to start the second half when Murray got into a great position to get into the path of a wonderful Patrick Hoban layoff however his effort was gathered by Mannus.
It looked like Dundalk were going to take the lead in the 69th minute when some brilliant build up play saw Sean Gannon pull back for Jamie McGrath however he couldn’t get a clean strike on it and the ball went wide.
Rovers then responded with a chance of their own as Burke got past Cleary but his shot from 10 yards was just over the bar.
Robbie Benson shot from distance but it didn’t trouble Mannus but at the other end, Neil Farrugia’s cross was headed into the arms of Rogers.
Michael Duffy showed his trademark quick feet and danced inside however his shot was wide.
Shamrock Rovers were to take the lead in the 90th minute when Greene got through on goal and was brought down by Rogers leaving referee Derek Tomney no choice but to point to the spot.
Aaron McEneff sent Rogers the wrong way and Rovers in front which looked like it had given them the trophy.
However it wasn’t to be the end and Vinny Perth’s men flooded forward in search of an equaliser with the ball breaking to Duffy and his exquisite volley beat Mannus to send the match to extra-time.
The extra-time period had very little action of note in the first half until two minutes to go when Greene looked to be in but as he was about to shoot, Gannon expertly dispossessed him.
It was a tense second half also and first chance of note fell to Farrugia with five minutes left but his header was weak and looped over the bar.
Greg Bolger tried a long range effort as he caught Rogers off his line and despite it going wide, Gary got out to claim.
It looked like Dundalk had won it in the final minute of the regulation 30 of extra-time when Duffy’s cross fell to Georgie Kelly inside the area but his shot was somehow palmed away by Mannus.
DUNDALK: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland (capt), Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Robbie Benson (John Mountney 111), Sean Hoare (Georgie Kelly 90); Jamie McGrath, Sean Murray (Daniel Kelly 61), Michael Duffy; Patrick Hoban (Jordan Flores 100).
Substitutes not used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Dean Jarvis, Andy Boyle.
Booked: Hoare (73), Rogers (89), Hoban (94), Mountney (105)
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus; Ronan Finn (capt), Joey O’Brien, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh (Neil Farrugia 68); Aaron McEneff, Jack Byrne, Gary O’Neill, Graham Burke (Greg Bolger 90); Aaron Greene (Daniel Lafferty 111)
Substitutes not used: Kian Clarke (GK), Dylan Watts, Thomas Oluwa, Brandon Kavanagh.
Booked: Burke (71), Byrne (103), O’Brien (105)
Referee: Derek Tomney