Drogheda United 1 Dundalk 0: Mick Cooke's men made it three cup finals in a season thanks to a narrow and deeply controversial victory over rivals Dundalk at United Park this afternoon.
There was plenty of excitement in the dying minutes as Dundalk chased an equaliser and United, more than once, almost caught them on the break but the game was effectively decided in three chaotic minutes late in the first half with referee Anthony Buttimer sending Darren Meenan then Chris Shields off in quick succession to leave Dundalk with just nine men on the pitch.
Though Meenan’s red looked a little harsh, the midfielder probably didn’t have too much to complain about after he caught Paul O’Conor high, hard and late.
Shields, though, looked to have been far more harshly treated with his tackle on Declan O'Brien Not even worth the penalty from which Gavin Brennan scored it seemed given that the Dundalk player appeared to get the ball.
The visitors, predictably enough, took it all pretty badly and two members of the club's coaching staff, Vinny Perth and Graham Byrne, were sent to the stand at half-time after Buttimer was harangued at length on the pitch first by the club's players then some of its officials.
When they returned for the second what was left of Stephen Kenny's side, driven on by Stephen O'Donnell, made a spirited attempt to battle their way back into things with Kurtis Byrne then Richie Towell handed the responsibility for pushing forward out of midfield until, with 15 minutes remaining, right back John Sullivan was sacrificed in order to let somebody operate as a striker again.
United, though, looked fairly comfortable for long stretches even if they rarely showed signs of capitalising on their numerical advantage and really putting their neighbours away.
Tiarnan Mulvenna came closest to grabbing an equaliser with a shot that Michael Schlingermann helped over but Dundalk came close to conceding too as they left United ever greater chances to hit them on the break.
Peter Cherrie produced a brilliant save to deny Shane Grimes moments after Mulvenna's shot and Brennan squandered an even later chance under pressure from John Mountney.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Schlingermaann; Daly, McNally, Prendergast, Grimes; O'Conor (Hynes, 61 mins) , Byrne, R Brennan, G Brennan; Cassidy; O'Brien.
DUNDALK: Cherrie; Sullivan (Faherty, 75 mins), Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields; Meenan, Towell, O'Donnell, Byrne (Mulvenna, 65 mins); Hoban (Mountney, 37 mins)
Referee: A Buttimer (Cork)