Dundalk edge thrilling EA Cup final against Rovers
Dane Massey brace helps Stephen Kenny’s side claim first silverware in 12 years
Patrick Hoban of Dundalk celebrates scoing his side’s third goal with Dane Massey at Oriel Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer / Inpho
In what turned out to be a thrilling EA Sports Cup final, the homeside scored first but having conceded an equaliser after a spell of fairly relentless pressure, they were fortunate to make it to the break without falling behind and perhaps having had the game put beyond them.
A terrific start to the second period, though, put them in the driving seat and though Rovers pushed them all the way, the locals dug in to win and earn manager Stephen Kenny his fifth success in the competiton.
Left back Massey had scored their opener just four minutes in with a wonderful curling free that clipped the underside of the bar as it flew into the top right corner, but they struggled to sustain any sort of attacking threat through the rest of the half.
At the other end, they repeatedly looked uncertain as they tried to defend Seán O’Connor’s setpieces and, having been reduced to some fairly desperate looking clearances to relieve the pressure at times, it was no great surprise when they were caught napping under a corner that Luke Byrne headed down for Jason McGuinness to poke home from a couple of yards.
Rovers should have pushed on and put themselves into a commanding position before the break but they couldn’t quite deliver in the final third of the pitch and they were punished immediately after the restart when Dundalk grabbed the lead back from a Daryl Horgan corner, the home side’s first of the game.
Massey’s header towards the far post lacked power but seemed to wrong foot Craig Hyland who looked helpless as the ball bounced then crept over the line. Barely two minutes later, the locals got their third with Ruaidhri Higgins’s corner headed home decisively this time by a completely unmarked Pat Hoban.
The goals, unsurprisingly, restored the confidence of Kenny’s side who began to string some decent moves together. Had a Horgan goal not been disallowed shortly afterwards for offside they could have relaxed through the last half hour but instead there were some nail-biting moments for the home support, especially when Rovers had pulled one back through Ciaran Kilduff after the throw in that started the build up appeared to be given the wrong way.
The Dubliners pressed relentlessly through the closing minutes for an equaliser and with McGuinness joining the forward line there were at least a couple of times when it seemed they might snatch a goal. The hosts held on, though, and clinched what they’ll hope is just their first trophy of the season.
Dundalk: Sava; Gannon, Gartland, Rossiter (Boyle, 85 mins), Massey; Higgins (Mountney, 80 mins), Towell; Ward (Shields, half-time), McMillan, Horgan; Hoban.
Shamrock Rovers: Hyland; Madden, Kenna, McGuinness, Byrne; McPhail, Cregg; O’Connor, Finn (McCabe, 74 mins), Waters (Kilduff, 69 mins); Sheppard (Kelly, 80 mins).
Referee: G Kelly (Cork).