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Rovers force replay against Dundalk as Miele strikes late

Rovers show true determination to end their 30-year run without an FAI Cup success

Dundalk defender Niclas Vemmelund and Shamrock Rovers’s Gary Shaw in action during last night’s FAI Cup semi-final at Oriel Park. Photograph: Ciaran Culligan/Inpho

After Friday’s slightly tame semi-final at Turner’s Cross, Rovers lit this one up with a second-half display that made clear their determination to match Dundalk and end the club’s 30-year run without an FAI Cup success.

They will have to beat their rivals back in Tallaght on Tuesday week just to make the final but the home advantage might help and at least there will be comfort of knowing that their fans can’t actually set fire to playing surface as one of them did here with a flare in the early stages.

Ronan Finn was at the heart of the Rovers revival against his old club and the news that he had been named Man of the Match got just the reaction you might expect inside Oriel Park.

Typically, he seemed to thrive on the animosity that was aimed at him here from the very first minute and though he took a while to really find his way in the game, the 29- year-old provided the drive so urgently required by the Dubliners at just the stage when Dundalk seemed to lose theirs.

“I thought everything that was good about us in the second half was driven by Ronan,” said Stephen Bradley afterwards. “His energy, his all round game in the second half was outstanding and then his pull-back to Brandon. ”

Pace

The pull-back teed up Miele rather well although Dundalk might well have defended the situation a little better. The same, of course, could be said of Rovers for Dundalk’s with Stephen O’Donnell at the heart of what was a fine passing movement before Robbie Benson finished well from beyond the far post but Finn was one of several players in hooped jerseys who allowed the situation to get away from them.

Dylan Connolly’s pace, Pat McEleney’s movement and the darting runs from deeper positions by Benson and O’Donnell all caused Rovers fairly consistent problems between that, just nine minutes in, and the break but Dundalk couldn’t quite get the goal required to double their lead.

McEleney came close with an effort from the edge of the area that Tomer Chencinski did well to tip over but the game was still firmly in the balance when Bradley got his men in at half-time and told them they would have to step things up dramatically if they weren’t going to leave for home weighed down by regrets over the chance of playing in a cup final that was allowed to get away.

Whimper

They were “positive words” from the manager,” according to Finn who said the players knew themselves they were “going out of the FAI Cup with a bit of a whimper. He told us that we had 45 minutes to rectify that and I thought we did it.”

Nothing has been won yet but Bradley certainly seemed to agree. “I thought in the second half we played with real energy, set a real tempo and made better decisions and I was delighted to get the goal,” he said.

Rovers had done enough before it arrived in the 75th minute for the crowd around Oriel to fear it might be coming but there was a sense about the place too that the home side might well snatch a winner after David McAllister was shown a second yellow – it might easily have been a straight red – for a reckless challenge on Chris Shields who will miss the rest of the season with the medial ligament injury he sustained in the incident.

The sixth encounter with Stephen Kenny’s side may now go a long way towards defining a campaign in which nothing concrete has actually been achieved so far with a cup final, especially some silverware, having the potential to lend weight to claims of progress.