Shamrock Rovers 0 Dundalk 0
On another night the home support might have taken some encouragement from the fact that there was little or nothing over 90 minutes between their team and the one currently leading the Premier Division.
Here, though, it will go down as another disappointment with the FAI Cup having taken on an added importance due to Rovers’ lowly league position and a replay win in Oriel Park on Monday looking like a taller order than the task seemed through the early stages in Tallaght tonight.
By the end, the hosts had few complaints, with Barry Murphy required to make one really fine save as the game moved into added time and Dundalk, having looked the livelier late on, letting them off the hook a couple of times. For 45 minutes, though, Rovers edged a quarter-final and, like the game itself, promised more than was eventually delivered.
"I think if you get a quarter-final of the cup between two sides up towards the right end of the table, there's not going to be much in it," said Pat Fenlon afterwards. "We'll look forward to going to going up there now, though. It'll be a big week for us with a (League) cup final and now a quarter-final to play up there, but this is a big club capable of winning big games. Shamrock Rovers have gone to Oriel Park plenty of times before and won."
Both teams lost last week which might have had the more unsettling effect on the league leaders had they not had, and taken, the chance to settle their nerves again by thumping an under-strength Derry City on Monday.
Here, though, they still looked some way off their best with a string of wayward passes early on handing the home side plenty of possession to work with. They were fortunate, in fact, to get through the opening half without conceding.
Rovers, with Karl Sheppard up front, and Patrick Cregg and Ronan Finn amongst those looking to support the striker, created a few decent chances and it was Jason McGuinness who had looked set to provide an early breakthrough when the ball arrived at his feet in a great position, only for the defender to get himself into something of a tangle.
Sheppard then beat Peter Cherrie to a well weighted free but saw the headed goal disallowed for an offside that seemed to be given against McGuinness. Towards the end of the half the striker then narrowly failed to get the touch required on a terrific curling Finn ball from the right.
Dundalk, in comparison, managed a couple of shots from Daryl Horgan on the break and a chance for Richie Towell, after Seán Gannon’s pass, that the midfielder will feel he should have made more of.
Kurtis Byrne might feel a little more strongly about his miss, 25 minutes into the second period when Rovers were completely opened up by a move that involved Darren Meenan and David McMillan before the substitute, with plenty of time and space to pick his spot, fired well wide of the right hand post.
It was actually after that that Cherrie made what was really his first save of the night and it didn’t amount to much but Murphy, having been that bit busier, produced what was comfortably the stop of the evening as added time was about to kick in when Horgan lofted a long free-kick over a packed box and, it suddenly became apparent, towards the top left corner. The goalkeeper reacted well to turn it over and keep his side in things at what turned out to be the halfway point.
That they'll need the replay to resolve it might be seen as a blow to the league leaders but their manager, Stephen Kenny, insisted afterwards that they are happy enough to keep playing.
“We don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “That was our third game in a week but we think we’re well able for the matches; the only thing you worry about is the yellow cards and the fact that they’ll start influencing your selections.
“Anyway, we’re still in it, that’s the main thing,” he continued. “We don’t think we’ve don the job out there tonight or anything like that, we know that Rovers will come up to Oriel on Monday and give us a right good game but that’s fine with us.”
Shamrock Rovers: Murphy; Madden, Kenna, McGuinness, Byrne; Robinson; Waters (Kilduff, 87 mins), Cregg, Finn, McCabe (Brennan, 74 mins); Sheppard (Kelly, 67 mins).
Dundalk: Cherrie; Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey; Shields; Meenan (Mountney, 83 mins), Towell, McDermott (Byrne, 53 mins), Horgan; McMillan (Hoban, 77 mins).
Referee: P Sutton (Clare)