by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United defeated Finn Harps 2-0 in the Ford FAI Cup Quarter-final replay to set up a mouth-watering cash against local rivals Dundalk.
Declan O’Brien bundled United into lead early in the second half and the home side had to withstand late pressure from ten man Harps before David Cassidy sealed the victory in additional time.
Mick Cooke made two changes from Friday’s 1-1 draw at Finn Park as Peter Hynes and Philip Hand replaced the suspended pair of Michael Daly and Gavin Brennan while Harps brought in Mark Forker for the suspended Ciaran Coll.
A cagey opening meant that there were few chances in the opening stages but Cassidy came close to testing Ciaran Gallagher in the Harps goal but his curling effort from the edge of the box sailed over the bar.
With 25 minutes played Declan O’Brien pounced on a fortunate deflection from Damien McNulty’s clearance but the veteran’s strike across goal failed to hit the target.
And it was O’Brien who was threatening again fifteen minutes later as good play on the right wing saw Ryan Brennan beat Michael Funston and his cross found Fabio but the striker’s attempt didn’t trouble Gallagher.
A resolute and well organised Finn Harps defence were frustrating the home side and they almost took the lead on the stroke of half-time. A corner kick from the right was met by McNulty but the defender’s goal bound effort was tipped over by Michael Schlingermann.
Drogheda approached the second half with more vigour and they were rewarded five minutes after the interval, Shane Grimes’ cross was spilled by Gallagher and Hand mishit a volley from five yards but luckily for the home side O’Brien was on hand to force the ball home.
With the deadlock broken, Harps became more adventurous and a Thomas McMonagle free kick was well saved by Schlingermann as the away side mounted pressure on the Drogheda goal; however they were reduced to ten men for the second time in tie as McNulty was shown a second yellow card on 72 minutes for his part in a melee.
United should have wrapped up the points five minutes later as Hynes was played through on goal but his dinked effort was easily saved by the impressive Gallagher.
The closing stages of the game was end to end as both sides went close, McMonagle fired narrowly wide from 35 yards and Paul O’Conor was denied by a fantastic last ditch block from Keith Cowan.
Drogheda sealed their progression in stoppage time as substitute Graham Rusk picked up the ball on the edge of his own box and he found Cassidy who released Ryan Brennan first time and with only Gallagher to beat, he unselfishly squared to Cassidy who guaranteed a hard fought victory.
The big games are coming thick and fast for the home side as before they can concentrate on their semi-final clash against Dundalk, Drogheda will be aiming to defend their EA Sports Cup trophy when they take on Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on Saturday.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United and Finn Harps will meet once again on Monday for a place in the semi-final of the Ford FAI Cup, kick off 7.45pm.
The sides could not be separated last week at Finn Park where Kevin McHugh gave Harps a deserved lead before Mick Daly scored a dramatic equaliser with the hosts down to ten men.
United will be without the suspended pair of Daly and Gavin Brennan while Cathal Brady remains doubtful due to a leg injury picked up in the defeat to Dundalk.
Ciaran Coll is suspended for the visitors following his red card on Friday while Michael Funston is unavailable due to work commitments but Sean McCarron returns to the squad after a one match suspension.
Speaking ahead of the game, Drogheda manager Mick Cooke was relieved that his side survived the challenge in Ballybofey and is confident that his players can finish the job in front of a big home crowd.
“I thought we played well on Friday night and luckily Mick Daly saved us at the end with his equaliser, but it was a good performance by the team and the main thing is that we are still in the cup.
“I spoke in the build-up to the game about the fact that I thought Harps are a good side and they proved that on Friday night they pushed us right to the wire. Finn Park is never an easy place to go, but we will enjoy taking them to Hunky Dorys Park now.
“They will be coming down on Monday full of confidence, but we are still in the cup and we will be focused on putting ourselves into the semi-final.”
Alan Byrne (Eric Foley 74’)
Peter Hynes (Graham Rusk 81’)
Declan O’Brien 50’
David Cassidy 92’
David Cassidy 72’
Damien McNulty 37’, 70’
Michael Funston 72’