by Robert O'Reilly
Shamrock Rovers secured their second piece of silverware of the season as they defeated Drogheda United 2-0 at Tallaght stadium.
Rovers opened the scoring on eleven minutes through a Gary McCabe penalty and they doubled their lead in the second half when Thomas Stewart converted as both sides finished the game with ten men following red cards for Ken Oman and Derek Prendergast.
Drogheda made two changes from the 2-0 victory over Finn Harps on Monday as Gavin Brennan and Michael Daly replaced Phillip Hand and Peter Hynes while Shamrock Rovers manager Trevor Croly named the same side that won last time out away to St. Patrick’s Athletic in the Quarter-finals of the Ford FAI Cup.
United started the stronger and they created the first opportunity on goal as Ryan Brennan exchanged passes with his brother Gavin who brilliantly picked out the run of O’Conor but the midfielder struggled to control the ball and his effort rolled harmlessly wide.
The home side hit the front a couple of minutes later as sharp passing between McCabe and Stewart saw them burst into the Drogheda box where Shane Grimes was adjudged to have taken down McCabe and the winger found the back of the net despite Michael Schlingermann diving the right way.
Drogheda responded well to going behind as O’Conor saw his effort from distance blocked by Conor Powell while Gavin Brennan’s deflected free kick looped narrowly over the bar.
The Hoops had little difficulty moving the ball through the Drogheda midfield when on 37 minutes Pat Sullivan released Billy Dennehy down the right and his cross picked out goalscorer McCabe but his header failed to test Schlingermann.
A clever pass from Declan O’Brien found O’Conor once again in on goal but he completely missed the ball with only Rovers keeper Barry Murphy to beat.
United started the second half in determined fashion as Gavin Brennan’s deep cross was parried behind by Murphy who was up again a couple of minutes later to deny Mick Daly after David Cassidy had picked him out in the box.
Drogheda squandered another chance on 55 minutes as a one-two between Grimes and Gavin Brennan saw the former pull the ball back for Ryan Brennan but he fired over from close range.
It was against the run of play that the Hoops scored the decisive second goal, O’Conor tackled Richie Ryan in midfield and the ball rolled into the path of Stewart who raced beyond the indecisive McNally to calmly slot past Schlingermann.
United should have pulled a goal back five minutes later when Murphy flapped at a David Cassidy corner from the right but Gavin Brennan headed over from a tight angle.
Rovers were reduced to ten men on 67 minutes as Ken Oman was shown a second yellow card after O’Brien went to ground on the edge of the box, Eric Foley’s resulting free kick was well held by Murphy.
United were piling the pressure on the home side at this stage, O’Brien dribbled his way past Powell on the right and his cut back across goal deflected off Ryan only for Murphy to once again deny the Drogs.
Drogheda should have been awarded a penalty with seven minutes remaining as good interplay between substitute Peter Hynes and O’Brien resulted in the ball being moved onto Cassidy who was taken down by Murphy as he advanced on goal but Referee Padraigh Sutton only awarded a corner.
From the resulting delivery, Cassidy’s spectacular scissors kick was deflected off the line by David Elebert as the Rovers goal lived a charmed life.
United were reduced to ten men in the dying stages of the game as Derek Prendergast fouled Sean O’Connor on the edge of the box and his angry protest resulted in an early dismissal for the Drogheda captain.
Rovers almost made it 3-0 in stoppage time as substitute Eamon Zayed smacked the crossbar when through on goal but it mattered little as the Hoops celebrated only their second League Cup victory.
As for Drogheda, they return to league action on Tuesday at home to Cork before attention turns to the Ford FAI Cup semi-final against bitter rivals Dundalk.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will be aiming to avenge their Setanta Cup Final defeat to Shamrock Rovers when the sides face each other tomorrow in the EA Sports Cup Final in Tallaght, Kick off 6pm.
The low point of United’ season thus far was the 7-1 humiliation back in May but the Drogs are the reigning EA Sports Cup holders having defeated Rovers 3-1 last season in Tallaght.
Drogheda’s form has improved remarkably over the past two months and they have only been defeated once in the last twelve games in all competitions, losing 1-0 to bitter rivals Dundalk a couple of weeks ago.
Gavin Brennan and Mick Daly return to the squad having both served one match bans while Graham Rusk is back in contention for Drogheda having played the final ten minutes of Monday’s 2-0 victory over Finn Harps.
Only one place separates the teams in the league but Rovers have amassed nine points more than Drogheda this season despite a disappointing campaign leaving them in fifth place.
Mark Quigley will be suspended for the Hoops after he was sent off in their 2-1 victory over Shelbourne a fortnight ago while Ronan Finn, Eamon Zayed, Karl Sheppard and Derek Foran will all be assessed before the game.
Drogheda have won the League Cup on two occasions back in 1993-84 and 2012 while their more illustrious opponents have only lifted the Cup once in 1976-77.
Rovers have had the better of the meetings between the two this season as they recorded a 3-0 victory at Hunky Dorys Park in June while Paul O’Conor netted his first goal for Drogheda in a 1-1 draw in Tallaght.
Speaking ahead of the game, Drogheda manager Mick Cooke believes that his players have nothing to fear ahead of the third Cup Final of his three year reign.
“It’s a nice problem to have, a fully fit squad for the final and each and every one of them are vying for a place in the starting XI. Training has been excellent this week, the team are fully focused on the game.
“We didn’t mind the replay on Monday night, if you remember last year we replayed our quarter-final with Pats on Monday night and those games are better than any training session.
“It’s always a great occasion playing Rovers in Tallaght, there should be a huge crowd with a great atmosphere and obviously when you win something you want to retain it and that’s what we will be setting out to do tomorrow.
“The last final was just one of those days, we haven’t thought much about it since and we won’t think much about it tomorrow, it was just one of those games.”
Billy Dennehy (Seán O’Connor 81’)
Gary McCabe (David Elbert 72’)
Thomas Stewart (Eamon Zayed 90+1’)
Derek Prendergast ©
Alan Byrne (Eric Foley 62’)
Paul O’Conor (Peter Hynes 75’)
David Cassidy (Graham Rusk 88’)
Ken Oman (yellow) 52’
Richie Ryan (yellow) 63’
Ken Oman (yellow) 70’
Ken Oman (red) 70’
Shane Grimes (yellow) 10’
Alan Byrne (yellow) 16’
Alan McNally (yellow) 74’
Gavin Brennan (yellow) 84’
Derek Prendergast (red) 87’