Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers extracted a modicum of revenge by beating Drogheda United 4-0 in the second round of the FAI Cup on Friday night. The Drogs had eliminated the Hoops from this competition last year but there was to be no repeat of the cup upset this time. Rovers scored four second half goals through Gary O’Neill, Aaron Greene, Aaron McEneff and Sean Kavanagh to dismiss the First Division side.
Tim Clancy named the same United side that beat Wexford 6-0 last week. Meanwhile Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley could bring a quality trio into his starting XI after their mid-week 5-1 win over Waterford with Graham Burke, Aaraon McEneff and Greg Bolger coming in.
Hoops captain Ronan Finn, Jack Byrne along with Burke made for a formidle attacking threat for Rovers behind Aaron Greene as the home team had most of the ball in the first half.
Having said all that the Drogs did threathen the Hoops at times particularly in the opening period. Sean Brennan in the first four minutes forced Alan Mannus into a save and three minutes later there was a shout for a penalty kick.
When Drogheda knocked the Hoops out in the first round of the cup last season the game turned when referee Paul McLaughlin sent off Lee Grace giving the Drogs a first half penalty that gave them the winner through Chris Lyons.
With McLaughlin in charge this time in Tallaght, Lyons went down in the box on seven minutes under pressure from Ethan Boyle and Pico Lopes after Boyle had inexplicably given away possession to Conor Kane. However, McLaughlin waved play on much to the relief of the Rovers supporters.
Byrne, who was called into the Ireland provisional squad during the week, was linking up well with Irish international Graham Burke. The pair both had shots from distance with Burke going closest with one effort coming back off the junction of the post and crossbar on 18 minutes.
Luca Gratzer pushed a Greene effort around the post and Brennan did well to block a Lee Grace effort from one of Rovers’ six first half corners. While United sat deep, they looked to break when they could. Mark Doyle’s superb run on the right wasn’t rewarded when his cut back from the end line was intercepted by Lopes late on and that left the game scoreless at the break.
The second half continued as the first with a number of early Rovers corners. Gratzer made a mess of the first one flapping at Byrne’s centre but he did really well to save the follow up when the ball fell to Burke at the back post.
All that pressure told though and the opener from the Hoops came from their tenth corner of the game on 57 minutes. When it was cleared, Burke whipped the ball in and substitute Gary O’Neill headed home. Bradley had brought on O’Neill in place of Boyle in what looked like a tactical switch at half time with Finn slotting in at right back as he has done on occasion this season.
The Hoops doubled their lead on the hour mark punishing Drogheda for a couple of errors. First Jake Hyland took out Byrne and went in the book for that foul. Burke took the resulting free kick from 30 yards which bounced in front of Gratzer who couldn’t hold onto it. Greene was quickest to slot the rebound home for his 12th goal of the season.
McEneff got Rovers’ third in the 73rd minute as he made it to double figures in the goalscoring charts when he cut inside on the left and rifled the ball low past Gratzer’s right hand. With three minutes remaining Sean Kavanagh got Rovers’ fourth as from the edge of the six yard box he slotted home Greene’s cross off the right flank.
By the end the home fans had pushed their long cup famine to the back of their minds and were singing about winning the cup. The quarter final awaits for the Hoops.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Kavanagh, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Ethan Boyle (Gary O'Neill h/t); Greg Bolger (Dylan Watts 67), Aaron McEneff; Jack Byrne (Brandon Kavanagh 74), Ronan Finn (c), Graham Burke; Aaron Greene.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Sean Callan, Thomas Oluwa, Graham Cummins.
Drogheda United: Luca Gratzer; James Brown, Kevin Farragher, Luke McNally, Conor Kane; Jamie Hollywood (Ryan O’Shea 74), Jake Hyland (c), Sean Brennan (Luke Heeney 61); Stephen Meaney (Adam Wixted 67), Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner (gk), Luke Gallagher, Cian Kavanagh, James Clarke.
Booked: Jake Hyland (59).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers).