Goals from Gary McCabe and Thomas Stewart saw Shamrock Rovers lift their second trophy of the season as they beat Drogheda United in the EA Sports Cup final at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday night.
The first significant chance of the game was created by Drogheda after seven minutes when Ryan Brennan clipped an excellent ball into the path of his brother Gavin on the left flank. He crossed for Paul O’Conor who control the ball well on his chest but shot wide under pressure.
Four minutes later Shamrock Rovers were ahead. Gary McCabe and Thomas Stewart passed their way through the Drogheda back line before Shane Grimes made an ill advised challenge on McCabe and referee Padraigh Sutton pointed to the spot. McCabe duly converted the penalty.
The game defied any sort of pattern in the immediate aftermath of the goal with Rovers looking comfortable in possession without creating an openings and Drogheda’s erratic passing at times threatening to undo them.
The lull allowed Drogheda to find their feet and neat approach play presented Paul O’Conor with a shooting chance on 23 minutes that was blocked en route to goal. This heralded an impressive period of play from the Louth side who suddenly looked the more creative outfit.
Superb interplay between O’Conor and Gavin Brennan again threatened to open up the Hoops after 33 minutes with O’Conor finally drawing a foul in a dangerous area, but Gavin Brennan’s free was deflected away and the chance was gone.
McCabe headed narrowly over the Drogheda bar from Billy Dennehy’s cross and Dennehy fired high and wide from distance while Declan O’Brien set up O’Conor at the other end only for the Drogheda midfielder to fresh air his effort on the edge of the box.
The half time whistle came with a sense of anti-climax but within seconds of the restart Drogheda had fashioned a half chance with Ryan Brennan’s deft flick finding brother Gavin. His first time ball forced Barry Murphy to palm the ball away from the top corner. Moments later Drogheda broke on the left and David Cassidy’s low ball ran through for Mick Daly to run onto and his blasted effort was excellently saved by the Rovers keeper.
Overall there was a good deal more energy about the second half but, again, penetration was lacking on both sides. McCabe found himself in acres of space on the right only for his cross to be easily cleared by McNally while Drogheda also wasted a good opportunity when Ryan Brennan shot over from close range having been set up by Grimes.
But on 58 minutes Rovers extended their lead when a lax back pass from O’Conor found only Thomas Stewart and the Rovers front man kept his cool to push a low shot past Schlingermann and into the far corner.
Drogheda were offered a lifeline with twenty minutes left to play when Ken Oman was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Declan O’Brien just outside the Rovers box. And the one-man advantage was almost negated when Alan McNally was somewhat fortunate to only get a yellow moments later when, as the last man, he brought down Thomas Stewart who looked to be through on the Drogheda goal.
Stewart broke through again three minutes later, skipping past his marker only to be chased down by the covering figures of Grimes and Foley and, in truth, Rovers looked just as dangerous with ten men as they had done with eleven.
Drogheda needed something special as the game approached the final ten minutes and Fabio O’Brien almost provided it when he threaded his way in along the byline only to see his low cross blocked and a follow up shot saved by Murphy.
Drogheda had a strong shout for a penalty in the 84th minute when a series of intricate passes released Cassidy and he collided with Barry Murphy six yards from goal. It could have gone either way but referee Sutton found himself unsighted and a corner was awarded from which Cassidy was again denied, this time by the head of David Elebert.
Two minutes later the Louth side were also down to ten men when Derek Prendergast’s reaction drew a straight red from Sutton having been charged with taking down Sean O’Connor right on the lip of the penalty area.
In added time Drogheda had another penalty appeal when Mick Daly’s shot hit the arm of Elebert but Rovers sub Eamon Zayed might then have made it three to Rovers when he broke through only to pop his shot off the top of the crossbar.
Finally, it was Shamrock Rovers who secured their second trophy of the season while Drogheda must pin their hopes for silverware on progress in the FAI Cup.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Pat Sullivan, Jason McGuinness, Ken Oman, Conor Powell; Ronan Finn, Shane Robinson, Richie Ryan, Billy Dennehy (Sean O’Connor 81); Gary McCabe (David Elebert 72); Thomas Stewart (Eamon Zayed 90+1).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Stephen Rice, Conor McCormack, Karl Sheppard.
Booked: Oman (51), Ryan (62) .
Sent Off: Oman (69).
Drogheda United: Micheal Schlingermann; Mick Daly, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Shane Grimes; Alan Byrne (Eric Foley 62); David Cassidy (Graham Rusk 88), Ryan Brennan, Paul O’Conor (Peter HYnes 75), Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Philip Hand, Jason Marks, Cathal Brady.
Booked: Grimes (10), Byrne (16), G Brennan (84).
Sent Off: Prendergast (86)
Referee: Padraigh Sutton.
Extratime Man of the Match: Thomas Stewart (Shamrock Rovers).