Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Lyons scores extra-time winner to send Shamrock Rovers into FAI Cup quarter-finals

Shamrock Rovers’ search for a league and cup double is still on.

Shamrock Rovers 2 

Drogheda United 1 

Barry Landy reports from Head In The Game Park

AFTER EIGHT CONSECUTIVE weeks of balancing domestic commitments with European exploits, it looked as if an extra 30 minutes against a dogged Drogheda United might be too much for Shamrock Rovers.

However, Stephen Bradley’s team dug into their reserves, of both energy and personnel, in search of a winner and it paid off. Andy Lyons supplied their 110th-minute goal – the second time in the space of 72 hours that the wing back had scored a memorable winner for his side.

andrew-quinn-and-rory-gaffney Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Unlike Thursday’s second leg against Ferencvaros, this game meant something and extended Rovers interest in the competition they last won in 2019. A league and cup double remains on the table and with a competitive-looking UEFA Conference League group to manoeuvre too, it is an exciting time to be a Hoops fan.

Drogheda almost, as they have done on no shortage of occasions this season, spoiled the fun of a team towards the top of the Premier Division. It’s not trophies United have within their sights but they are obdurate opponents and have the requisite quality to trouble more well-resourced rivals.

It is fair to say that – bar Waterford’s defeat of holders St Pats – the FAI Cup has been short of major cup upsets this season, and despite United taking four points off Rovers this term, a victory for the part-timers would have certainly fallen into that category.

It wasn’t to be though, despite Bradley making seven changes to his line-up from the Europa League second leg win over Ferencvaros in midweek.

Goalscorer Lyons, goalkeeper Leon Pohls, Watts, Aaron Greene and the fit-again Jack Byrne were among the introductions to a line-up that underlined both Rovers’ unparalleled strength in depth and intention to progress in the cup competition.

Sean Gannon’s lead goal arrived just four minutes into the contest. Jack Byrne’s searching ball found Rory Gaffney who controlled before volleying goalwards. Colin McCabe saved but with the United defence slow to react to the loose ball, Gaffney was alert and turned the ball back across goal for the defender to fire in.

McCabe endured a busy first half as he was forced to save from Dylan Watts and then use his legs to deny Byrne from close range. Gaffney blazed over wildly when set up by Aaron Greene and second before the halftime whistle, he flashed a low drive across goal after Greene dummied Byrne’ forward pass.

United’s leveller, arriving as it did in the 58th minute, was deserved. Following Rovers dominant opening spell, the hosts battled their way back into the contest. The goal was their first genuine effort on goal but nonetheless was reward for not allowing themselves to be overwhelmed after conceding the lead goal.

The away side failed to clear a corner. Evan Weir played in Dylan Grimes rather than shooting himself and his low cross found Dean Williams, who impudently flicked past Pohls.

The German goalkeeper, making a rare appearance in place of Alan Mannus, will be disappointed the ball managed to wriggle under his body and nestle in the net.

Neither side went particularly close to sealing progression to the next round after that or during 30 minutes of extra time. The most presentable opportunity fell to Aidomo Emakhu but his header was easy for McCabe.

That was until Lyons’ winner. He stole in to latch onto Justin Ferizaj’s forward pass and after a fortunate bounce of ball, finished low past the goalkeeper.

Drogheda United: Colin McCabe; Georgie Poynton, Andrew Quinn, Keith Cowan, Evan Weir (Dane Massey, 120+3); Gary Deegan, Darragh Noone (Luke Heeney, 93); Dylan Grimes, Darragh Markey, Dayle Rooney (Adam Foley, 90+3); Dean Williams (Chris Lyons, 97).

Shamrock Rovers: Leon Pohls; Sean Hoare (Richard Towell, 99), Daniel Cleary, Lee Grace; Sean Gannon (Neil Farrugia, 61), Dylan Watts (Kavanagh, 80), Gary O’Neill, Jack Byrne (Justin Ferizaj, 61), Andy Lyons; Aaron Greene (Aidomo Emakhu, 61), Rory Gaffney.

Referee: Neil Doyle

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