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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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Dundalk claim eighth trophy in four seasons as Lilywhites down sorry Hoops in Tallaght

David McMillan set the Lilywhites on their way before late goals from Patrick McEleney and Tommy Stewart sealed the win in Dublin.

David McMillan celebrates giving Dundalk the lead in Tallaght Stadium.
David McMillan celebrates giving Dundalk the lead in Tallaght Stadium.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shamrock Rovers 0

Dundalk 3

Aaron Gallagher reports from Tallaght Stadium

STEPHEN KENNY LED Dundalk to their eighth title in four years on a soaking wet Saturday evening in Tallaght Stadium, as Dundalk scalped Shamrock Rovers in their own back yard to claim the 2017 EA Sports Cup.

An early David McMillan header meant Rovers always faced an uphill battle, before Stephen Bradley’s side were reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of teenager Aaron Bolger, with Patrick McEleney and substitute Tommy Stewart wrapping up the cup win late on.

There had been no love lost between the sides all season and with Rovers beating the current league holders and 2014 League Cup winners twice already this season, another cup win for the Lilywhites did not appear at first a routine affair.

Despite Cork City acting as runaway champions-elect in the Premier Division this season, this year’s League Cup final pitted the League of Ireland’s two form sides against one another: both Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers coming into Saturday’s final with seven consecutive wins each.

With neither side laying claim to the league title this season there still existed the chance to end 2017 on a real high — Dundalk could claim second with a League Cup and FAI Cup to their name, while Rovers too could finish the year with European football plus the same two pieces of silverware.

The sides will meet again in two weeks’ time in the semi-finals of the FAI Cup, with Saturday’s final acting as a curtain raiser for a more prestigious cup which also alluded both sides last season.

Dundalk will go into the next meeting with a keen psychological edge as, despite Stephen Bradley’s side enjoying the lion’s share of possession and a multitude of chances bearing down on goalkeeper Gabriel Sava’s goal, it was the Lilywhites precision which proved fatal.

They had the lead after just five minutes and never let go of thereafter.

With incredible neck muscle striker McMillan steered a glorious header blistering towards goal, with Simon Madden unable to keep it out, rather heading it onto the bottom of the crossbar above him and into the back of the net.

The visitors were in dreamland and off to the perfect start, appeasing the vocal Hoops supporters in the East Stand of Tallaght Stadium before they even had a chance to warm their vocal cords.

David McMillan celebrates scoring his sides first goal 16/9/2017 Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

That said, Rovers did not sit back on their misfortune and went all out to grab an equaliser.

Rovers manager Bradley noted Dundalk’s current era of continued success began with an EA Sports Cup and that were his own side to establish themselves as league title competitors, they would have to secure their own first taste of silverware starting on Saturday.

Bradley’s side played with the same dynamism and young enthusiasm and skill which has been their hallmark for large portions of this season. David McAllister had a stunning acrobatic overhead kick trail inches wide of the post, while Trevor Clarke saw a long-range piledriver skim inches wide of the target.

Dundalk had two key chances to double their lead, but past up both. Winger Michael Duffy was instrumental all afternoon and after rounding goalkeeper Chencinski could only see his curling effort cleared off the line miraculously by the head of defender McAllister.

Not long afterwards Patrick McEleney held onto the ball just long enough outside the box to make sure his cross was perfectly timed to meet the run of McMillan, but the striker’s quick effort at the near post could only find the side-netting.

As Rovers entered the pitch for the second interval they knew they had been a match for Dundalk on every level except the one that mattered: the scoreline.

However a tough task to take the game to the champions became a mountain to climb when the Hoops were reduced to 10 men with 25 minutes remaining.

Patrick McEleney with Ronan Finn 16/9/2017 Shamrock Rovers captain Ronan Finn holds off the challenge of Patrick McEleney. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A dull second interval was exploded into life when 17-year-old Aaron Bolger followed through on a sliding challenge and, despite winning the ball, was given a second yellow card by referee Derek Tomney.

The home supporters were incensed at the decision, with the teenaged prospect — who has established a name for himself as a remarkably capable midfield enforcer despite his age with consistently high-quality performances — departing the pitch utterly dejected.

Rovers required a miracle but their fate was sealed with ten minutes remaining as winger McEleney strook yet another wonder-strike flying into the top corner of Chencinski’s goal before pinging off the inside of the woodwork and in.

The air was sucked out of Tallaght Stadium for a moment as the sizeable contingent of Lilywhite supporters reeled in vocal delight firstly at the 2-0 scoreline before another was added late on.

Substitute Tommy Stewart was only on the pitch a matter of moments after replacing man of the match McMillan before he caught Rovers’ defence napping — steering a low effort into Chencinski’s bottom corner to wrap up a successful and deserved 3-0 cup win.

Stephen Kenny earned his first piece of silverware at Oriel Park with an EA Sports Cup title. Three years later he earned his eighth title, with an FAI Cup semi-final with Rovers firmly in his sights in a fortnight’s time.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Tomer Chencinski, Simon Madden, David Webster, David McAllister (James Doona 85), Trevor Clarke, Roberto Lopes, Ryan Connolly (Cameron King 56), Ronan Finn, Aaron Bolger, Brandon Miele, Michael O’Connor (Gary Shaw 69)

DUNDALK: Gabriel Sava, Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Niclas Vemmelund, Shane Grimes, Chris Shields, Robbie Benson, Michael Duffy, Jamie McGrath (Steven Kinsella 88), Patrick McEleney (Stephen O’Donnell 90), David McMillan (Thomas Stewart 91)

Referee: Derek Tomney

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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