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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019


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Hello, and welcome to today’s liveblog.

It’s likely to be a fascinating encounter between the two best sides in the League of Ireland this season.

Dundalk are understandably considered favourites. In winning the league, they finished 11 points ahead of Shamrock Rovers, and in their four league encounters this season, the Lilywhites won three and drew one.

There is also the fact that Dundalk have the experience of competing in the last four cup finals, while 2010 was the last time Rovers reached this stage and 1987 was the most recent occasion they won it.

Vinny Perth’s men are on course to become just the second Irish side to win a domestic treble, after Derry City did so in 1989.

They won’t find it easy, however, against a Rovers team that have pushed them close for much of this season, and possess a fine array of individual talents like Jack Byrne, Graham Burke and Aaron McEneff.

Some pre-cup final reading for you…

Confirmation of today’s teams…

Dundalk: 1. Gary Rogers 2. Sean Gannon 3. Brian Gartland (C) 21. Daniel Cleary 4. Sean Hoare 14. Dane Massey 7. Michael Duffy 16. Sean Murray 18. Robbie Benson 10. Jamie McGrath 9. Pat Hoban

Subs: 20. Aaron McCarey 6. Jordan Flores 8. John Mountney 12. Georgie Kelly 27. Daniel Kelly 33. Dean Jarvis 44. Andy Boyle

Shamrock Rovers: 1. Alan Mannus 4. Roberto Lopes 5. Lee Grace 28. Joey O’Brien 11. Sean Kavanagh 16. Gary O’Neill 8. Ronan Finn (C) 29. Jack Byrne 10. Aaron McEneff 21. Graham Burke 22. Aaron Greene

Subs: 30 Kian Clarke 6. Greg Bolger 7. Dylan Watts 17. Daniel Lafferty 23. Neil Farrugia 26. Thomas Oluwa 27. Brandon Kavanagh


We’re under way…

It’s a very smoky Aviva Stadium at the moment.

A number of flares have been set off in both the Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers end.


Ronan Finn gets himself in a decent position on the right, but his cross is overhit.

It’s a very good atmosphere here, both sets of fans are making plenty of noise.


Stephen Kenny is here. No sign of Mick McCarthy yet.

stephen-kenny-before-the-game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO


Sean Murray gets a sight at goal on the counter-attack, but he drags his effort from the edge of the area wide.

Shamrock Rovers have had more possession and enjoyed the better start to this game without carving out a clear opening yet.


Big chance!

Jack Byrne picks out Aaron Greene with a lovely lofted pass and the forward controls the ball before firing it just wide.

Moments later, Greene wins it deep in Dundalk territory. He crosses for Finn, who can’t quite properly connect with his back flick and steer it into the net.


Shamrock Rovers have started much the better of the two teams here.

Dundalk have yet to really get a grip on the game.


Another opening for Rovers.

Burke charges forward, but his low shot is comfortably saved by Rogers.


Dane Massey has just curled a free kick on the edge of the area a few yards over.

It was better from Dundalk before that, as they countered on Rovers, before Murray was tripped on the edge of the area as he attempted to run through on goal.


Jack Byrne, who has started well, finds Greene with another defence-splitting pass.

This time, however, the forward is ruled offside.


Daniel Cleary has just got a talking to from the referee after clattering into Greene, who is down for a few moments before recovering.

Burke’s subsequent free kick is straight at Rogers.

Rovers continue to be the dominant team. However, Stephen Bradley was saying during the week that they haven’t been clinical enough in previous matches with Dundalk this season, and that criticism could also apply here so far.


Dundalk just haven’t got going at all, as emphasised by another hopeful ball towards Hoban going astray.

For all the Lilywhites’ cup final experience, it is Shamrock Rovers who look more comfortable on this stage so far.


Better from Dundalk.

They break and O’Brien does well to block Duffy’s cross.

Brian Gartland gets on the end of Murray’s subsequent corner, but Mannus parries the powerful header out for another corner.


Mick McCarthy is here with Noel Mooney. No doubt he’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on Jack Byrne.

noel-mooney-with-mick-mccarthy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


It’s been pretty tight and uneventful these last few minutes.

Dundalk have been better and are starting to control the game more, while Rovers have gone off the boil a bit after a promising start.


So close!

Murray whips in an inviting free kick from the left, finding Cleary at the back post, and the defender’s header goes just wide.


So half-time and it’s been an intriguing encounter so far.

Shamrock Rovers started very well and Aaron Greene could so easily have put them in front early on with Jack Byrne pulling the strings in midfield.

Yet Dundalk came more into it as the half developed. They finished the opening 45 the stronger, with the likes of Michael Duffy and Sean Murray seeing more of the ball.

With 45 minutes remaining, in addition to potentially extra-time and penalties, it’s still very difficult to call this very tight game.


The second half has begun…


Rovers go close again.

It’s another lovely sweeping crossfield pass from Byrne that sets it up.

He finds the onrushing Burke, whose finish is too close to Rogers to trouble the goalkeeper unduly.


Rovers continue to probe without possessing that cutting edge.

After patient build-up play, McEneff overhits an attempted through ball to the audible frustration of Hoops fans.


Decent move by Dundalk.

Gannon’s ball into the box finds Hoban, who lays it off to Murray on the edge of the area.

The attacking midfielder’s first-time side-footed finish does not seriously trouble Mannus though, as it lacks the requisite power or direction to do so.


The ball breaks favourably for Greene on the counter-attack, but Gartland does well to get across and clear the danger.

The 32-year-old centre-back hasn’t been a guaranteed starter for Dundalk throughout the season, but he has played well today, as has the Lilywhites’ backline in general.

Meanwhile, Dundalk make their first substitution — Murray has been replaced by Daniel Kelly.


Greene again fails to beat the offside trap, as he latches on to another long ball by Byrne.

It’s a move Rovers have attempted on a number of occasions — Dundalk will need to ensure they retain their defensive concentration in keeping a high line in the latter stages, as they’re likely to be tested on a few more occasions by that switch of play.


Now Rovers make a change.

Former UCD man Neil Farrugia is on in place of Sean Kavanagh, who’s had a relatively quiet game.


Chance for Dundalk.

Gannon finds space down the right-hand side.

The full-back’s low cross picks out Jamie McGrath, whose first-time finish goes the wrong side of the post.


So close!

Finn crosses low to Burke, who evades the challenge of Cleary, before shooting inches over the bar.

The game is becoming increasingly open as we enter the final 15 minutes. 


The lively Kelly makes a surging run down the right-hand side of the area.

He gets past Lee Grace, but then completely mishits the cross and the danger is averted.

Down the other end, Finn produces a lovely dinked cross that McEneff narrowly fails to get on the end of.


Nice link-up play between Byrne and Farrugia.

The latter down goes down under a challenge from Gannon amid claims for a penalty that the referee dismisses.

On the first look, it seems the right call — it would have been a soft decision.


Burke plays through Farrugia down the left, though the young winger’s first touch is poor and the ball goes out of play.

In didn’t work out on that occasion, but Farrugia has looked a decent outlet for Rovers since coming on.


Farrugia does well down the left to get past Gannon.

His cross finds Burke, but the attacker’s header is straight at Rogers.


The attendance has been confirmed as 33,111. 






Have Shamrock Rovers won it.?

Burke plays through to Greene, who goes down under the challenge of Rogers.

McEneff then steps up and sends the goalkeeper the wrong way to send Hoops fans into ecstasy.

Hoare is now replaced by Georgie Kelly.

Burke is also replaced by Bolger.

Three minutes of stoppage time to be played.






What an incredible finish to normal time!

A ball into the box is only half cleared, as Duffy smashes home a half volley with virtually the last kick of the game.

The whistle to send the game into extra time sounds moments later.


Shamrock Rovers must feel gutted and you would think Dundalk have a slight psychological advantage going into extra time now.

The Hoops were moments away from winning the cup for the first time since 1987, only to be denied by a moment of brilliance from Duffy.


The first half of extra-time has begun.


The two teams set-ups will be interesting.

Shamrock Rovers have a defensive look, with both Bolger and Gary O’Neill on the pitch.

Dundalk, meanwhile, have taken off their primary defensive midfielder in Hoare.


Here’s a look at the two goals and the penalty incident.


Dundalk make another change.

Jordan Flores has replaced Pat Hoban, as they go slightly more defensive-minded.


Great incisive ball by Byrne in midfield to pick out Greene, but Gannon does well to get across the striker and clear the danger.

Both sides are looking tired now.


Greene shoots well over from the edge of the area.

Meanwhile, Cleary has gone down with cramp, but looks okay to continue.


So we’re 15 minutes away from penalties.

Shamrock Rovers looked much the stronger side in that first half of extra-time.

Dundalk let them have much of the ball, defending in numbers and trying to hit them on the counter-attack.


The second half is underway…


It’s been a very subdued opening to this second half.

Dundalk have had a lot of the ball without really offering much in the way of threat.

Meanwhile, both sides are now making changes — a tired-looking Aaron Greene is replaced by Daniel Lafferty for Rovers.

And for Dundalk, John Mountney comes on for Robbie Benson.


Both sides are looking very lethargic at the moment.

With five minutes of play remaining, this game appears destined for penalties.


Half-chance for Rovers.

Lee Grace’s header from Jack Byrne’s corner goes just over.


Greg Bolger has just attempted an audacious lob from just inside the Dundalk half.

Unfortunately for Rovers, it comes nowhere near troubling Rogers.


So close.

Dundalk’s break leads to a bit of a goalmouth scramble.

It falls to Georgie Kelly, whose low shot on the turn is tipped just wide by Mannus.


So that’s it.

After 120 minutes, these teams cannot be separated and it will go to a shootout.

Rovers arguably had slightly more of the play and the better chances overall, but there wasn’t much between the teams during the match.

If I had to make a prediction for the shootout, I’d go with Dundalk, on the basis of the psychological blow Rovers would have been dealt, having come so close to winning it in normal time, only to be undone by Duffy’s last-gasp moment of brilliance.

Here we go…

Jamie McGrath scores. 1-0 Dundalk.

Jack Byrne scores. 1-1.

Duffy’s penalty hits the bar. Still 1-1.


Joey O’Brien scores. 2-1 Rovers.


Dan Cleary’s penalty is saved. Still 2-1.


Greg Bolger scores. 3-1 Rovers.


Jordan Flores scores. 3-2 Rovers.


Gary O’Neill scores. Rovers win 4-2.

Well that’s that.

Shamrock Rovers win the FAI Cup for the first time since 1987, as Dundalk’s treble bid falls narrowly short.

It was a tight game, but the Hoops probably deserved the victory on the balance of play.

They had the better possession and territory, controlling the play, with Irish international Jack Byrne particularly influential.

Dundalk were not at their best, and patently missed the suspended Chris Shields in the middle of the field, as they struggled to get a foothold in the game.

For Stephen Bradley and his side, today was more evidence that they are evolving into a formidable side who will be a force to be reckoned with in Irish football for the years to come.

Right, that’s all from me for now.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

We’ll have more reaction to come and you can read our match report here.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy


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