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We went minute-by-minute as Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United met in the 2012 EA Sports Cup final in Tallaght Stadium. If it’s in the game, it’s in the game…

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Shamrock Rovers 1-3 Drogheda United

What better way to kick off a Saturday evening than by dishing out some domestic silverware? It’s time for the final of the 2012 EA Sports Cup as Shamrock Rovers and Drogheda United go head-to-head in Tallaght Stadium.

For Rovers it’s a chance to salvage some silverware from a season that has been disastrous by the club’s high standards. For Mick Cooke and for Drogheda, a win tonight would be just reward for a remarkable season which sees them still riding high in the league.

The action gets underway in just under 10 minutes so I’ll get the team news and we’ll get going.

New director of football Brian Laws picks the Rovers starting XI for the first time and immediately, the former Burnley boss shows that he’s not afraid to step on a few toes. He follows Stephen Glass’s lead by leaving the out-of-sorts Gary Twigg on the bench for a second successive game.

Shamrock Rovers: Jansson, Gilbert, Sives, Hawkins, Powell, Rice, Finn, Brennan, McCabe, Stewart, Kilduff. Substitutes: Pieterse, Twigg, O’Neill, Dennehy, Greene, Kavanagh, O’Donnell.

Just one change for Drogheda from the side which was beaten on penalties in Monday’s FAI Cup quarter-final against St Pat’s. Captain Paul Crowley comes back into the team in place of the cup-tied John Sullivan.

Drogheda United: Sava, Hand, Gannon, Prendergast, McNally, R Brennan, G Brennan, Foley, Crowley, Hynes, O’Brien. Substitutes: Finnegan, Quigley, Brady, Mulvenna, S Brennan, Byrne, O’Keeffe.

The teams have been presented to President Michael D Higgins, we’ve had Amhrán na bhFiann, and in a Tallaght Stadium which is far from full, we’re just about ready to go.

Tom Connolly is our referee. Please direct all complaints about dodgy decisions in his direction.

KICK OFF: We’re up and running with Drogheda United playing into the Square End in this opening half.

Philip Hand has a chance to create the game’s first opening for Drogheda but his lofted free kick is easily dealt with by Rovers’ back four.

Eight minutes in and there’s no real pattern to speak of yet. Drogheda have had most of the ball but they haven’t created any chances of note. Rovers are struggling to build through their midfield, though Ronan Finn has shown a few nice touches.

Peter Hynes gets the better of Kerrea Gilbert out on the left to swing in a cross into the Rovers area, but keeper Oscar Jansson is able to get up above a small crowd to punch clear.

Rovers have their first real attack as Finn dinks a cross into the box. Killian Brennan comes off  second best against Eric Foley but as the Drogheda man comes away with the ball, a huge shout for handball goes up from the Rovers players and fans. Referee Tom Connolly waves it away without a second look.

Gavin Brennan has to be on his toes to deny Craig Sives. The big Scottish centre-half tries to get on the end of a free but Brennan wins the header and knocks it behind for a corner.

After a rather uninspiring start, Rovers have come into this game in the last five or six minutes and are starting to piece together some chances. Killian Brennan tries his luck by keeping his free kick low along the ground but Sava gets his body behind it to save at the second attempt. The ball came through Peter Hynes’s legs so the keeper may have been slightly unsighted.

Eric Foley pushes up on the left and crosses to the edge of the Rovers area. Gavin Brennan tries his luck with a diving header but Jansson is equal to the effort and holds.

A mix-up in Drogheda’s defence gifts Ronan Finn the first clear-cut chance of the evening. He has time to pick his spot when Ciaran Kilduff rolls the ball to him inside the penalty box but he goes for power over placement and Sava is able to flick out a leg to deflect it away.

A stupid yellow card apiece as both Peter Hynes and Ciaran Kilduff are booked in two separate incidents for playing on after the whistle had gone.

We’re nearing the half-hour mark and it has been a game for the purists so far. Finn’s effort aside, there hasn’t been a huge amount in the way of real drama.

GOAL! Shamrock Rovers 0-1 Drogheda United (O’Brien, 32′) Two chances in quick succession for Drogs and the second attempt, Fabio O’Brien nips in to put Mick Cooke’s men a goal up.

It’s the striker’s industry that earns Drogheda the chance in the first place as he chases down a long ball and forces Kerrea Gilbert to knock it behind for a corner. It’s taken short and sent in quickly to the near post by Gavin Brennan, where it completely bypasses an oblivious Gilbert. Stephen Rice loses the run of O’Brien and he’s able to brush the ball with his studs past Jansson at his near post.

Awful defending by Sives and Hawkins, and that really should have been punished with another Drogheda goal. Alan McNally floats the ball into the box, both Rovers centre halves lose track of Gavin Brennan and Jansson has to be at full stretch to claw his flicked header behind from a corner.

Rovers are in complete disarray here and Drogheda come dangerously close to a second. Nobody tracks Paul Crowley from a corner and his header zips just a whisker past Jansson’s right post with the keeper well beaten.

“Laws out?” asks my colleague Ben Blake. “They’ve given him 42 minutes.”

The new man will shortly face the first major test of his time in Tallaght. Bar a period of 10 minutes, Rovers have been second best for most of this half.

GOAL! Shamrock Rovers 0-2 Drogheda United (Gilbert og, 44′) It has gone from bad to worse for Rovers — and nobody can say that wasn’t coming. More miscommunication at the back as Philip Hand swings a corner into the six-yard box. Jansson comes and flaps at it but in doing so, manages to palm the ball of Gilbert and into the net.

There’ll be one added minute. A minute too long if you’re a Rovers fan…

HALF TIME: Shamrock Rovers 0-2 Drogheda United

The boos ring out around Tallaght Stadium as Tom Connolly whistles for half-time. Welcome to the League of Ireland, Mr Laws.

“Shams have being taken over by player power,” writes Richard Lennon.

There’s not much power on display full stop here. Drogheda are great value for their lead so far.

SECOND HALF: And we’re back.

Rovers have no choice but to send men forward in search of a lifeline. Centre-half Craig Sives is the first to trouble Drogheda’s area but his shot is blocked away for a throw before it gets near Sava.

A half-chance for Drogheda to put the game to bed as Brian Gannon breaks free down the right wing. He tries to pick out the incoming Fabio O’Brien at the near post but his pass is hit a little too firmly and striker can’t make contact.

That could be Gary McCabe’s first meaningful contribution this evening. He puts his head down and runs at the Drogheda defence, hanging on to the ball with the help of Ciaran Kilduff, and wins a free on the edge of the box. Dangerous position…

GOAL! Shamrock Rovers 1-2 Drogheda United (Brennan, 59′) Superb strike by Killian Brennan. From 20 yards, he curls his free kick into the top left corner of Sava’s goal, giving the keeper no chance.

Game on, Ger?

GOAL! Shamrock Rovers 1-3 Drogheda United (Foley, 61′) Maybe not! No sooner have Rovers got themselves back into the game than Drogheda strike back — and that could be the winner.

More sloppy defending at the back lets the ball break to Eric Foley on the edge of the area. Stephen Rice throws himself at the ball to block it, but it takes a wicked deflection off the midfielder and bobbles past Jansson who is wrongfooted completely.

What a response.

Substitutions: In between those goals, Rovers made a double sub — Gary McCabe and Thomas Stewart replaced by Billy Dennehy and Daryl Kavanagh.

Substitution: Oh dear, that does not look good for Ciaran Kilduff. Having missed most of the season with a broken foot, the big Rovers striker has gone down in considerable pain and signalled to be subbed off immediately. Gary Twigg comes on to replace him but if that’s a recurrence, it’ll a huge blow for Kilduff who had scored four in six starts since making his comeback.

RED CARD! (Powell, 72′) When your luck is out, it really is out (that could be the title of Rovers’ 2012 season review, incidentally).

Conor Powell is caught out of position as a long ball drops over the head of himself and Fabio O’Brien. As O’Brien turns his head to judge the flight of the ball, there’s a nudge in the back from Powell and that’s deemed by referee Tom Connolly to be a red card offence.

I’m not sure that Powell was the last man but if O’Brien had won possession, it would have been a goal-scoring opportunity at the very least.

Crucial interception by Twigg who gets in in front of Alan McNally and heads the ball behind before the Drogs defender can pounce.

As some Rovers fans head for the exits with 10 minutes to go, those who remain let out a huge roar for a penalty as Gilbert goes to ground in the area. Was there a push in the back? Tom Connolly takes a long, hard look and waves play on.

Daryl Kavanagh beats Derek Prendergast to a loose ball, and with the Drogheda man committed 100% to a slide tackle, he catches Kavanagh late and earns a booking for his trouble.

Chance for Peter Hynes to put the icing on the cake for Drogheda but he gets under his shot and balloons it over Jansson’s bar from the edge of the box.

Two minutes to play in Tallaght Stadium. Remarkably, Mick Cooke hasn’t made a single change in this match. Why would he? His starting XI have been excellent tonight.

There’ll be four minutes of injury time. Fabio O’Brien is the Setanta Sports man of the match.

Substitution: Tiernan Mulvenna comes on to replace Peter Hynes, but it’s little more than a time-wasting strategy by Mick Cooke. Very shortly, he’ll be celebrating his first win in a senior cup final.

The Rovers fans try to lighten the atmosphere by singing “we’re going to win 4-3.” They won’t, not even if we play until next Saturday.

Substitution: With two minutes of injury time to play, Sean Brennan comes on to replace Declan “Fabio” O’Brien.

FULL TIME: Shamrock Rovers 1-3 Drogheda United

It’s all over in Tallaght and Drogheda United are the 2012 EA Sports Cup champions. The away support, packed into the Square end of the main stand, erupt into a chorus of “Champione, Champione” and well they might. It’s the club’s first league cup win since 1983/84.

So that’s it from Tallaght Stadium as Paul Crowley prepares to lift the cup on behalf of Drogheda United. They were easily the better team tonight, highlighting just how much work Brian Laws will have to do to steady the Rovers ship between now and the end of the season.

Thanks for reading.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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