Simon Madden grabs a hold of goalscorer Sheppard. INPHO
Drive for 25

Super sub Sheppard sends Hoops into FAI Cup semi-final with late double

The striker earned Shamrock Rovers a 2-1 victory over Dundalk in tonight’s last eight replay.

Dundalk 1-2 Shamrock Rovers 

TALK OF THE TREBLE in Louth is over.

For a few days at least though, there are still aspirations of a double. Tonight, Shamrock Rovers booked their place in the semi-finals of the FAI Cup with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Dundalk at Oriel Park.

Friday night’s game in Tallaght was the fifth game between the two sides this season and after an utterly dour affair, a sixth meeting was required to separate the teams. Coming into this one, Dundalk had won three, all by the odd goal, with two stalemates. This would be close if nothing else.

Pat Hoban’s opener, his 19th in all competitions this season came five minutes before half time. As is so often the case with Dundalk this year, a set piece offered a route to goal. Darren Meenan’s inswinging free kick from the left was met by Galwegian Hoban who headed across Barry Murphy and into the net.

Up until that point, the home side had shaded it without creating all that many chances of note. Central defender Andy Boyle, without the captain’s armband tonight as club vice-captain Mark Rossiter was handed a rare start, twice headed harmlessly over the bar from Meenan deliveries while Kurtis Byrne’s cross-shot was almost sliced into his own net by his namesake, Rovers left back Luke.

Pat Fenlon’s men did create one glorious opportunity when a impudent flick from Dean Kelly released Ronan Finn into the box. The midfielder picked out Sean O’Connor who forced Peter Cherrie into an acrobatic save.

Shortly after though, the goal arrived. Dundalk’s set piece prowess has been there for all to see this term and a familiar duo provided the one-two to put Dundalk ahead. Meenan’s pinpoint delivery into the area fell right onto the head of Hoban who in acres of space headed the ball back across a beaten Murphy and into the bottom corner.

Daryl Horgan with Ryan Brennan Dundalk's Daryl Horgan is tracked by two Shamrock Rovers players.

Immediately after the break, Hoban’s glanced header hit the crossbar and Boyle also went close with a header, both from Meenan set-pieces. Then Kurtis Byrne surged up the pitch and his cross was met by Hoban but his effort was saved.

Another rare moment of concern for Peter Cherrie came when O’Connor once again threatened. This time, his free kick from 25 yards dropped just over the bar. But, for Rovers lack of creative endeavour throughout, they would fashion an equaliser. O’Connor’s through ball caught the Dundalk defence out and released Karl Sheppard. The substitute was in acres of space and cooly slotted past Cherrie.

Remarkably, five minutes later and just four minutes from time, Rovers were infront and Sheppard had two goals to his name. The striker managed to latch onto a ball on the byline and turn inside before firing past Cherrie. Cue pitch invasion from a section of visiting fans.

Whoever emerged victorious from this, it was always going to add spice to Saturday’s EA Sports Cup final when the Hoops return to Oriel Park hoping to retain their trophy in their rivals back yard. These affairs are always close, as the five games already this year have proved and the two to come surely will.

For the first time in six outings, Rovers have seen off Dundalk and have Sheppard’s late brace to thank. They also have a place in the FAI Cup semi-finals to boot. For Fenlon, a cup win and European place would would mark a successful end to a testing season.

DUNDALK: Peter Cherrie, Sean Gannon, Mark Rossiter (Ruaidhri Higgins, 88), Andy Boyle, Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Richie Towell, Darren Meenan (David McMillan, 88), Kurtis Byrne (John Mountney, 67), Daryl Horgan, Patrick Hoban.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Barry Murphy, Simon Madden, Jason McGuinness, Conor Kenna, Luke Byrne, Shane Robinson (Stephen McPhail, 62), Patrick Cregg, Ronan Finn, Sean O’Connor, Ryan Brennan (Kieran Marty Waters 53), Dean Kelly (Karl Sheppard, 77).

REFEREE: David McKeon

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