Shamrock Rovers will play in the final of the EA Sports Cup after their 4-1 semi-final win over Limerick at Tallaght Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday evening. The Hoops, who led 1-0 at half time thanks to Sean Gannon’s first senior goal, saw a man of the match performance by striker Ciarán Kilduff who scored two second half goals and set up the final goal for Billy Dennehy. Jeffrey Judge scored a late consolation goal for Limerick. It meant defeats in consecutive nights for Limerick against the Champions of England and the League of Ireland Champions following Sunday’s 4-0 friendly defeat in Thomond Park against Manchester City.
Manager Stephen Kenny made nine changes to the Rovers side who recorded a 2-0 win at UCD in the League on Friday. It was a new look strikeforce for 2012 for the Hoops as new signing Thomas Stewart made his first start in Tallaght on his Rovers return. He played up front with Kilduff who has only just come back into the Rovers squad having spent much of the season injured. Kilduff gave Limerick captain Pat Purcell a difficult night as the striker emulated Edin Dzeko in scoring two goals against Limerick.
Pat Scully played a strong Limerick side just 24 hours after that City friendly as he was looking to avenge his team’s 1-0 defeat from earlier in the season against Rovers in the FAI Cup. The First Division leaders felt hard done by that night when they didn’t get a penalty at a crucial time in the game. They probably felt the same towards the end of the first half on Monday when referee Paul Tuite waved play on after Rovers’ keeper Reyaad Pieterse took down Denis Behan.
Limerick could also have been playing with a man advantage by that time after Behan charged down a Pieterse kick. Ken Oman got a yellow card for holding back Dominic Foley as the ball ran to the Irish international when it easily could have been red. However, by that stage the Blues were already 1-0 down after Sean Gannon’s 23rd minute goal. The 21-year-old, who normally plays at the back, started in right side midfield and he got forward to convert a Killian Brennan cross after Brennan had run onto a Kilduff flick.
Foley had created a clear-cut chance for Limerick as early as the 11th minute but he couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity. Limerick did cause Rovers difficulties from the dead ball situations they created with Stephen Bradley delivering dangerously. Behan forced Colin Hawkins into conceding a 21st minute corner but again Limerick couldn’t make the most of the opening.
From their own set pieces, Rovers had chances to add to their lead. They nearly had a helping hand from Limerick’s Judge who was guilty of slicing an attempted corner clearance towards his own net but Barry Ryan made the save.
After Limerick’s Shane Tracy got booked for hauling down Billy Dennehy, Killian Brennan moved the ball quickly from the free to Conor McCormack who found Kerrea Gilbert. The Londoner’s cross was dangerous but Purcell cleared under pressure from Kilduff.
Rovers had a shout for their own penalty on 52 minutes. Dennehy punched the ground in frustration when he didn’t get a spot kick after a clumsy challenge on him from Limerick substitute Corrie Treacy. Stewart was wasteful with a couple of chances that ended with wayward finishes. Dennehy was causing Limerick difficulty with Joe Gamble going in the book for a challenge before a Dennehy shot, from a Stewart pass, went wide of the Munster men’s goal.
When Rovers' second goal did come on 66 minutes, it was the culmination of an excellent footballing move. It began at the back with Ken Oman playing a lovely ball out to the left with the outside of his right boot to Dennehy. Playing a one-two with substitute Ronan Finn, Dennehy’s cross was converted by Kilduff who had timed his run excellently to double Rovers’ lead.
Limerick pressed for a goal with Pieterse having to stay alert to stop a centre from Gaffney and when he was beaten by Oman, the flag was up as Behan’s cross had gone out before coming back across to go in off Oman. Kilduff got his second, and Rovers’ third, on 78 minutes when Gary O’Neill, who had come on for Stewart, played a ball through to Kilduff. Purcell was outpaced by Kilduff and with Barry Ryan advancing, the centre forward’s touch squeezed under the Limerick goalkeeper. The touch allowed Kilduff to get by the ‘keeper and roll the ball into the empty goal with Purcell desperately trying to get back to challenge.
The visitors did pull a goal back with a fine strike from outside the box by Judge on 87 minutes. However, the Hoops had the final word as the excellent Kilduff picked out Dennehy running through on goal and the winger beat Ryan to make it 4-1.
Stephen Kenny’s men will face Drogheda United on September 22nd in the final with the manager from Tallaght looking to win his fifth League Cup as a coach in the last eight years. His team will be looking to win it for only the second time with Rovers having won the trophy on just one solitary occasion back in the 1976/77 season.
Shamrock Rovers: Reyaad Pieterse; Kerrea Gilbert, Ken Oman, Colin Hawkins, Conor Powell; Sean Gannon (Ronan Finn 58), Conor McCormack, Killian Brennan (Stephen Rice 80), Billy Dennehy; Thomas Stewart (Gary O’Neill 75), Ciarán Kilduff.
Subs Not Used: Oscar Jansson, Jack Memery, Gary McCabe, Gary Twigg.
Booked: Oman (33).
Limerick FC: Barry Ryan; Shaun Kelly, Paddy Purcell, Robert Kluciar (Corrie Treacy 48), Shane Treacy; Jeffrey Judge, Joe Gamble, Stephen Bradley (Derek O’Brien 71), Steve McGann (Rory Gaffney, 56); Denis Behan, Dominic Foley.
Subs Not Used: Shane Guthrie, Sean Brosnan, James McGrath, Shane Cusack.
Booked: Judge (31), Tracy (40).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Attendance: 1,200 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the match: Ciarán Kilduff (Shamrock Rovers).