Drogheda United got their reward for what has been an excellent season for the club as Mick Cooke's men recorded a 3-1 victory over Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght this evening. Meanwhile, new Hoops Director of Football Brian Laws is now under no illusion as to the size of the task he faces following his new side's insipid performance.
The game got off to the slowest of starts with neither side creating anything of note. The nearest either team came to a chance were two early Philip Hand free kicks which were floated into area. The Shamrock Rovers defence dealt with both with a minimum of fuss. Drogs were marginally the better in the opening exchanges but, in truth, it was poor fare with play punctuated by niggly fouls.
By the 15 minute mark, however, there were tentative signs of improvement. A Gavin Brennan cross was punched clear by Oscar Jansson in the Shamrock Rovers' goal before Ronan Finn broke well down the right and delivered a cross that evaded both Killan Brennan and Ciaran Kilduff before bouncing up and striking a Drogheda player and raising a half-hearted shout for handball.
A free kick from Gary McCabe two minutes later caused consternation in the Drogs' defence; Gavin Brennan's clearing header just squirming past the post for a corner. The Tallaght side were beginning to impose themselves on their home patch and a free kick straight from the training ground eventually led to a shot from Brennan which was tame and straight at Drogheda goalkeeper Gabriel Sava.
A minute later a diving Ryan Brennan was unable to get his head on the end of a Eric Foley cross for the the Louth men.
It was the Dubliners - however - who were having the best of things and they should have taken the lead on 22 minutes when a Kilduff ball from the left found Finn free in the box. He shot straight at Sava who blocked the effort with his legs.
When the opening goal eventually came it was somewhat against the run of play. Gavin Brennan worked a short corner with Paul Crowley and his ball from the left was turned home by Declan O'Brien low at the near post. It was the embodiment of a poacher's goal.
Drogheda created two more chances in quick succession with a couple of decent headers. First Foley's free was sent straight into Jansson's arms by Alan McNally before the same player powered one just past the post.
It was a corner that led to the Drogs second. Philip Hand's centre led to a penalty box scramble and Kerrea Gilbert, who struggled throughout, put through his own net.
Rovers left the pitch at half time with boos ringing in their ears.
Drogheda started the second half as they had finished the first with another Hand cross headed just over by the lively O'Brien. A minute later there was more uncertainty in the Rovers' area and Brian Gannon had a half chance which was saved by Jansson.
Those chances seemed to jolt Laws' men into life. Finn drove into the box and picked out Craig Sives who turned smartly but saw his shot blocked. The resultant corner found the Scotsman at the back post but his header was weak and wide.
Rovers' pressure eventually told on 58 minutes. McCabe was felled by Eric Foley on the edge of the area and Killian Brennan smashed the free kick into the top right hand corner, leaving Sava rooted to the spot.
The joy was short-lived for the Tallaght faithful however. The Boynesiders broke down the right through Ryan Brennan who lifted a ball into the area. The clearance went only as far as Foley who smacked an effort which deflected past the stranded Jansson.
Drogheda retained possession masterfully for the rest of the game to close out proceedings and see themselves deservedly crowned EA Sports Cup winner for 2012.
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Kerrea Gilbert, Craig Sives, Colin Hawkins, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe (Billy Dennehy, 60), Ronan Finn, Stephen Rice, Killian Brennan; Thomas Stewart (Daryl Kavanagh, 60), Ciaran Kilduff (Gary Twigg, 65).
Subs not used: Reyaad Pieterse, Stephen O'Donnell, Aaron Greene, Gary O'Neill.
Bookings: Kilduff (23).
Sent Off: Powell (72).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Derek Prendergast, Alan McNally, Philip Hand; Ryan Brennan, Paul Crowley, Eric Foley, Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien (Sean Brennan, 92), Peter Hynes (Tiarnan Mulvenna, 89).
Subs not used: Shane Finnegan, Stephen Quigley, Conor O'Keeffe, Alan Byrne, Cathal Brady.
Bookings: Hynes (21), McNally (73), Prendergast (83).
Referee: Tom Connolly.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Eric Foley (Drogheda United).