Karl Sheppard scored twice in the 13 minutes he was on the field as a late Shamrock Rovers sub to incredibly dump Dundalk out of the FAI Cup and march on to the semi-finals.
His side had trailed by a goal after Patrick Hoban’s first half strike and a number of excellent saves from goalkeeper Barry Murphy kept them in it until ‘Sheppy’s’ late intervention sent his side through.
Both bosses made changes from Friday’s drawn game, some enforced and some by choice.
Brian Gartland and Donal McDermott (both suspended) made way for Dundalk as did David McMillan with Mark Rossiter, Kurtis Byrne and Hoban all coming in.
Pat Fenlon dropped Gary McCabe, Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters and Karl Sheppard, replacing that talented trio with Sean O’Connor, Ryan Brennan and Dean Kelly.
For so much of this game it was another nervous nip and tuck affair as these fixtures so often tend to be.
Kurtis Byrne snatched at an early opportunity after being played in by a neat Rossiter pass and Boyle twice had free headers go over from corner kicks.
Rovers would pay dearly later in the half for not heeding those warnings but not before they created a great opening of their own.
On 27 minutes, Ronan Finn skipped in on the right and cut the ball back for O’Connor who was lurking just inside the box and he sent a deft curler for Peter Cherrie’s right hand corner only for the ‘keeper to claw it clear with a smart stop.
Five minutes later, a matter of inches spared the blushes of Rovers left back Luke Byrne. His namesake Kurtis sent a cross to the back post where the former Bohs man, under little pressure, attempted to clear on his weaker side only for the ball to fly behind him and just wide of Murphy’s upright.
Given Rovers earlier set piece defending, it was therefore no real surprise to see the opener come from one and it went the way of the hosts.
Patrick Hoban was left unmarked as the defence tried to catch him offside from Darren Meenan’s delivery and the Galway man, who got the winner in Tallaght earlier this summer, sent his header to the corner of the net and give his side a half time lead.
Two minutes into the second half, that same scenario almost punished the Hoops again. Meenan sent a corner into the near post where Hoban rose to meet it and only the slightest touch from Murphy to help it on to the crossbar stopped his side from going two behind.
Twice more in quick succession he was called into action to save his side, sprawling left to prevent another Hoban header following good work by Byrne and then stretching to keep out Boyle’s third headed effort of the evening with a strong right hand.
An O’Connor free kick that curled over the top warned the home side that while it was 1-0, Shamrock Rovers were always in with a shout of ending their long wait for FAI Cup success.
So it proved with 10 minutes left when the Karl Sheppard show breathed life into Rovers’ ailing Cup hopes.
O’Connor was the man who supplied the precision pass behind the defence that the former Reading man raced on to and he kept a cool head to roll the ball into the far corner.
And he wasn’t done there. He spoke after the first game of his frustration earlier in the season and not even making the bench at times and he made the most of this small chance.
A ricochet off Towell saw him again zip behind a high Dundalk defensive line, racing to the box, cutting back past Boyle and blasting Cherrie at his near post to secure the most dramatic of comebacks as their 27-year wait comes a little closer to ending.
Dundalk FC: 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
Unused subs: Manuel Kaguako, Keith Ward, Marc Griffin, Gabriel Sava (gk).
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, Jason McGuinness, Luke Byrne; Ryan Brennan (Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters 53), Shane Robinson (Stephen McPhail 62), Patrick Cregg, Ronan Finn, Sean O’Connor; Dean Kelly (Karl Sheppard 77).
Unused subs: Robert Cornwall, Robert Bayly, Gary McCabe, Craig Hyland (gk).
Booked: Jason McGuinness (25), Dean Kelly (44).
Referee: David McKeon.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Barry Murphy (Shamrock Rovers).