Drogheda United ran out 2-0 winners over Waterford United thanks to a controversial goal from Luke Gallagher and a late strike from Aaron Ashe.
There were very few chances in the first half at United Park in what was a scrappy affair that saw both sides be somewhat careless in possession.
The first real chance of the game was the closest Waterford came to scoring in the first half as Anthony McAlavey played the ball to Sean Byrne (92) who shot just wide of the Drogheda goal from range.
The home side stepped up their game in the final 15 minutes of the half and should have taken the lead ten minutes before the break, as Sam O’Connor squared the ball to Derek Doyle in the box, but instead of passing into an open goal, Doyle played it back towards O’Connor before the ball was cleared for a corner.
Drogheda would go even closer two minutes later as a diving header from Sean Thornton smashed off the cross-bar before bouncing down, but much to his disappointment, not into the goal.
It was Waterford who started the second half the brighter of the two sides as they looked dangerous going forward, winning a few corners in quick succession, however they all came to nothing.
Drogheda then looked to change their approach as they attacked down the left, first through Stephen Dunne and then Marc Griffin with both sending crosses just beyond the reach of Sam O’Connor in the box.
Waterford, who failed to test McGuinness throughout, again went close on 60 minutes, again through Sean Byrne (92) as his free quick from 25 yards went just over the bar.
Drogheda could and perhaps should have hit the front on the hour mark as a cross from Lloyd Buckley was attacked by both O’Connor and Doyle with the latter shooting over the bar, when he probably would have been better leaving it to his teammate O’Connor.
However, Drogheda would take the lead on 72 minutes, in controversial circumstances. What looked like a brilliant and maybe goal saving tackle by David O’Leary was adjudged by referee Rob Hennessey to have been a backpass to Kevin Burns.
From the resulting indirect free kick, Sean Brennan tapped it to Thornton who seen his effort blocked by the outrushing Waterford team before Luke Gallagher headed low through a sea of yellow shirts to give the Boynesiders the lead.
Drogheda almost doubled their lead immediately but a thunderous strike from Aaron Ashe cannoned off the crossbar, the second time Drogheda had hit the woodwork in this encounter.
Waterford would have their best and only chance of equalising on 79 minutes, as substitute Roy Butler headed just over the bar from a corner.
There would be time for one more goal however, and it was Drogheda who got it as a superb through ball from Brennan set Ashe in one on one with Burns and Drogheda’s top scorer made no mistake as he passed the ball into the net.
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness; Lloyd Buckley, Luke Gallagher, Jake Hyland, Stephen Dunne; Sean Thornton (C), Sean Brennan, Marc Griffin (Ken Costello 81); Aaron Ashe, Derek Doyle (Adam Wixted 66), Sam O’Connor (Liam Donnelly 73).
Subs Not Used: Patrick Dunican (GK), Mark Doyle, Eoghan Dempsey.
Yellow Cards: Gallagher (55).
Waterford United: Kevin Burns; Robbie Buckley, Sean Byrne (89), David O’Leary, Ian Sinnott; Owen Wall (Roy Butler 76), James O’Brien, Sean Byrne (92), Dylan McGuire (Dean Reidy 39), Anthony McAlavey; Philip Gorman.
Subs Not Used: Corey Chambers (GK), Richard Tobin, Aaron O’Connor.
Bookings: O’Brien (30).
Referee: Robert Hennessey.
Attendance: 300 (est).
Extratime Man of the Match: Stephen Dunne (Drogheda United).