Drogheda United booked their place in the EA Sports Cup final with a 2-1 win over Sligo Rovers at Hunky Dorys Park. It’s the first cup final for the Boynesiders since 2005 and something which Mick Cooke had targeted pre-season.
The Boynesiders opened the scoring on 26 minutes as Alan Keane went AWOl at the back post allowing Gavin Brennan to drift in and from a great diagonal cross by Stephen Quigley and the midfielder finished with a beautiful half volley, dragging the ball across the face of Brush and into the far corner.
Three minutes later and the Boynesiders had doubled their lead. A long punt from defence saw Tiarnan Mulvenna dart through Ryan Connolly and John Henderson and as the ball bounced over the defenders the midfielder controlled it before hitting home from eight yards out.
Sligo pulled one back on the hour mark when former Drogheda player Lee Lynch finished sweetly past Sava. Sligo always looked dangerous on the break and when Drogheda lost possession from a poor corner the Bit O’Red broke and Cretaro picked out Connolly who was in acres of space with only Stephen Quigley back in defence and with Lee Lynch racing through Connolly unselfishly played in his team-mate who placed the ball low past Sava.
Both sides were dramatically changed from the clash in Sligo on Saturday night. Drogheda made five changes with Brian Gannon making a rare start having recovered from injury. For Sligo, there were seven changes with Pascal Millien dropping to the bench having terrorised Drogheda in Sligo.
The changes told a lot more for Sligo who, despite some really good interplay, lacked the killer ball to break down the Drogheda defence. While Drogheda looked a bit more reassured in their play.
Drogheda started off the brighter and had two early chances, it took Sligo 17 minutes to register their first shot, but it almost resulted in the opening goal A sliced clearance by Brush was chested down by Cretaro to Mark Quigley and he played in Boco and several passes later the ball was crossed for Danny Ventre to smash an effort from the edge of the box with the outside of his boot and luckily for the home side it just swerved wide.
In total there were six yellow cards, but it wasn’t a dirty game.
Gabriel Sava was forced into action on 57 minutes, the Italian keeper had a howler on Saturday night but he put that behind him with a great reaction save. Iarfhlaith Davoren crossed to the unmarked Jeff Henderson and the defender timed his jump perfectly to head right at goal only to be denied by a great reaction save from the Italian keeper.
The introduction of Pascal Millien in the second half seemed to unsettle the Drogheda side, but the pacey winger just didn’t get enough ball to make a real impact although he did play Alan Keane through despite being surrounded by three Drogheda players, however the dender took one too many touches and was forced wide.
Declan O’Brien made a game saving interception late on as Keane had broken down the wing and his ball looked to be inch perfect for the waiting Boco at the back post but O’Brien had raced back to hit it behind for a corner.
The Boynesiders now face a day of destiny on September 22nd as Sligo will re-focus their attention on the league.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Alan McNally (Derek Prendergast 66), Alan Byrne, Philip Hand; Brian Gannon (Declan O’Brien 83), Eric Foley, Sean Brennan (Ryan Brennan 48), Gavin Brennan; Tiarnan Mulvenna, Peter Hynes.
Subs not used: Shane Finnegan, Johnny Breen, Connor O’Keefe, Steven Watters.
Booked: McNally (21), Foley (37), Prendergast (67).
Sligo Rovers: Richard Brush; Iarfhlaith Davoren, Jeff Henderson (Joseph Ndo 90+1), Alan Keane, Seamus Conneely; Lee Lynch, Ryan Connolly (Pascal Millien 75), Mark Quigley, Danny Ventre (John Dillon 90+1); Raffaele Cretaro, Romauld Boco.
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly, Gavin Peers, Martin Owens, David Cawley.
Booked: Ventre (36), Quigley (51), Henderson (66).
Referee: Padraigh Sutton.
Attendance: 1,000 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: Stephen Quigley (Drogheda United).
P.J. generally covers Drogheda games at HD Park and can generally be found at any Dublin ground when of a loose end on a Friday night.