Paul O'Conor 13' -
Sligo Rovers finally broke their Setanta Sports Cup nightmare by hoisting aloft the trophy following a one nil victory over a dominant Dundalk at a rain sodden Tallaght Stadium.
The vital goal came after 13 minutes as Paul O’Conor backheeled home an Aaron Greene cross after some quick wittedness from John Russell had set up the opportunity.
The opening ten minutes was littered with opportunities for the fast starting Lilywhites, but both Richie Towell and then Daryl Horgan failed to coax Gary Rodgers into a save.
Just 13 minutes in, and against the early run of the game, Sligo Rovers took the lead. Greene picked up the ball on the Rovers right and charged into the area.
When he got there, he cut the ball back to O’Conor, and the man who scored in last seasons FAI Cup final, delicately back heeled the ball past a helpless Peter Cherrie to put the Bit O’Red in front.
Sligo began to try and capitalise on their advantage and the lead was almost doubled five minutes after his goal by O’Conor, but this time Shields blocked it and the ball looped into Cherrie’s grasp.
Twenty minutes into the tie Dundalk could well have been level. Chris Shields drifted out to the right before crossing for Patrick Hoban who met the cross with a powerful and well placed header. The placing was not quite good enough, though, as it dipped inches wide of Rogers’ post.
Six minutes after Hoban’s effort another chance fell the Lilywhites way. Daryl Horgan executed a lovely o’er top pass to Dane Massey but the left back could not finish off the chance, miscuing his effort wide.
Ten minutes before the interval, Sligo lost one of their key men. Joseph Ndo, captain for the day, pulled up with an injury and was forced off to be replaced by Danny Ledwith.
The pitch, and in particular Stephen Kenny’s suit, continued to grow wetter in the rain as the first half wore on, and as the break approached both sides huffed and puffed to find an opening.
Dundalk did find one though, just four minutes before half time. Dane Massey received possession on the left before crossing for front man Hoban who beat Evan McMillan to the header and directed it goalwards only to see the effort ripple the side netting rather than the side he’d have wanted.
The second half began as the first had ended, with a Dundalk chance. Richie Towell dinked a free kick into the area and it was met by Brian Gartland but his tame header was easily held by Rodgers.
Towell was looking eager to fill in for the stricken Stephen O’Donnell and just prior to the hour mark he was close to finding the net.
Darren Meenan broke on the right and found his way to the side of the box before cutting the ball back for the ex-Hibs midfielder, whose effort looped agonisingly over the Rovers bar.
Sligo continued to show hardened defensive brilliance, though, with McMillan and Henderson marshalling an out of sorts Hoban.
With just seventeen minutes of normal time remaining, substitute Kurtis Byrne almost brought his side level. Sean Gannon was the one who sent him through and the former Shamrock Rovers full back sought out Byrne with his pinpoint pass but the attacker pulled a laboured effort just wide of the post.
The pitch began to play a major factor as the heavy rain had made the surface hard to deal with. Dundalk almost made the most of it though. A long ball forward from Gannon evaded the usually stout Rovers defence, finding sub David McMillan. He attempted a lob over Rogers but the keeper just got a hand on it to force it away to safety.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Seamus Conneely, Evan McMillan, Jeff Henderson, Ross Gaynor; David Cawley, Paul O’Conor; John Russell, Joseph Ndo (Danny Ledwith 35), Aaron Greene; Danny North
Subs not used: Richard Brush (gk), Jake Dykes, Kalen Spillane, Eric Odhiambo, Sean Maguire, Kieran Djilali.
Booked: Cawley (50), Gaynor (60).
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Andy Boyle Dane Massey; Chris Shields (Ruaidhri Higgins 74); Darren Meenan (David McMillan 80), Richie Towell, John Mountney (Kurtis Byrne 67), Daryl Horgan; Patrick Hoban.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Simon Kelly, Mark Rossiter, Mark Griffin.
Booked: Shields (71), Towell (90).
Referee: Arnold Hunter
Attendance: 2,600 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the match: Evan McMillan (Sligo Rovers).