Rovers spot on to end 32-year cup drought

Rovers spot on to end 32-year cup drought

FAI Cup final

Dundalk 1
Shamrock Rovers 1

(AET, Shamrock Rovers win 4-2 on penalties)

Kevin Galvin


It’s been 32 years since Shamrock Rovers supporters have had their hands on the FAI Cup, but in less than three minutes at the Aviva they saw it come and go, in a crazy end to the regulation time of the 2019 edition.

As the clock ticked into the 89th minute, Graham Burke and Aaron Greene combined, as the latter rounded Dundalk netminder Gary Rogers, drew the contact, and gave referee Derek Tomney no choice but to point to the spot.

So when Aaron McEneff converted the resulting penalty, the flares were set off as Hoops fans went crazy at the thought of ending a barren spell that’s haunted the club for three decades.

However, the green smoke was still hanging in the air as - in the same goal that Sean Maguire broke Lilywhite hearts from a throw in three years earlier - Michael Duffy snatched on a miscleared throw, smashing a half-volley past a helpless Alan Mannus. 


However, an extra half-hour is but a drop, in the context of three decades. Duffy would be one of two Dundalk players to miss in the penalty shootout, their second time losing a cup on the spot in three years, the cup is Green and White for the first time since 1987.

Stephen Bradley started with three at the back, deploying Sean Kavanagh and former Lilywhite Ronan Finn as wing-backs, in an attempt to target Dundalk full-backs Sean Gannon and Dane Massey.

However, with someone as talented as Jack Byrne among their ranks, the Hoops pose a constant threat, and the former Manchester City midfielder showed no nerves early on, laying a ball on a plate for Greene, who just couldn’t sneak his effort inside the far post, with Rogers beaten.

The former Bray Wanderers forward was working extremely hard, in partnership with former Irish international Graham Burke, and he battled to win the ball off Daniel Cleary before squaring for Finn, whose attempted flick wasn’t what Greene’s work deserved.


It took Dundalk almost 40 minutes to seriously threaten the Rovers goal, with both of their chances late on in the opening period coming from headers off Sean Murray set-pieces. First Brian Gartland forced Alan Mannus to punch away his driven header at the far post, before Cleary rippled the far side of the side netting on the same upright.

Rovers continued their good running on the other side of the interval; Burke only able to shoot straight at Rogers having been played in by a beautifully weighted through ball from Derry native McEneff.

However, while the opening period burst into life, the tension quickly ratcheted up in the second, with the time for a potential comeback for both sides rapidly ebbing away.

Sean Murray squandered a fantastic chance before the hour mark, as a whipped outswinging Gannon cross was delicately teed up for the former Irish U21 international, who barely broke a sweat out of Mannus with a regulation save, given the circumstances.

That was it for Murray’s final, as soon after Vinny Perth broke first, bringing Daniel Kelly into the fold to provide a bit more attacking impetus, while his opposite number opted for pace a few minutes later with the introduction of Neil Farrugia for Kavanagh down the left.

In truth, it wasn’t a game to be easily taken by the scruff of the neck, though Bradley’s Rovers kept ratcheting up the pressure, and Burke really should have hit the target having been fed by Finn with just over a quarter-hour left - and ten minutes later could only direct his header straight at Rogers, moving away from goal.

That was before the madness that ensued, as pair of punch drunk boxers tried to keep their 12th round title bout alive. This was the seventh Aviva final in nine years that’s lasted beyond the regulation, and again, at the last minute, inches separated Sean Hoare’s attempt from sneaking inside the post.

To penalties, for the fourth time at the national stadium, we went.

But, having been the hero in the last minute, Duffy slipped up from the spot, along with Cleary. Rovers perfect, and the cup, for the first time in 32 years, is theirs.

Dundalk: G Rogers; S Gannon, B Gartland, D Cleary, D Massey; J McGrath, S Murray (D Kelly 61), S Hoare (G Kelly 90); R Benson (J Mountney 112), P Hoban (J Flores 99), M Duffy.

Shamrock Rovers: A Mannus; J O’Brien, L Grace, R Lopez; R Finn, A McEneff, J Byrne, G O’Neill, S Kavanagh (N Farrugia 68); G Burke (G Bolger 90+2); A Greene (D Lafferty 112).

Referee: D Tomney. 

Attendance: 31,112.