Shamrock Rovers defeated Dundalk on penalties to win their first FAI Cup in 32 years, as Gary O’Neill’s winning spot-kick proved decisive in the shootout.
The game began with Rovers in the ascendancy and getting the better of the ball, Jack Byrne especially finding his range of passing early, with the absence of Dundalk’s Chris Shields allowing the Irish international more freedom than the Lilywhites might have liked.
The first half saw little in the way of big chances, Byrne‘s ball over the top fashioning an opportunity for Aaron Greene but the striker dragged his effort wide, before Daniel Cleary’s header failed to test the Rovers keeper Alan Mannus after a lovely free-kick from Sean Murray.
Early in the second half Rovers continued to dominate possession but lacked that cutting edge, as Dundalk began to grow into the game, the introduction of Daniel Kelly adding a spark to Vinnie Perth’s side that was missing in the opening 45.
Sean Gannon fashioned a great chance for Jamie McGrath whose first time effort went just wide of the post before Rovers had arguably the best opportunity up until then to open the scoring.
Ronan Finn found Graham Burke with a low cross, and after some good work from the Irish international, he struck the ball inches over the bar, although it looked as though Gary Rodgers may have gotten a touch.
Rovers pressed as Dundalk stood firm and it looked as though it would be a game destined for extra-time, Burke broke free and played the ball through to Greene who was brought down by Rodgers as Aaron McEneff stepped up to give The Hoops a late lead.
Stephen Bradley’s side hadn’t won this competition in 32 years and with just seconds left on the clock they were denied a victory in normal time thanks to a stunning half volley on the turn from Michael Duffy to snatch the cup from Rovers and keep Dundalk’s treble winning dreams alive.
Both sides looked tired as extra-time began with neither gaining the advantage they craved in the opening 15 minutes, Georgie Kelly’s late opportunity almost winning it for Dundalk but for a great save from Alan Mannus.
The shootout followed and it was Mannus who was to be the hero as the keeper stopped Daniel Cleary’s penalty just after Michael Duffy hit the crossbar before Gary O’Neill’s winning penalty handed Rovers their first FAI Cup in 32 years.