Just a he did in Dundalk’s first round clash against Waterford, Seán Hoare scored what turned out to be a crucial goal. But the star of the show was Dave McMillan who became the first player to score an FAI Cup Final hat trick since 1999.
There were questions lingering around Dundalk going into the game, with a turbulent year off the field and inconsistency on it. Having just returned from a Europa League game against Molde on Thursday, there were fears this may be their first season without a trophy since 2013.
Shamrock Rovers were favorites to do what they did last year and lift the cup. They had been unbeaten domestically all season, with their sole loss this year coming in the Europa League against Milan. Last years cup win seemed to be a huge turning point for Stephen Bradley’s men in going on to win the league. There was (and still is) every chance that we are seeing the start of an era of domestic dominance for the Hoops.
The Pitch was in bits after the rugby game yesterday. Maybe not the best idea to have a rugby match that was essentially part of a friendly tournament at the Aviva the day before the cup final, particularly when there where no fans allowed in anyway. Nothing patchy about the play, both teams played good ball as if they were playing for the fans who couldn’t be there. If last years final was cagey, this year was explosive.
Shamrock Rovers had the better of the game i the first 90 minutes. They will feel aggrieved not to have completed the double. The double would prove to be a step too far, but had it not been for a capricious spell in the second half, where had there been fans the atmosphere surely would have been electric, they likely would have completed the ever elusive unbeaten season.
In the end it was Dundalk, appearing in their 6th consecutive cup final, who took the came by the scruff of it’s neck in injury time. The 12th time they’ve listed the trophy, alongside reaching the Europa League group stage, makes this season look a lot better than it could have at times. Gary Rogers pulled off some heroics, a man on a mission despite picking up two injuries during the came.
After being on top for the first half Rovers took the lead early in the 2nd through a corner. First Graham Burke’s shot hit Chris Shields’ arm, there were calls for a penalty but his arm was by his side not moving towards the ball. The shot was deflected out for another corner. The next time around the corner came in, Lee Grace headed it on, and Greene pealed off the defece, taking advantage of nonexistent marking, to get his head on it. 1-0.
From there Shamrock Rovers dominated until a goal against the run of play for Dundalk, McEleney sent a ball in during one of the Lillywhites only attacks during the half. McMillan controlled it, fired at the post, and the ball deflected in. 1-1.
That would lead to start of a chaotic 5 minutes as Dundalk would get a penalty. A corner cames in and was met with a lot of pushing and shoving. Liam Scales ws penalised. Possibly harsh as it looked as if he was giving as good as they got. McMillan made no mistake with the penalty. 2-1
As quick as Dundalk’s lead had come it was gone. Shamrock Rovers equalized immediately. Jack Byrne sent a ball in, Roberto Lopes got a head to it. Lopes nearly turned home the winner in injury time but Rogers got a hand to it.
We went to Extra time, as is tradition.
The first period of extra time saw the best chance fall to Rovers. Graham Burke shot wide when you would put your house on him. It seemed we may be facing another penalty shootout.
Dundalk would take advantage in the second period of the extras. Hoare turned in a freekick from Flores after it was touched on by Moutney. That led to Rovers pushing up. Dundalk would hit them on the counter in the 117th minute. Flores again played a role, finding Kelly who had just come in. He played in McMillan who sealed his hat trick and the cup.
An eventful first few months in the job for Filippo Giovagnoli. Having come in as an unknown, he has guided Dundalk to Europe and to cup glory. Dundalk are FAI Cup champions in what has been a crazy year.
We spoke to Dundalk journalist James Rogers about the game. You can listen on Spotify below, or by clicking latest episodes.