Second-half goals from Gary O’Neill and Billy Dennehy secured a first Setanta Sports Cup title for Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.
O’Neill smashed a fine shot into the roof of Peter Cherrie’s net on 65 minutes to open the scoring before Dennehy’s speculative strike crept over the line in injury-time to cap off Rovers’ first campaign in the All-Ireland competition in fine style.
It was O’Neill’s second Final goal in Tallaght. He also scored for Sporting Fingal in the 2009 FAI Cup Final.
The County Louth side were the designated home side for this Setanta Sports Cup decider in Dublin 24, the 22nd time that these two great League of Ireland teams had met in a final.
Their first final meeting was in the 1928-29 Leinster Senior Cup decider whilst the most recent was the 1987-88 LFA President’s Cup. They have now clashed in the deciding game of seven different competitions.
Dundalk started well, attacking the Dublin Mountains end goal, but were dealt a blow on nine minutes when influential Stephen McDonnell hobbled off injured after taking a knock a couple of minutes earlier.
He was replaced by Dean Bennett who had a fine shot on target a minute later but was denied by the quick reactions of Rovers goalkeeper Alan Mannus.
Jason Byrne then fired wide for Dundalk on 16 as The Lilywhites enjoyed a good spell of pressure.
Mannus saw a lot of action at his end and pulled of a cracking block on 31 to deny Mark Quigley’s 30-yard free kick.
The Ulsterman wonderfully jumped and pushed the ball out for a corner at the top right hand corner of his goal. He then caught Daniel Kearns’ subsequent corner in the packed goalmouth.
Cherrie didn’t have a great amount of action to deal with in the opening half but had his right hand post to thank on 42 minutes for denying Billy Dennehy who whipped in a superb free kick.
Cherrie then made an excellent diving save to push away Ronan Finn’s speculative effort on 44.
In first half injury time Kearns beat his man and cracked a wild shot which flew wide left of the target when he had the option of passing to Byrne to his left.
Cherrie made another good save from Finn on 51 minutes but Dundalk’s injury-jinx struck again on 59 when Byrne limped off, to be replaced by Keith Ward.
Dundalk were looking for a penalty on 62 when Dennehy appeared to bring down Simon Madden in the area. However referee Alan Kelly saw differently and awarded a free kick.
The fit again Gary Twigg was introduced for Rovers on 64 minutes. His presence appeared to lift the Tallaght men and they took the lead a minute later.
Finn got the better of Michael Hector on the left, reached the byline and fed the ball back to O’Neill who crashed a fine shot into the roof of the net.
Rovers then looked to build on that opening goal with Cherrie saving Twigg’s half chance on 74 before Dennehy struck the woodwork on 78 minutes and shot wide moments later.
Twigg beat Hector to a long ball on 87 and looked to have doubled the lead with his low shot but looked on in despair as the ball hit the post.
But the pressure paid off and Dennehy netted the second four minutes into injury time with his inventive strike.
Cherrie could only touch the ball on to the upright before it spun back, hovered on the line before creeping over.
Dundalk: Cherrie; Madden, Hawkins, Hector, Murphy; Gaynor (Breen 85), Bolger, Kearns, McDonnell (Bennett 9); Byrne (Ward 59), Quigley.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Sullivan, Murray, Oman, Stevens; McCormack, Rice (Twigg 64), Finn, Dennehy, Sheppard (McCabe 78); O’Neill.
Referee: Alan Kelly (Cork).
Setanta Sports Man of the Match: Ronan Finn.