Shamrock Rovers got the rub of the green to see off Bray Wanderers 3-1 at the Carlisle Grounds in the Airtricity League Premier Division.
A late Gary McCabe penalty was the icing on the cake for Brian Laws’ side after first half goals from Killian Brennan and Ken Oman set the Hoops on their way.
Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters’ goal proved to be nothing more than a consolation for the hosts who had Adam Mitchell sent off for a shirt pull on Gary Twigg ten minutes from time.
With hosts Bray Wanderers virtually guaranteed Premier Division football next year and Shamrock Rovers involvement in European matters seemingly out of their control, both sides approached the game with a sense of freedom resulting in an open and entertaining encounter.
The first goal arrived on 17 minutes and was a moment of magic by Brennan. The winger whipped home a delightful 23-yard free-kick to leave Bray goalkeeper Darren Quigley with no chance.
The visitors extended their lead 15 minutes later with their next noteworthy attack. Oman climbed highest to head home powerfully from McCabe’s floated corner.
Despite enjoying good spells of possession, the best Pat Devlin’s men could manage was a couple of goalmouth scrambles.
Luck did play its part ten minutes before the break, though, when Bray were twice denied by the crossbar. Jason Byrne’s powerful shot was only parried by Oscar Jansson. Midfielder Sean Houston followed up but saw his shot cannon off the crossbar before bouncing off the bar once again as the ball returned to earth.
The woodwork came to Rovers’ rescue again just after the restart following another goalmouth scramble. This time it was Danny O’Connor who was denied. Brother Kevin blazed over after.
Bray deservedly pulled one back on 56 minutes. Waters – the hosts main threat throughout – turned on the edge of the box before rolling past Jansson.
But it was always Rovers who looked the more threatening. Billy Dennehy struck the post with goalkeeper and defence well beaten.
It was 3-1 on 81 minutes when McCabe converted from the spot. A red card for Adam Mitchell, adjudged to have pulled the shirt of Gary Twigg, looked a harsh decision.
Bray boss Pat Devlin was sent to the stands in injury time to add to the hosts’ ignominy.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Adam Mitchell, Danny O’Connor (Daire Doyle, 90 mins), Dane Massey; Adam Hanlon (Yani Georgiev, 69), Kevin O’Connor, Dean Zambra, Sean Houston, Kieran Marty Waters (Dean Marshall, 90); Jason Byrne.
Subs not used: Kevin Knight, Lee Dixon, Brian Kane, Conor Earley.
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe, Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Killian Brennan (Billy Dennehy, 37 mins); Gary Twigg (Aaron Greene, 83), Ciaran Kilduff.
Subs not used: Aaron Shanahan, Graham Gartland, Shane O’Connor, Thomas Stewart, Sean Gannon.
Referee: Padraig Sutton.