By Micil Glennon at Tallaght Stadium
Shamrock Rovers set up a repeat of last season’s EA SPORTS Cup final with a 3-2 semi-final win over Sligo Rovers at Tallaght Stadium.
Kieran Djilali put the the visitors ahead in the first minute but strikes from Karl Sheppard and Gary McCabe saw the Tallaght outfit go in ahead at the break.
McCabe added his second in the 71st minute and Anthony Elding’s header proved only a consolation as the Hoops booked a final berth against Drogheda United on 21 September.
Both managers made two changes to their starting line-ups from their last competitive games.
Goalkeeper Barry Murphy, a half-time substitute for Richard Brush (shoulder injury) against St Patrick’s Athletic on Friday night, started, while Conor Powell also returned for Trevor Croly’s side.
Sligo captain Gavin Peers was back in central defence and Aaron Greene started instead of Lee Lynch, who dropped to the bench after starting in the 2-0 win against Bray Wanderers on Saturday.
The game was just 35 seconds old when the Bit O’Red took the lead.
Rafaele Cretaro spotted the run of Djilali and sprayed a 50-yard pass in his direction.
However, a straightforward clearance was criminally missed by Powell and the Englishman found the bottom corner of Murphy’s net in the most clinical fashion, much to the disgust of Croly, who was sitting in the stand as he served a suspension.
And the Shamrock Rovers boss was not impressed moments later when more sloppy defensive play meant Murphy had to get down smartly to push Seamus Conneely’s shot around the post.
But the mood of the manager and the Tallaght crowd did improve in the 17th minute when a move involving half a dozen players resulted in the leveller.
Powell send in a high cross and Sean O’Connor, sent off against St Pat’s on Friday, rose highest and found an unmarked Ronan Finn in the box.
As the Sligo defence stood off, the Artane man had time to pick out Sheppard who passed the ball under Gary Rogers from six yards.
The equalizer failed to focus the minds of the Hoops defenders and Greene had two chances to give the league champions the lead, shooting wide from a free and then heading past the post from close range.
However, it wasn’t long before the third goal of a pulsating opening skirmish arrived as last year’s beaten finalists edged ahead.
O’Connor’s free from just outside the box deflected off the wall but Evan McMillan’s clearance only got as far as McCabe.
The winger curled a delighted shot past Rogers into the far top corner and Rovers held an unlikely lead in the 27th minute.
And the goal chances kept coming.
Firstly, Sheppard was denied by Rogers after an inch-perfect through ball from Richie Ryan and then Powell lofted the loose ball over the crossbar as the Sligo netminder scrambled back.
Ian Baraclough was forced to replace McMillan with Danny Ventre just before the end of a half that saw yellow cards for Murphy, Cretaro and Peers.
The tempo dropped at the start of the second period but a niggling undercurrent remained and O’Connor, Jeff Henderson and Conor McCormack all went in the book for rash tackles.
It was midway through the second half before a real chance came but Murphy was alert to beat David Cawley to the ball after Djilali’s pass found the midfielder in space.
But it was the Dublin side who did take advantage when Sligo messed around with the ball in defence.
Henderson was hobbling and Ventre overplayed the ball allowing Robinson and Sheppard to pounce.
The latter saw his shot blocked by Rogers but McCabe was on hand to smash home his second off the underside of the crossbar, and make it 3-1 with 19 minutes to play.
But the game wasn’t up yet. Elding, on for Cretaro, nodded home Greene’s deep centre with eight minutes left.
Then Joseph Ndo stung Murphy’s palms with a piledriver from just inside the box as the Connacht side pushed for extra-time.
A late corner, for which Rogers travelled to the opposition box, was the last chance for Sligo but it failed to beat the first defender and it was the Setanta Cup holders who progressed to another final.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy, Conor Powell, Derek Foran, Pat Sullivan, Conor McCormack, Gary McCabe (Thomas Stewart 85), Shane Robinson (c), Richie Ryan, Ronan Finn, Sean O’Connor, Karl Sheppard.
Subs not used: Shane Fagan, Danny Ledwith, Nathan Browne, James Chambers, David Elebert, Mark Sandford.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers, Seamus Conneely, Alan Keane, Gavin Peers (c), Evan McMillan (Danny Ventre 45+1), Jeff Henderson, Rafaele Cretaro (Anthony Elding 66), Jospeh Ndo, Aaron Greene, David Cawley Kieran Djilali.
Subs not used: Ciaran Kelly, Lee Lynch, Pascal Millien, Jake Dykes, Liam Martin.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.