Substitute goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly was the hero for Sligo Rovers as they beat Shelbourne 4-1 in a penalty shootout to retain the FAI Cup at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Kelly's two penalty saves, from Kevin Dawson and Colm James, combined with Raffaele Cretaro's winning kick were enough to insure another trophy winning season for Paul Cook's side. However it was a cup final that was not without controversy.
It was a subdued opening to the match. Both sides had plenty of possession but were wasteful more often than not. Philip Hughes had the first shot in anger of the game after eight minutes. Shels’ number 9 turned on the edge of the area and his effort was on target, but Jason McGuinness got in the way to deflect his the ball wide.
Shels grew in confidence as the first half wore on and they deservedly took the lead in the 30th minute. Just moments after Barry Clancy had hit the crossbar with a header from a Brendan McGill cross, Shels regained possession. The ball found its way to John Sullivan on the right and he looped a hopeful ball into the six yard area. Philip Hughes got there before Gavin Peers and finished smartly past Brendan Clarke into the corner of the net.
Sligo could have scored soon after. John Russell was through on goal but Dean Delany dived bravely at his feet to prevent Russell getting a shot in.
The games most controversial moment occurred in the 36th minute. Having just been booked a couple of minutes earlier, Shelbourne's Barry Clancy found himself through on goal inside the Sligo penalty area. Clancy went down under the challenge of John Russell. It looked like a foul and a penalty but referee Richie Winter booked Clancy for diving. Shel's number 7 looked dejected leaving the pitch after receiving the red card.
Sligo soon took control of the game and should have scored just before half time. Aaron Greene put in a beautiful cross from the left which found the head of John Russell six yards out. It seemed easier to score, but somehow the Rovers number 8 headed over the bar.
Paul Cook's side drew level in the 48th minute. Eoin Doyle played it to Danny Ventre on the edge of the area. Ventre then played it left to the onrushing Iarfhlaith Davoren. Davoren's left footed swerving shot wrong footed Dean Delany and went into the net.
Sligo had a chance to take the lead in the 52nd minute. After John Russell's cross had come back off the crossbar John Dillon found Eoin Doyle, who somehow scuffed his shot and hit it straight into the arms of Delany from six yards out.
Substitute Matthew Blinkhorn nearly made an immediate impact in the 60th minute. Richie Ryan's precise free kick found Blinkhorn unmarked in the penalty area but his first time effort was saved by Delany.
Shels fought to their way back into the game and improved as the second half went on. They came close to scoring in the 79th minute when Jason McGiunness's clearing header fell to substitute Conan Byrne on the edge of the area. Byrne's shot went just wide of the Sligo goal.
Blinkhorn had another chance to win it for the ‘Bit of Red’ in the 92nd minute. Rovers broke on the counter attack with Raffaele Cretaro playing a ball to Blinkhorn on the edge of the area. However the substitute’s effort was not a good one and he hit it well wide on the half volley.
Sligo dominated possession and territory for the majority of extratime. Raffaele Cretaro shot across the face of goal and Alan Keane scuffed a shot wide, while in the 99th minute Blinkhorn's header was on target but the excellent Stephen Paisley got in the way to head it over for a corner.
Rovers had a half chance to win it in the 2nd minute of injury time. Davoren's deep cross found Eoin Doyle, but Doyle's effort for Sligo was too high. The most interesting thing to happen in extratime was Sligo manager Paul Cook's decision to replace Brendan Clarke with substitute goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly, obviously with penalties in mind.
Sligo went first in the penalty shootout. Eoin Doyle found the net and Karl Bermingham replied for Shels. Sligo captain Richie Ryan then made it 2-1 to his side before Shelbourne's Kevin Dawson was denied by Ciaran Kelly, who dived low to his left to make the save. Alan Keane made it 3-1 to Rovers before Kelly dived to his right to keep out Colm James’ spot kick. It gave another Sligo substitute the chance to become a hero and Raffaele Cretaro didn't let his side sown as he sent Dean Delany the wrong way to win the cup for Rovers.
Shelbourne will feel hard done by following a magnificent and brave display, especially after Clancy's very harsh sending off. However Paul Cook deserves credit for his decision to replace Clarke with Kelly for the penalty shootout and for leading his side to a second successive FAI Cup victory.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Ian Ryan, Andrew Boyle, Stephen Paisley, Sean Ryan; John Sullivan (Conan Byrne 59), Barry Clancy, David Cassidy (captain) (Colm James 117), Kevin Dawson, Brendan McGill (Karl Bermingham 119); Philip Hughes.
Subs Not Used: Paul Skinner, Gareth Matthews, Chris Mulhall, Philip Gorman.
Booked: Clancy (34), Hughes (51), Paisley (62), Dawson (93),
Sent-off: Clancy (36).
Penalties: Karl Bermingham (scored), Kevin Dawson (missed), Colm James (missed)
Sligo Rovers: Brendan Clarke (Ciaran Kelly 119); Alan Keane, Jason McGuinness, Gavin Peers, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Danny Ventre, Richie Ryan (captain), John Dillon (Matthew Blinkhorn 60), Aaron Greene, John Russell (Raffaele Cretaro 78); Eoin Doyle.
Subs Not Used: Alan Kirby, Liam Martin, Derek Foran, Conor Powell.
Booked: Peers (88), Greene (90).
Penalties: Eoin Doyle (scored), Richie Ryan (scored), Alan Keane (scored), Raffaele Cretaro (scored).
Referee: Richie Winter (Wicklow)
Extratime.ie Man of the match: Stephen Paisley (Shelbourne).