Dundalk’s treble bid ended in heartbreak on Sunday afternoon at the Aviva as they lost out to rivals Shamrock Rovers in a dramatic penalty shootout. Dundalk who were below their best for much of the game fell behind in the 89th minute when Aaron McEneff tucked away a penalty following Gary Rogers foul on Aaron Greene to spark wild celebrations amongst the Rovers fans.
It seemed like the game was up for Vinny Perth’s side at that stage but this team never know when they are beaten and with the final attack of the game they sent the Lilywhite supporters into raptures when Michael Duffy fired home a sublime half-volley on the turn to equalise with the very last kick of the game.
Dundalk, who had badly missed the presence of key midfielder Chris Shields, had forced extra-time and given their supporters hope that a famous treble was back on the table. However, despite creating the best chance at the end of extra-time when Georgie Kelly forced an excellent save from Alan Mannus the game would go to penalties to decide who would lift the famous old cup.
Jamie McGrath’s successful opening spot-kick was matched by Jack Byrne but it was advantage Rovers when Michael Duffy hit the bar with his effort. Joey O’Brien made it 2-1 to the hoops before Dundalk gave themselves a mountain to climb as Daniel Cleary’s effort was saved by Mannus. Although Flores managed to score Dundalk’s next penalty, Rovers were not to be denied as Greg Bolger and Gary O’Neill both found the back of the net to give the Tallaght side their first FAI cup win since 1987.
After the game Dundalk manager Vinny Perth congratulated Shamrock Rovers on their victory while lamenting the loss of key midfielders Chris Shields (suspended) and Patrick McEleney (injured).
“I suppose obviously there’s a big sense of disappointment, for many reasons,” Perth said afterwards. “We didn’t feel we were at our very best today, some for obvious reasons, some that’s just the way it goes.
“I was very proud to lead the team into the stadium, it was a real honour for someone like me who, as many of you will know, know where I’ve come from
“And, to be honest with you, after the year we’ve had, I’m very proud leaving the ground as well. It’s just been one of those days that didn’t go our way.”
Dundalk will complete their 2019 season with a two legged tie against Linfield this Friday and Monday in the newly created Unite the Union competition which pits the winners of the leagues north and south of the border against each other. The first leg will take place in Windsor Park this Friday will the home leg takes place in Oriel Park on Monday 11th November at 7:05pm.