Rovers break cup duck with big win
Kenny the stand-out performer as Enniscorthy side overcome keenest rivals
Shamrock Rovers finally ended their Wexford Cup final hoodoo and lifted the trophy for the first time after a sensational performance in a blustery Ferrycarrig Park on Sunday.
Shamrock Rovers 4 North End United 1
The Enniscorthy side had tasted defeat in their previous four appearances in the cup showpiece but this time they weren't prepared to let it slip, recovering from the early concession of a goal to shock the holders, who were aiming for an historic three-in-a-row.
Having clinched the Premier Division title during the week, North End went into the game as firm favourites but Shamrock Rovers tore up the script with a ferocious determination and will to win.
Even having to play the final 20 minutes with only nine players against North End's ten, after three red cards had been flashed, didn't halt their charge and they were full value for their triumph.
Few could have predicted the outcome when North End raced out of the blocks, with Stuart Lawlor thumping home a header from a Paul Murphy corner in the second minute.
North End came close to doubling their advantage in fortuitous fashion in the 15th minute when Shane Dempsey's 40-yard free-kick was grabbed by the gale and spun just wide of the left-hand upright.
Dempsey's afternoon was cut short just 12 minutes later when he had to be substituted due to injury, and the loss of the influential midfielder was a blow to the Wexford town side.
However, being able to call on Premier Division player of the year Adam Beary from the bench showed the strength in depth of the league champions.
Dempsey had barely left the pitch when Shamrock Rovers were level, with Martin McKeown guiding a controlled header to the far corner of the net.
Amazingly, Rovers were ahead just two minutes later when man of the match Chris Kenny struck a brilliant left-footed drive from the edge of the area into the corner of the net.
The hard-working Kenny, who covered every blade of grass on the Ferrycarrig pitch, was again in the thick of the action in the 36th minute but couldn't get enough purchase on his shot after being fed by Marty Kelly.
Kyle Dempsey had a glorious opportunity to restore parity in the 41st minute but shot straight at Lee Murphy after wriggling his way through a couple of challenges.
Shamrock Rovers almost added to their tally just before the break when Mikey Dempsey picked out Ricky Fox, whose shot was well saved by Dylan Owens.
Ian Sinnott raced on to the rebound but his effort was blocked in a frantic finish to the half.
North End needed to begin the second-half brightly and Keith Kearney saw his shot well saved by Murphy in the 57th minute after good work by Beary on the right.
However, John Godkin's charges looked to have been left with an impossible task on the hour mark as they were reduced to ten men with Kyle Dempsey receiving two yellow cards in the space of a minute.
Two minutes later things got even worse for the Sky Blues, when Mikey Dempsey arrowed a left-footed shot to the corner of the net after a Chris Kenny effort had initially been blocked following a Marty Kelly corner.
It seemed to be game, set and match but the contest took another twist as Shamrock Rovers were down to nine men by the 68th minute, with Alan Freeman and Martin McKeown both dismissed for second bookable offences.
In between the two red cards John Fenlon had a half-chance to reduce the arrears but headed wide from a Beary cross.
Stuart Lawlor saw his long-range effort tipped over in the 69th minute; five minutes later Gary Dempsey couldn't generate enough power in his header to trouble Murphy, and in the 77th minute Kenny gift-wrapped the victory with a fourth for Rovers.
Marty Kelly twice saw efforts on goal blocked and when the ball fell to Kenny he made no mistake to seal a memorable victory.
North End, who showed signs of leg-weariness after an energy-sapping campaign, haven't been outplayed too many times this season.
However, on Sunday Shamrock Rovers really had the bit between their teeth and nobody could say they weren't due this success after their previous final disappointments.
Shamrock Rovers: Lee Murphy, Alan Freeman, Mikey Dempsey, Ian Sinnott, Seán Miller, Chris Kenny, Marty Kelly, James Carty (capt.), Ricky Fox, Eamon O'Brien, Martin McKeown. Subs. - John O'Connor for O'Brien (67), Emmet Quirke for Dempsey (79), Ricky Dwyer for Kelly (88).
North End United: Dylan Owens, Warren Broaders, Declan Downes, Robin Dempsey, Stuart Lawlor, John Fenlon, Kyle Dempsey, Shane Dempsey, Gary Dempsey, Paul Murphy, Keith Kearney. Subs. - Adam Beary for S. Dempsey, inj. (27), Jason Murphy (capt.) for Downes (64), Jason Swords for Broaders (66).
Referee: Jimmy Kelly.