It’s in the game
Shamrock Rovers play Dundalk in the 41st League Cup final at Oriel Park this evening. The two clubs will meet a staggering eight times altogether in 2014, the most games that the Hoops have played against a club in one season since 1972-73, when there were nine meetings with Athlone Town and eight with Dundalk.
Rovers have reached three successive League Cup finals for the first time in their history (facing a Louth club on each occasion) having ended a 37 year wait to lift the trophy for only the second time at Tallaght Stadium last season. Out of 20 single game League Cup finals in which one of the sides were playing in their home stadium, that team won 11 times and two of those on penalties.
Gary McCabe, Ronan Finn and Ciaran Kilduff could play in their third final, equalling the club record held by Alan O’Neill and Robbie Gaffney. This is Rovers’ 150th game in the League Cup. Their first ever match in the competition happened to be against Dundalk, when they won 4-3 at Milltown in September 1973.
Dundalk won three of their four League Cup trophies in penalty shootouts. Two single game finals have been held at Oriel Park – Dundalk’s 4-0 defeat to Derry City in the 1988-89 final and their 1-1 draw with Derry City in 1989-90, the Lilywhites winning 4-1 on penalties after extra time.
This will be the first one off cup competition final to be played at Oriel Park since the 1987-88 President’s Cup final between Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, which saw Steve Staunton’s one and only appearance in League of Ireland football and the Hoops triumph on spot kicks.
Dundalk have been beaten in eight of their last nine cup competition finals. They lost the 1992-93 and won the 2001-02 FAI Cup, lost in the 1994-95 League Cup, the 2011 and 2014 Setanta Cup, the 1993-94 and 1994-95 Leinster Senior Cup as well as losing in the 1995-96 and 2002-03 President’s Cup finals.
David McMillan could equal the record for most goals in one League Cup season for a Dundalk player. He is just one away from the six goals scored by Warren Patmore in the 1994-95 campaign. McMillan and Rovers winger Marty Waters are the only League of Ireland players to score in five different competitions this year.
Cork whistler Graham Kelly will take charge of a cup final for the first time at Oriel Park. The 36-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Pat and brother Alan by refereeing the League Cup showpiece.
Pat Kelly was the man in the middle when Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers last met in the final back in the 1986-87 season and in the first leg of the 1995-96 final between Sligo Rovers and Shelbourne at the Showgrounds. Alan Kelly officiated the first leg of the 2001-02 final between Limerick and Derry City at Jackman Park.
Stephen Kenny has won the League Cup four times with Derry City in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2011. Kenny has a 70% win rate in the competition – not even counting the four ties won on penalties – and went on a 17 game unbeaten run from 2004 to 2008.
The 5-0 semi-final win over Wexford Youths was his 50th game in the League Cup and when Marc Griffin opened the scoring he netted Kenny’s 100th goal. Dundalk are the fourth different team that Kenny has taken to a final. He also guided Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers to the 2004 and 2012 finals respectively but he was sacked before he had the opportunity to lead the side out.
A win today would see Kenny equal Turlough O’Connor’s record of five League Cup trophies as manager. Dermot Keely lost all three of his finals, two of them in succession with Shamrock Rovers, the other with Dundalk in their most recent appearance (1994-95).
Pat Fenlon has won the League Cup once with Bohemians in 2009. He took over as Shamrock Rovers boss on August 6th of this year. If Fenlon were to win the cup it would be the quickest delivery of a trophy at the club since Liam Tuohy’s second spell in charge in 1972; Tuohy was appointed on June 30th and won the President’s Cup on August 13th.
The last man at any club to win a trophy within two months of becoming manager was Alan Mathews, who was installed by Shelbourne on July 12th 2010 and won the Leinster Senior Cup just 21 days later.
Noel O’Mahony was the only manager to win the League Cup without getting the team to the final. O’Mahony, 18 years after losing in the final with Cork Alberts, took over from Damien Richardson at Cork City mid-way through the 1994-95 season.
The five other gaffers who only took charge of the final were all beaten – Bobby Toland in 1984-85 (Finn Harps), Eamonn Gregg in 1993-94 (Shelbourne), Jimmy Greene in 1999-00 (Athlone Town), Gareth Farrelly in 2004 (Bohemians) and Brian Laws in 2012 (Shamrock Rovers). That was Laws’ only ever game in the competition.