Rovers progress on penalties

Sligo Rovers will head to Tallaght to face Shamrock Rovers in the first of this Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-finals after they overcame Derry City at the Showgrounds.

Only a penalty shoot-out could separate the sides after two hours of football which failed to provide a goal.

Sligo did miss one of their four penalties but misses from Conor McCormack and Walter Figueira left Ibrahim Meita with the pressure kick, which he fired wide, and so the hosts prevailed 3-1 from the spot kicks. 

Despite having their recent training regime hit by several Covid cases since their last outing over two weeks ago, it was the visitors who started this game the livelier.

James Akintunde provided Ed McGinty with his first test of the evening three minutes in. McGinty keeping hold of Akintunde’s header after the striker rose to meet Ciaran Coll’s cross.

This was also a sluggish looking Sligo’s first game since their win over Dundalk at Oriel Park 16 days previous.

A combination of McGinty and Ronan Coughlan proving just enough to keep Gerardo Bruno’s free-kick from creeping in at the front post 23 minutes in as Liam Buckley’s men struggled to find their feet.

City enjoyed the better of this opening half but could have fell behind through a sucker punch on 33 as Rovers carved out their first opportunity.

Ex-Derry ace Junior’s disguised ball played Coughlan in, but City net minder Peter Cherrie spread himself well to block Coughlan’s drive from the angle. While Garry Buckley’s well struck volley from the resulting corner reminded Declan Devine’s charges of Sligo’s potential fire power. The stand-in centre half shooting narrowly over.

Despite spending the opening 45 on the back foot, the hosts manufactured another chance to open the scoring in the opening moments of the second period. But the unmarked Alex Cooper failed to find his bearings as he mis-judged the flight of Coughlan’s flick to the back post from a Regan Donelon cross.

Another Bruno set piece, this time from 25 yards, had McGinty scurrying again on 65. The ball sailing narrowly over the Ireland U21 international’s crossbar.

Akintunde was next to go close on 71, but wrapped his weighted effort past the far post having slipped the ball past John Mahon, as the powerful marksman made his way goalwards from the sideline.

McGinty’s goalmouth continued to attract much of the focus as City passed up further chances.

The rookie goalkeeper did well to deflect Stephen Mallon’s effort away for a corner before Cameron McJannett smashed a close range header off the crossbar from the resulting set piece.

Substitute Walter Figueira could only fire straight at McGinty shortly after his introduction. While McGinty was equal to anything Adam Hammill could throw at him in added time after the winger bossed his way past two challenges.

Sligo fashioned the best chance of a hard fought half-hour of extra time when Junior looked favourite to finish from close range from a corner. But a number of Derry bodies managed to block down the headed effort.

And so to the shootout where the mis-firing Figueira and Conor McCormack meant Ibrahim Meita had to score to keep his side in the tie. But the substitute could only drag his deciding spot kick wide of the Sligo goal.

Sligo Rovers: Ed McGinty; Lewis Banks, John Mahon, Garry Buckley, Regan Donelon; David Cawley (Darragh Noone 85), Will Seymore; Alex Cooper, Junior; Ronan Coughlan, Ryan De Vries (Danny Kane 90).

Derry City: Peter Cherrie; Colm Horgan, Eoin Toal, Cameron McJannet, Ciaran Coll; Stephen Mallon (Walter Figueira 80), Conor McCormack, Jack Malone (Ciaron Harkin 61), Adam Hamill (Conor Clifford 110); Gerardo Bruna (Joe Thomson 80), James Akintunde (Ibrahim Meite 87).

Referee: Neil Doyle