ALL HAIL the true cup kings of Irish football. Sligo Rovers showed that they can mix it up and grind out a result, as well as playing the beautiful game, as they scrapped their way to a 1-0 win over Bohemians and a place in the FAI Ford Cup final.
Sligo have earned plenty of praise for their attacking football this season as they've scored more goals in the league than any other team (66 goals in 34 games) and scored an amazing 90 goals in all competitions.
The 90th came in Dalymount Park yesterday from Jason McGuinness, a former Bohs man of course, and while the goal -- and the whole match for that matter -- was not a thing of beauty, the impact was massive as Paul Cook's side have now qualified for the FAI Cup final for the third year running, as they return to Lansdowne Road on November 6 to face the winners of tonight's replay between St Patrick's Athletic and Shelbourne.
"It wasn't a great game yesterday but we don't care about that. It was a sloppy game with no real rhythm and very few chances, but all you remember about a semi-final is whether you win or lose," said a delighted Sligo captain Richie Ryan. It was Ryan's 73rd-minute cross which set up the goal for McGuinness as the Cabra man broke the hearts of his former club and ended Bohs' season. Bohs struggled to cope with the loss yesterday, through suspension, of key players Liam Burns, Chris Fagan and Anto Flood, with Aidan Downes playing a lonely role up front with little service.
"Once you just grind out the result and get to the Aviva, then we don't care. We play good football when we can but sometimes we have to get down there and graft," said Ryan.
"It was a great finish from Jason -- for a big man who is six-foot eight and has size 12 canoes on his feet, he finished it well."
The win was even sweeter for Sligo's Tipperary-born captain as it offers him a chance to lead the side out at Lansdowne Road for the first time -- Ryan was suspended for last year's final which Sligo won on penalties against Shamrock Rovers.
"It means the world to me to reach the final after missing out last season. It was emotional for me yesterday because I was so gutted at missing out last year," Ryan added.
"It will be a huge honour for me to lead the team out at the Aviva and hopefully we can finish off the job and lift the trophy."
For much of the afternoon yesterday, both sides looked like they would struggle to get to the final as a dismal game bored the pants off the attendance of 2,800. The midfield area was just swamped with bodies as players like Joseph Ndo and Killian Brennan, normally so comfortable on the ball, seemed to panic whenever in possession.
A replay in Sligo on Tuesday night was looking very likely before McGuinness broke the deadlock 17 minutes from time, firing past his old team-mate Barry Murphy.
That defeat effectively ended the season for Bohs as the highest they can finish, even by winning their last two league games, is fourth.
"We said before the game and again at half-time that it would probably be a set piece that would win or lose the game and that's how it turned out so we're disappointed to lose," said Bohs boss Pat Fenlon.
"We didn't threaten them much but they didn't threaten us either.
"I'm more disappointed for the players than anything else. It will be hard to lift them for the last two games of the season, but I want us to finish as high in the table as we can," added Fenlon, who stressed that he is eager to stay on next season if matters can be sorted out behind the scenes.