Bradley and Rovers repay faith with first final spot in nine years

by Dave Donnelly

FAI Senior Cup semi-final
Bohemians 0
Shamrock Rovers 2

Shamrock Rovers are on the cusp of ending their 32-year hoodoo after booking their place in the FAI Cup final with a comfortable 2-0 win over Bohemians.

Goals in either half from Graham Burke and Aaron Greene earned the Hoops a well-deserved victory over their fiercest rivals to set up a dream date at the Aviva Stadium with champions Dundalk.

“It’s a proud moment for me to bring this special club back to the Aviva, but that’s where this club belongs,” manager Stephen Bradley told the Dublin Gazette.

“It belongs in cup finals. It belongs at the top table and we’ll go there to win the game, fully focused on winning.

“I’m delighted and proud of the players and proud of the staff. It’s massive to come to your biggest rivals and win so comfortably like we did tonight.

“When this draw was made, I think a lot of people would have written us off but we showed tremendous character to come here and win the game quite comfortably.”

Bradley’s side last contested a cup final in 2010, the first at the newly-renovated Lansdowne Road, as the Tallaght side were beaten on penalties by Sligo Rovers.

Jobstown’s Bradley was in midfield for Michael O’Neill’s side that afternoon and was sent off in injury time after picking up a second booking.

That defeat denied Rovers a league and cup double. Next month’s final will see Bradley charged with denying Kilnamanagh native Vinny Perth a treble in his first season as Dundalk boss.

Before Rovers could think about a final, however, they were faced with the challenge of a Bohemians side who had won six of the last eight meetings between the sides.

Last month’s meeting in Tallaght was the first time in two-and-a-half years the Hoops had beaten Bohs, courtesy of Burke’s first-half header.

The on-loan Preston North End striker repeated the trick on Friday night with just five minutes on the clock with a wonderfully-taken headed goal.

The striker peeled away from the post and arced a magnificent header into the narrow space where Keith Buckley had stepped off the near post.

It was a game of few chances but Burke thought he had wrapped it up with a delightful dink only for Paddy Kirk to somehow head off the line.

Bohs’ challenge faded after Danny Mandroiu was sent off for an ugly lunge on Sean Kavanagh and Greene sealed the win with a fine finish from Ronan Finn’s pinpoint cross.

Bradley hailed the patience shown by the fans and by the board, who have stuck with him during some difficult periods over the past couple of years.

“Every game we go out now, it is an audition. Our players need to make sure they’re the team for the final. It’s as simple as that: the jersey is there, go and grab it.

“The fans are demanding. I understand that and I understood it when I came in and it was never an issue.

“The board were calm and their message was clear: there’s no change, relax, do what you do and we know where we’re going.

“We want to repay them, repay the fans, and go and win it.”

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