Rovers were left to rue 4 second-half minutes in which Dundalk scored twice from corners to take control of the game. Following Dane Massey's fine free-kick in the opening minutes the Hoops dominated proceedings and were well worth Jason McGuinness's equaliser. Ciaran Kilduff's goal with 13 minutes remaining led to a grandstand finish but Rovers were unable to breach the home defence again.
[GOAL 1:0 - 4th min.] With only 4 minutes on the clock Ref. Kelly blew for a soft foul by Jason McGuinness on McMillan and from 20 yards Dane Massey stepped up to curl his shot over the wall and into the net via the crossbar.
However this setback didn't deter the Hoops and they started to pass the ball well and Sean O'Connor provided a couple of dead ball crosses into the visitors box with Karl Sheppard heading wide at the back post on 11 minutes. Keeper Sava had to punch clear from under his crossbar after another good O'Connor free-kick delivery on 16 minutes.
Rovers continued to dominate with Karl Sheppard causing all sorts of problems for the Dundalk defence but he saw his free-kick from a dangerous position blocked by the home wall after 23 minutes.
[GOAL 1:1 - 29th min.] Rovers deservedly equalised when another fine O'Connor delivery from a corner was headed across goal at the back post by Sheppard and Jason McGuinness was on hand to poke the ball into the net.
Sheppard then shot across goal after chasing down keeper Hyland's clearance. Dundalk created a chance on 35 minutes against the run of play when Sean Gannon burst forward to cross for Hoban to shoot on the turn but Craig Hyland got down well to save. It was the home side's only respite in the first half with Madden crossing into the box on 41 minutes and O'Connor just failing to make the vital contact. Kieran Waters was also causing problems but the Hoops couldn't convert their dominance into a lead goal.
[GOAL 2:1 - 47th min.] Poor defending allowed Dane Massey to win a header from a corner on the right and the ball bounced into the left corner of the net with no Rovers defender on the goal line.
[GOAL 3:1 - 49th min.] Worse was to follow just two mintes later when a corner from the left saw Hoban run clear of his marker to meet the ball and guide his header into the top right-hand corner of the net. The low evening sun shining into the Hoops goalmouth didn't help but there was no denying the poor marking from the corner kick.
The goals rocked the Hoops players and it took a while to get back into the game but good build up play in the 65th minute led to Sean O'Connor shooting high and over the bar when well positioned outside the box. Ciaran Kilduff was introduced in the 74th minute and O'Connor almost picked him out at the back post from a free-kick on 74 minutes.
[GOAL 3:2 - 77th min.] The Hoops substitute did make a mark when good play down the right saw Sheppard play McPhail into the box and his sublime cross picked out Kilduff to head past Sava from close range.
Rovers piled forward in the remaining minutes with Kilduff heading a Hyland clearance for O'Connor to chase but Sava advanced to get to the ball first. McPhail then volleyed wide when O'Connor's cross was headed clear but on 83 minutes McPhail lost possession just outside the box and the ball was played in for Towell to shoot narrowly wide. The Hoops continued to throw everything at the Dundalk defence but despite Simon Madden raiding down the right on a couple of occassions the final delivery just fell short. Despite a late corner the Dundalk defence held out to claim the trophy off Rovers.
Ciaran Kilduff heads home from Stephen McPhail's cross....Pic: G.Kelly