Lightning does strike twice, declares Sligo’s saviour

PENALTIES saved and penalties paid were the twin themes of the post-match reaction in the Aviva Stadium yesterday, as Sligo Rovers celebrated and Shelbourne fumed.

After Ciaran Kelly had come off the bench to reprise his penalty shootout heroics of last year, the goalkeeper said: “I was telling the boys that lightning does strike twice the odd time. I’m just happy to be bringing the cup silverware back to Sligo for the fans and the town itself.”

Sligo manager Paul Cook revealed that the decision to spring Kelly from the bench for the spot-kicks had been taken earlier in the week.

“Ciaran is phenomenal at them and he just seems to have a great way of reading people’s body language,” said the manager. “So it was a call we made well earlier this week. Brendan (Clarke) has been our number one keeper all year and I was not trying to be clever. When you have got a lad who saves penalties like he (Kelly) does, then you have got to give him a go.

“Obviously Brendan is going to be disappointed but he’s got his winners’ medal on his neck and that’s what football is about. We have a runners-up one from the league that we don’t like but we’ve a winners’ one from the cup.”

Shelbourne also have a runners-up medal from the league but nothing at all to show for a huge effort with 10 men in the FAI Cup final. And while manager Alan Mathews repeatedly said that he didn’t want to put the performance of referee Richie Winter centre stage, the Reds’ boss couldn’t hide his anger at the sending off of Barry Clancy, the decision to have the penalty shootout at the Sligo end and the fact that Ciaran Kelly had gone unpunished for coming off his line in making his two saves.

It later emerged that the choice of end for the shootout had been made in advance of the game at the behest of RTÉ who broadcast the match live. But, afterwards, Alan Mathews maintained that he was unaware of this and had expected the matter would be decided on the pitch by a toss of a coin.

But his biggest complaint was with the game-changing red card for Barry Clancy whom Mathews described as “distraught” after the incident.

Said the Shels boss: “He didn’t dive, he didn’t do anything, he was taken. It was a shocking decision to send him off. And I do believe it’s cost us because with 11 men we would have had a different stab at it and been more of a threat in the last third. But, look, it’s gone and we’ll go and fight another day. The players couldn’t have given any more. It came down to a roll of the dice and it didn’t fall in our favour.”

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