Stylish Sligo take the honours – But battling Mons can hold heads high

1 October 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

First Division Monaghan United’s wonderful EA Sports League Cup odyssey came to a disappointing but far from ignominious end at the Showgrounds on Saturday evening when a 14th minute Mark Blinkhorn goal confirmed the superiority of Premier Division side Sligo Rovers in what proved an absorbing cup final contest, writes Peter Hughes.

Often under siege from the passing and movement of Paul Cook’s stylish side, United pulled a battling performance from their locker that ensured they still had a chance in the game right up to the tense final fifteen minutes, when the match took on an ebb-and-flow momentum that offered the tantalising but ultimately unrealised promise that the Mons could snatch a late equaliser to send the game into the lottery of extra time.

But at the conclusion, as was consistently the case during the course of the game, Monaghan could find no productive avenue through to goal when confronted by a resolute Sligo defence superbly marshalled by Jim Laughlan, Rovers’ outstanding performer on the day.

It was Laughlan who cruelly and clinically shut the door on Darragh Hanaphy as the final added minutes ebbed out, denying the United substitute what, for a glittering second, had appeared a dream opportunity to grab the most dramatic of equalisers.

The final whistle shortly afterwards heralded uninhibited jubilation among the large home support as Sligo celebrated the second League Cup victory in their history and the first silverware to come the side’s way since they finished First Division champions five years ago.

United’s travelling band of over 400 followers paid their men warm tribute at the conclusion, ameliorating somewhat the obvious disappointment of an exhausted side that had spent their all but found on the day it wasn’t enough to compensate for Sligo’s superior technique and the considerable advantage of contesting a cup final in their own backyard.

Informed by his side’s shortcomings in the previous weekend’s 0-3 reverse at Sligo’s hands in the FAI Ford Cup quarter-finals, Monaghan boss Mick Cooke rang some changes for this one, drafting in Karl Bermingham as partner for Philly Hughes in what appeared a more positive 4-4-2 formation.  Bermingham was often forced back to supplement midfield, however, and Hughes mostly had to forage alone up front where he was always heavily policed.  Sean Brennan was dropped deep into a wide midfield role but struggled to impact on the game, and his eventual replacement by the unlucky-to-lose-out Cathal O’Connor – who had struck the dramatic winner against Dundalk that earned United their place in the final – came too late to impact meaningfully on the pattern of the game.

Full story in the Northern Standard

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