Desperate times call for desperate measures; Shamrock Rovers’ decision to sack Stephen Kenny on the eve of the EA Sports Cup final and replace him with Brian Laws, who was managing in the Barclays Premier League a little over two years ago, was certainly a desperate measure. Unfortunately for the Hoops it was a measure that failed to pay immediate dividends for the Tallaght club, as they crashed to a 3-1 defeat against Drogheda United.
Stephen Kenny’s Rovers were defensively frail and few could argue a convincing case against his dismissal. The timing of the managerial change was questionable however; former Premier League manager or not, few men could mastermind a cup final victory with a team they know little to nothing about, against superior opposition in Drogheda United, with just a few days training to prepare. As it was, Rovers’ defence produced a lawless performance (forgive the pun) to gift Drogheda two first-half goals and it didn’t get much better during the second 45 as they conceded another and were then reduced to ten men.
Former Arsenal defender Kerrea Gilbert, once a regular fixture in the Gooners’ Champions League squad, was singled out for abuse by sections of the Rovers support for his role in their farcical showing. The 25-year-old first allowed Gavin Brennan’s cross to find Fabio O’Brien, who deftly found the net with his near post flick, before scoring a bizarre own goal following a mix-up with Hoops ‘keeper Oscar Jannson.
In truth though, Drogheda outclassed Rovers in every department and fully deserved to claim the first domestic trophy of the season and their first League Cup since 1984. Manager Mick Cooke will be undoubtedly be hoping this leads to greater things as they look to reduce the seven points between themselves and league leaders Sligo Rovers. Cooke will be particularly pleased with the way his side responded to Killian Brennan’s thunderous free-kick in the 59th minute, which had looked like clawing Rovers back into the contest, by almost instantly restoring their two-goal lead through Eric Foley’s deflected effort.
Laws next objective is to familiarize himself with the players he has at his disposal over the next six weeks. As Brian Kerr pointed out on Setanta, Laws notably used “they” rather than “we” during his post-match interview. He never should’ve been expected to train an unknown team to cup final success with just a few days preparation, but “they” must become “we” if he is to guide Rovers to a league finish that will secure European football’s return to Tallaght next year.