Drogheda united boss Mick Cooke was furious as Sligo Rovers struck late to clinch a dramatic FAI Cup final.
Anthony Elding pounced in the third minute of stoppage time to give the Bit O’Red a 3-2 win and their third cup title in four seasons.
But Drogheda were incensed by referee Paul Tuite’s decision to let Sligo’s second goal stand.
After trailing for most of the match, Ian Baraclough’s side took the lead in the 85th minute in controversial circumstances.
Substitute Danny North, who had cancelled out Paul O’Conor’s opener seven minutes earlier, swiveled to score after a quick free kick by Joseph Ndo caught the Drogheda defence off guard.
Drogs captain Derek Prendergast was sent off in the protests that followed and afterwards, Cooke claimed his players were told to wait for a whistle that never came.
“The turning point of the game was the free-kick,” he said.
If you’re interviewing any of the players, they will tell you that they were told to wait for the whistle and the whistle was never blown. I think that’s why so many players remonstrated.
Cooke added: “Paul Tuite is an experienced referee and he should have got everyone away and spoke to the captain. Eight or nine players don’t remonstrate for nothing.
“You saw their reaction. They will tell you that they were told to wait for the whistle. I don’t think they were even 10 yards back and the ball was knocked over the wall and they scored.”
In a frantic finale, Ryan Brennan looked to have forced extra-time when he equalised for Drogheda in the second minute of stoppage time only for Elding to pop up and break their hearts seconds later.
“I thought we were the best side for 70 minutes,” Cooke said. “We came in at half-time, the gameplan worked, we got an early goal and we settled well into the game.
I was certainly expecting an onslaught from Sligo in the second half but I thought we were the better side in the second half as well.
We could have killed the game with a second goal but we just didn’t take our chances at the end.
Today’s final was Drogheda’s third of the season but like the Setanta Sports Cup and EA Sports Cup before, it ended in defeat.
As expected Cooke confirmed that the game was his last at the club but refused to reveal what his next move will be.
There are a few offers there. I think in fairness people were kind enough to stay away from me and leave me up to the cup final so I’d like to think I will have something sorted sooner rather than later.
“I’m bitterly disappointed, certainly for the players. They’ve given me two fantastic years and what we’ve achieved: four cup finals, second in the league, didn’t disgrace ourselves in Europe.
“Unfortunately we haven’t got a piece of gold somewhere along the year to prove how good we are.”