It was just five short years ago, on 26th June 2015, and my oh my, how the formation of the Shamrock Rovers squad has completely changed since then. Only Stephen McPhail, now, of course, on the management team, remains from that time.

Pat Fenlon was in his first full season as manager at Tallaght having succeeded Trevor Croly mid-way through the 2014 season. This game against Galway, played at Eamonn Deacy Park, marked the halfway point of the league campaign and, with 18 games played, the Hoops had recorded just one defeat and were in third place behind Premier Division leaders Dundalk and second-placed Cork City.

The teams had met previously during the season when the Tribesmen travelled to Tallaght Stadium on Friday, 3rd April. A brace from Mikey Drennan and a further goal from Brandon Miele gave the Hoops a 3-0 win.

The following is Pete Kelly’s match report on from the game played at Eamonn Deacy Park:

Shamrock Rovers came to town and Galway managed to produce a surprise selecting new signing Colm O’Donovan for his first League of Ireland game.

The opening twenty minutes were very even with perhaps the best chance falling to Gary McCabe after 15 minutes when he ghosted in behind Colm Horgan, but his volleyed effort flew over the bar. Just a minute earlier Galway’s Jake Keegan had a shot blocked at the end of the penalty area.

Rovers threatened on 22 minutes when Gary Shanahan needlessly fouled McCabe and his driven free was blocked by Horgan at the expense of a corner, from which Tim Clancy volleyed over – a real chance. Almost immediately Brandon Miele finished a twenty-yard run with a good shot, but unfortunately for him it was well wide.

Galway forced their first corner after 24 minutes – Cunningham got on the end of the delivery and Gary McCabe took it off the line, the ball broke to Colm Horgan and his 25-yard shot flashed just wide.

Rovers took the lead on 39 minutes when Luke Byrne headed home. The goal came from a free by McPhail, following Ludden’s foul – which earned him a yellow card. McPhail’s free was flicked on by Brennan and Byrne was on hand to nod it to the net.

Galway would have felt a little unfortunate to be in arrears at the break. They matched Rovers in every department and it was perhaps a lapse in concentration that led to the goal. McPhail was the guiding light for the Hoops, while Galway’s Horgan and Byrne were particularly prominent.

Galway introduced Enda Curran and Kevin Garcia at halftime for Cunningham and O’Donovan. The debutant only lasted one half for Galway tonight but he will have learned a lot from the experience.

The game was only on 55 seconds when Curran banged in the equaliser. Ludden’s long throw was flicked on, not properly cleared and up stepped Curran to grab his 9th league goal of the season. Five minutes later Galway threatened again when Garcia broke forward and brought Connolly into the game, but he could only direct his cross away from Hyland.

The crowd were on their feet after 55 minutes ‘crying foul’ as Webster crunched into Shanahan – how he escaped a yellow is a mystery, but he got away with a ‘long lecture’.

Three minutes later Galway could have gone ahead, Keegan outstripped the defenders but Shanahan could not connect with his tantalising cross. Almost straight away Connolly had a free from 30 yards easily saved – the free resulted from Clancy’s ‘yellow card foul’ on Shanahan.

Sam Oji rose unopposed to Connolly’s corner after 61 minutes and he should have done better with his header which cleared the bar.

Waters had a chance for Rovers after 65 minutes but his shot was deflected for a corner, which Rovers wasted.

Referee Neil Doyle brought the crowd to their feet again on 67 minutes when he penalised Shanahan in a shoulder to shoulder challenge – hard to fathom the reasoning for the free.

Kieran Marty Waters grabbed the lead for Rovers on 69 minutes when he cracked the ball home from Webster’s header following McCabe’s free. The hoops taught Galway a harsh lesson there – taking back the lead completely against the run of play.

Enda Curran should have equalised after 75 minutes following Ryan Connolly’s corner. Curran’s initial shot had forced the corner, following great approach work from Oji and Keegan. Galway were certainly not going out without a fight.

Ryan Connolly had a chip shot saved on 82 minutes – Horgan had initiated the move, with Keegan taking it on – a little unlucky but perhaps a driven effort would have been a better option.

Galway continued to push forward as the game entered the dying minutes and Rovers tried to ‘kill the game’ at every opportunity to the frustration of the Galway players and supporters alike.

Shanahan tried to put Keegan through on 88 minutes but his pass was over hit and the chance went a begging.

The extra experience that Rovers had was vital to them late in the game; they wasted time and engineered a ‘cheap free’ that would ultimately frustrate the Galway faithful.  Shanahan blasted over, in time added on, which would prove to be the last chance.

Pat Fenlon’s side will know that they escaped here with the three points in a game in which Galway performed very well and showed they are a match for any side in the league. Meanwhile the Hoops march on.

Galway United: Conor Winn; Colm Horgan, Sam Oji (Killian Cantwell 79m), Stephen Walsh, Marc Ludden; Alex Byrne, Ryan Connolly, Gary Shanahan, Jake Keegan; Padraic Cunningham, (Enda Curran, h.t.) Colm O’Donovan (Kevin Garcia, h.t.)

Subs not used: Conor Barry, Cormac Raftery, Paul Sinnott, Ger Hanley (Goalkeeper).

Booked: Ludden (37m)

Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Simon Madden, David Webster, Tim Clancy, Luke Byrne; Brandon Miele (Gavin Brennan, 88m), Stephen McPhail (Gareth McCaffrey 79m) Pat Cregg, Ryan Brennan, Gary McCabe; Kieran Marty Waters,

Subs not used: Barry Murphy (Goalkeeper), David O’Connor, Cian Kavanagh, Dylan Kavanagh, Sean Boyd.

Booked: Clancy (59m)

Referee: Neil Doyle

*By the season’s end the top positions in the table remained as they were at the half way stage with The Hoops finishing in third spot.

Attendance: 1,644

Compiled by Robert Goggins