By Matthew Foley
Shamrock Rovers have edged ever closer to a third SSE Airtricity League title in a row thanks to an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Patrick’s Athletic at Tallaght Stadium. Goals from Dan Cleary, Sean Hoare and a brace from Graham Burke from the penalty spot were enough to seal all three points for the Hoops despite going behind on the night.
It was a nightmare start for Rovers who fell behind just four minutes into the game. A Sam Curtis cross from the right wing was allowed travel across the face of the goal to Serge Atakayi who made no mistake to give the away side the lead. It was the shot in the arm that the Hoops required as they began to dominate possession as we searched for a way back into the game. Our persistence paid off 10 minutes before the break when Graham Burke was fouled in the area by St Pat’s skipper Joe Redmond with referee Rob Hennessy having no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Burke stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards, firing low into the bottom right corner leaving Danny Rogers with no chance.
Rory Gaffney nearly scored an instant second for Rovers, but Rogers got his fingertips to the striker’s effort, turning it behind for a corner. The momentum was firmly with the Hoops, and just as it looked like the sides who go in level at half time, Rovers would take the lead from another set piece. A Jack Byrne corner found Dan Cleary whose initial header was saved well by Rogers, but Cleary reacted quickest to fire the rebound in between Rogers’ legs and into the net to make it 2-1. Pat’s players protested to referee Rob Hennessy as they felt there was a foul on Forrester in the build-up to the goal, but their protests not only fell on deaf ears but earned both striker Eoin Doyle & ‘keeper Danny Rogers yellow cards.
The away side started the second period on the front foot and had some early opportunities through Mark Doyle and Serge Atakayi, but both couldn’t find a way past Mannus as they searched desperately for an equaliser. St Pat’s would regret their missed opportunities with another set piece resulting in their undoing. A Dylan Watts corner was only half cleared to Chris McCann, who’s effort was directed towards goal by Roberto Lopes with the breaking ball falling to Sean Hoare who fire home to make it 3-1.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Hennessy handed the visitors a lifeline when he adjudged Chris McCann to have handled inside the area, with the Clare official pointing to the spot. With Eoin Doyle substituted, it was left to the man who replaced him, Tunde Owolabi to reduce the deficit however his tame effort was saved by Mannus as the Hoops maintained their two-goal advantage. Things went from bad to worse for St Pat’s when Anto Breslin was shown a straight red card for a handball on the goal line. Burke stepped up once again and fired into the top corner in emphatic fashion to round off the scoring and secure all three points in front of a sell-out crowd.
It’s a massive win which sees us extend our lead at the top of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division to eight points over Derry City in second place who have a game in hand. Up next for the Hoops is a return to European action on Thursday night as we welcome Belgian side KAA Gent to Tallaght Stadium on Matchday 5 in Group F of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Cleary, Lopes, Hoare; Finn (Farrugia 62), Towell, McCann (Kavanagh 76), Lyons (Gannon 77); Burke (Power 77), Byrne (Watts 50); Gaffney.
Subs not used: L Pohls, L Grace, J Ferizaj; A Emakhu.
Booked: S Hoare, C McCann; R Towell.
St Patrick’s Athletic: D Rogers; Curtis, Redmond, Barrett, Breslin; Timmermans (King 64), Forrester, O’Reilly; M Doyle (Brockbank 78), E Doyle (Owolabi 60), Atakayi (Lipsiuc 78).
Subs not used: D Odumosu, B Curtis, J McClelland, B McCormack; A Murphy.
Booked: D Rogers, A O’Reilly, E Doyle T Owolabi; A Breslin (Sent Off).
Referee: Rob Hennessy.