By 0Matthew Foley
Shamrock Rovers topped off a special night at the Tallaght Stadium with a 1-0 victory over Derry City. On a night which saw the Hoops lift their third SSE Airtricity League title in a row, they made sure to put celebrations on hold for 90 minutes in what was an entertaining fixture against the Candystripes which was decided by a first-half strike from Rory Gaffney.
The sides came out to an electric atmosphere at Tallaght Stadium, with the Rovers faithful in celebratory mode from the get-go. It was a cagey opening 20 minutes to the game, with the Hoops keeping possession well, using Gaffney and Andy Lyons as outlets in the attacking third. Derry would get the first clear-cut chance of the game when Jamie McGonigle dispossessed Sean Hoare but the forward’s strike was tipped around the post by Alan Mannus in the Rovers net.
McGonigle’s attempt sprung the Hoops into life and they came close to opening the scoring when Lee Grace’s header was well kept out by Brian Maher. The Hoops continued to push forward and in the 38th minute, the deadlock was broken. Lyons, who was playing his final game in Tallaght ahead of his move to Blackpool, dribbled down the left flank before putting a threatening ball across the face of the goal which wasn’t dealt with by the Derry defence, leaving Gaffney to pounce to fire home to make it 1-0 to Stephen Bradley’s men.
It was a cagier second half, with Rovers looking compact in defence and waiting for the right opportunities to counter-attack. The Hoops strong defensive unit nullified the Candystipes, with McGonigle’s strike from distance being the visitor’s best chance of the second period. As it has been the whole season, Bradley’s smart substitutions made the difference as Jack Byrne and Graham Burke combined well to set the latter through on goal, but Maher managed to deny the striker with a save with his feet. Lyons also had the chance to top off his night with a goal, but Maher was equal to the full-back’s effort.
As referee Rob Harvey blew for full-time, the celebrations could officially begin with Tallaght Stadium erupting in euphoria. The Hoops signed off their home league campaign undefeated, a significant component of this team’s success. Aided by the support from the stands, Tallaght has become a fortress, and the venue witnessed one of its most memorable moments when Stephen Bradley’s son Josh was given the honour of lifting the trophy high into the Tallaght sky alongside club captain Ronan Finn.
Up next for Rovers is the final game of their UEFA Europa Conference League campaign as they travel to Sweden to play Djurgårdens IF in Matchday 6 of the UEFA Europa Conference League
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Daniel Cleary, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Neil Farrugia (Graham Burke 76), Sean Hoare (Gary O’Neill 86), Sean Kavanagh (Ronan Finn 86), Justin Ferizaj (Sean Gannon 57), Andy Lyons; Richie Towell (Jack Byrne 76), Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: L Pohls, S Power, V Serdeniuk; A Emakhu.
Booked: R Lopes, R Finn.
Derry City: Brian Maher, Ronan Boyce (Ryan Graydon 74), Mark Connolly, Shane McEleney, Cameron McJannet; Sadou Diallo, Cameron Dummigan, Will Patching (Joe Thomson 74); Patrick McEleney, Jamie McGonigle (James Akintunde 74), Michael Duffy (Brandon Kavanagh 74).
Subs not used: J Lemoignan, C Coll, C Porter, D Glass; J McEneff.
Booked: S McEleney; C Dummigan.
Referee: Rob Harvey