Report: Ryan McMullen

Rovers put 4 past Sligo on a four-in-a-row celebration night in Tallaght.

Before his side’s final game of the season, Rovers manager Stephen Bradley made 10 changes to the starting lineup from the team that faced Cork City on Monday. Lee Grace was the only man to keep his place whilst Mannus, Finn, Lopes, Cleary, Kavanagh, Towell, O’Neill, Kenny, Gaffney and Burke all came into the team.

Just over a minute in, captain Ronan Finn, struggling with an injury in the build-up to the game, made his way off the pitch for the final time in a Rovers shirt, as the Hoops faithful stood to applaud the contribution of one of the greatest to wear the armband. A true Rovers legend.

The script threatened to be torn up after 8 minutes when the visitors took a shock lead, An error from Pico Lopes led to a one-on-one between Kailin Barlow and Hoops goalkeeper Alan Mannus that saw Barlow slot the ball into the bottom left corner to put the visitors in front.

And Sligo looked to double their lead in the 21st minute when striker Fabrice Hartmann took a shot from the edge of the box although it lacked power and didn’t trouble Mannus.

Shortly after, Graham Burke was on the ball for Rovers and he played a lovely ball forward to Rory Gaffney to latch on to, Gaffney found himself in a one-on-one situation but Conor Walsh in goal for Sligo spread his body well to deny Gaffney’s attempt. Burke then hit a rebound strike that took a deflection off the Sligo back line before reaching Gaffney but he couldn’t manage to get a strong connection with the ball trickling wide of the post.

Approaching half-time, Burke had a chance of his own this time when Johnny Kenny squared the ball into a perfect position in the box however our top scorer couldn’t direct his effort on target.

Just two minutes later, Burke was presented with an almost identical opportunity and this time made no mistake, cutting inside before curling a left-footed effort into the corner of the net to bring the Hoops level on the stroke of half time.

In the opening stages of the second half, Rovers were rewarded a free kick just a few yards outside the box, Dylan Watts stepped up to take it and curled a superb strike past Walsh and straight into the left corner of the net, for his first of the season.

Substitute Aaron Greene had only been on the pitch for 60 seconds before he found his name on the scoresheet to extend our lead further. Neil Farrugia got the ball near the halfway line and drove forward before playing it into Greene who chipped it over the head of Conor Walsh to make it 3-1.

And The Hoops didn’t have to wait long for number four to arrive. Neil Farrugia did well to beat defender Garry Buckley to the ball and managed to square it into the path of Johnny Kenny, Kenny’s shot however was blocked by a scrambling Sligo defender with the rebound falling perfectly to Watts who composed himself before firing low past the helpless Walsh to make it 4-1.

The 68th minute marked the end of Alan Mannus’ career as he was substituted off for Leon Pohls. The 41-year-old goalkeeper announced earlier in the week that he would be retiring from professional football at the end of the season. The record 8,021 attendance once again rose to their to show their appreciation for one the greatest goalkeepers to ever represent the Club. As Big Al departed, a section of the Hoops supporters in the South Stand held up a banner for him which read ‘The Safe Hands Of Rovers’. A fitting tribute to a Rovers legend.

A fifth almost came 79 minutes in as Rory Gaffney received the ball on the left-hand side of the box from Aaron Greene, Gaffney aimed for the far post but he saw his effort go very narrowly wide.

Down the other end less than a minute later, Fabrice Hartmann found a second for Sligo when he cut inside in the penalty area before firing low past Pohls to reduce the deficit, but it would be a mere consolation at that stage.

It was a record attendance of 8021 in Tallaght Stadium on the night and the Rovers supporters were able to celebrate as they watched the four-in-a-row champions receive the league trophy for the 21st time after full-time.

Stephen Bradley’s team aren’t in action again until the new year however our senior women’s team still has 2 games left of their season starting with a trip to Limerick to take on Treaty United on Saturday the 4th of November with 4:50 pm the set kick-off time in Markets Field before returning to Tallaght for their final league game v Athlone Town on Saturday 11 November.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus (Pohls 68’), Lopes, Grace, Cleary (Hoare 46’), Finn (Farrugia 2’), Kavanagh, Towell (Watts 46’), O’Neill, Kenny, Gaffney, Burke (Greene 57’).

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes Nugent, Burt, Noonan, Razi.

Sligo Rovers: Walsh, Mahon, Bolger (Radosavlevic 74’), Buckley, Hutchinson (Brannefalk 74’). Cawley (Elding 56’), Fitzgerald, Morahan (Lagerfeldt 64’), O’Sullivan, Barlow, Hartmann.

Sligo Rovers unused substitutes: Lafferty, Liivak, Pijnaker, Brush, Patton.