Report: Ryan McMullen

Shamrock Rovers put three past St Pat’s to claim the first domestic trophy of 2024.

Stephen Bradley’s starting lineup featured two of his new off-season signings, Josh Honahan and Darragh Burns, both looking to make a good impression in their first competitive game in front of the Hoops supporters who showed up in their numbers in Tallaght.

Markus Poom, who extended his loan stay ahead of the 2024 season, had a chance early on as he swung a free-kick from outside the box on the right-hand side towards goal – forcing a fine save from Pat’s new recruit Marcelo Pitaluga in goal.

Other than Poom’s early effort, there weren’t many notable chances for either side although it was the Hoops that controlled the majority of the play.

Darragh Burns was playing against his former club on the night and had a chance to get on the scoresheet but he couldn’t direct a strike on target after getting on the end of a good ball sent in by Darragh Nugent.

With ten minutes to go until half-time, Rovers were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box when Neil Farrugia was hacked down. Favouring a left-footer, Sean Kavanagh stepped up but his low effort was comfortably held by Pitaluga.

Despite Rovers having most of the ball, it remained scoreless at the break with the game awaiting a breakthrough

Ahead of the restart, Stephen Bradley made five changes, introducing Dylan Watts, Trevor Clarke, Gary O’Neill, Rory Gaffney and Lee Grace in place of Neil Farrugia, Sean Kavanagh, Markus Poom, Aaron Greene and Dan Cleary.

Bradley’s subs proved to be game-changing not long after as Trevor Clarke opened the scoring and put Rovers in front. Conan Noonan, who impressed throughout the game, played a terrific through ball down the left channel that found the galloping Clarke and with the left-wing back bearing down on goal, he made no mistake with a brilliant finish across Pitaluga into the top right corner of the net.

Just past the hour mark, the Hoops doubled their lead when debutant Josh Honohan met a Conan Noonan corner at the front post with a bullet header to make it 2-0.

The Saints had a half chance to reduce the deficit when Anto Breslin provided a low cross across the face of the goal that Ruairi Keating failed to make contact with.

At the other end, Conan Noonan had sight of goal, after receiving a pass from Rory Gaffney following a Hoops breakaway, the 21-year-old took a touch forward before taking on a shot that was saved by Pitaluga without too much trouble.

Youngster Cian Barrett made his competitive first team debut at Tallaght Stadium for the Hoops in the 75th minute when experienced defender Sean Hoare was forced to make his way off due to injury.

Dylan Watts then played a ball over the top to Rory Gaffney, Gaffney fired a strike superbly on his left foot and was then unlucky to see his effort smack back off the post.

Down the other end, Leon Pohls came to the rescue for Rovers, making a great save with his feet to deny Breslin, who came close from Pat’s first clear-cut opportunity on target.

Moments later the Hoops would make sure of the victory when Trevor Clarke bagged his second of the night. After picking up the ball on the halfway line, the wing-back drove forward into the box before firing a low effort across Pitaluga that found the far corner of the net to make it 3-0.

Pat’s got on the scoresheet with effectively the last kick of the game when Jamie Lennon turned and fired home a loose ball in the Rovers penalty area following a Pat’s corner. Still, it would be too little too late for Jon Daly’s men as Rovers pick up their second President’s Cup trophy in three years.

The Hoops were presented with the trophy from the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins shortly after the full-time whistle. The win on the pitch capped off a fantastic night off it, with a record domestic attendance of 8,053 in Tallaght – including 500 Rovers supporters in the new North Stand.

Next is the league opener against Dundalk next Friday night (16th February), with kick-off set for 7.45 pm at Tallaght Stadium.

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls, Cleary (Grace 46’), Hoare (Barrett 75’), Honohan, Farrugia (Watts 46’), Poom (O’Neill 46’), Noonan, Kavanagh (Clarke 46’), Burns, Nugent, Greene © (Gaffney 46’).

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Steacy, Burke, Tetteh.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Pitaluga, B Kavanagh (C Kavanagh 62’), Redmond ©, Keeley, Breslin, Leavy (Nolan 83’), Lennon, Mulraney (Sjoberg 76’), Forrester, Bolger (Turner 62’), Keating (Melia 83’).

St Patrick’s Athletic unused substitutes: Rogers, Pettifer, Taylor.

Referee: Damien MacGraith