Sam McKeever reports from Tallaght Stadium
Brandon Miele and Ronan Finn both scored in Rovers’ final home game of the season as they beat Limerick 2-1 at Tallaght Stadium on Friday and sealed a third place finish.
The two sides made plenty of changes going into the final game of the season as Limerick started a crop of their younger talent.
The opening period was a cagey affair as both sides had spells of possession but found it hard to carve out an opening, Brandon Miele coming closest with a long range shot over the Limerick bar.
The away side had the first big chance of the game when Henry Cameron beat Kevin Horgan to a loose ball but hesitated at the vital moment before directing his shot straight at Horgan, who got a hand to the ball and diverted it away for a corner.
Rovers’ full-backs were heavily involved in their attacking play and Luke Byrne put in a decent ball to the near post which Limerick scrambled away at the second attempt after Sean Boyd got it stuck under his feet.
Limerick then had another great chance to score when Rovers couldn’t clear their lines properly. The ball fell to William Fitzgerald on the edge of the box but he snatched at the shot and his strike went straight into the hands of Horgan.
The Hoops then put another fantastic attack together down the right-hand side before Madden picked out Sean Boyd with and his glancing header just edged past Freddy Hall’s left-hand post.
Stephen Bradley’s side were finding pockets of space around the Limerick box and it was midfielder David McAllister who next had an effort at goal and he hit a fantastic right-footed strike which saw Freddy Hall called into action.
Rovers put the first good move together early in the second half as Aaron Bolger hit a driven pass into Boyd who dummied it for Ronan Finn. The midfielder tried to squeeze Brandon Miele through but there was just a bit too much on the ball and Hall gathered easily.
The Hoops were awarded penalty just minutes later when Shane Duggan brought down Brandon Miele in the box. The winger stepped up and slotted into the bottom left hand corner to give Stephen Bradley’s side a well-deserved lead.
Sean Boyd had the next decent opportunity for The Hoops when a ball was driven in low by full-back Simon Madden. Boyd, with his back to goal, improvised brilliantly, turning and shooting, but Hall was equal to it.
Stephen Bradley’s side doubled their lead not long after that when skipper Ronan Finn went on a fantastic run down the right before bearing down on goal and smashing it into the bottom corner at Freddy Hall’s near-post
Rovers could have put the game to bed just after the hour mark. A good one-two between Boyd and substitute Connolly put him through on goal but he didn’t have the composure to finish, hitting it straight at Hall.
Neil McDonald’s side pulled one back late in the game. As Rovers failed to clear their lines the ball fell to substitute Colm Walsh-O’Loughlin on the edge of the box and he fired home into the top corner to set up a grandstand finish.
The Hoops had a great chance to kill the game off with a counter-attack down the right. Connolly advanced on goal once again but couldn’t finish the chance forcing substitute keeper Tommy Holland into a good save.
Stephen Bradley’s side ended up 2-1 winners in the end, making sure that the Hoops finish in third place and a place in Europe next season.
Shamrock Rovers: Kevin Horgan; Simon Madden, Dean Carpenter, Sam Bone, Luke Byrne; Brandon Miele, Ronan Finn, David McAllister (James Doona 67), Sean Boyd (Dean Dillon 75), Aaron Bolger; Cameron King (Ryan Connolly 60).
Subs not used: Tomer Chencinski (gk), Cian Collins, Darren Clarke, Richard English.
Bookings: Ryan Connolly (89).
Limerick: Freddy Hall (Tommy Holland 80); William Fitzgerald, David O’Connor, Tony Whitehead, Alan Murphy (Karl O’Sullivan 61); Dean Clarke, Bastien Hery, Shane Duggan, Peter Berki (Colm Walsh-Oloughlin 72), Chiedozie Ogbene; Henry Cameron.
Subs not used: Lee-J Lynch, Shane Tracy, Rodrigo Tossi, Barry Cotter.
Bookings: William Fitzgerald (68).
Referee: John McLoughlin.
Attendance: 2,000 (estimate).
Man of the Match: Brandon Miele (Shamrock Rovers).