It was a tale of two goals either side of half time as Shamrock Rovers ran out easy victors against a hard working but limited Kildare County side in the first round of the EA Sports Cup on Monday evening. Although they had to wait until the 43rd minute for Tadhg Purcell to open the scoring, they were dominant throughout, adding two further goals in the second half thanks to a Karl Hegarty own goal and a Stephen Bradley penalty. Kildare, in their changed kit of all red, were very poor, showing why they are struggling at the foot of the first Division.
Michael O’Neill’s men had all the possession but found it hard to make a break through despite creating plenty of chances. Kildare had a miraculous escape after 13 minutes. Following Purcell’s cross Colin Murray almost headed into his own net; at full stretch County keeper Kevin McDonnell tipped the ball onto his crossbar for it to bounce down on the line, inches from going in. Having gone over 400 minutes of league football without scoring it was no surprise that County offered little or no attacking threat. Their sole effort in the first half was a 25 yard shot from midfielder Matt Byrne, comfortably saved by Robert Duggan.
Shane Robinson should have scored from a break away after 29 mins. With the Kildare defence gone missing and two players in support he elected to try an elaborate chip that was easily saved. Rovers were unlucky not to take the lead on 37 mins, hitting the woodwork again, Padraig Amond getting in front of his man to flick on a free kick. He turned away to celebrate only to see his header hit the foot of the far post. Rovers finally opened the scoring just before half time, Sean O’Connor, in acres of space down the let flank, played in a quality cross that was headed home by Purcell for an overdue opening goal.
The Hoops made a perfect start to the second half to end the tie as a contest. Substitute Simon Madden crossed from the right only for the unfortunate Karl Hegarty to wrong foot his own keeper for an own goal. There followed a period of domination from Rovers and the third duly arrived in the 68th minute from a Stephen Bradley penalty. Bradley himself was creator in chief beating two defenders before playing in the constantly dangerous Madden. His cross was handled under pressure by Baba Issaka, Bradley sending the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
It looked like being the queue for more goals but Kildare held out without ever threatening to score themselves. Following a raft of substitutions the game fizzled out with no further goals despite Rovers going close several times. Bradley seemed to thrive in a more central position and started to entertain the large crowd. In the 75th minute he received the ball from a short corner, dribbled across the face of goal and shot just wide. Other good efforts form followed from Amond and O’Connor before with 3 minutes remaining Aiden Price headed in only to have the goal ruled out for a foul on the keeper.
Although it was a comfortable win in the end Rovers will worry that it took them so long to take the lead. Despite their second half dominance the only goals came from an own goal and a penalty. This season they have struggled to break down opposition defences and against the superior opposition in the Premier division this may well continue to be the case. With only one point to show so far Kildare look to be facing a long hard season ahead. They have only scored two goals in 7 games and offered no evidence to suggest that this is about to change.
Shamrock Rovers: Robert Duggan; Corey Treacy (Simon Madden 46), Aiden Price, Simon Webb, Ollie Cahill; Stephen Bradley, Shane Robinson (c) (Eric McGill 61), Greg Cameron (Eoin Doyle 69), Sean O’Connor; Padraig Amond, Tadhg Purcell.
Subs Not used: Barry Murphy (gk), Dessie Baker.
Kildare County: Kevin McDonnell; Colin Murray, Karl Hegarty (Thomas McLoughlin 69), Colin Osbourne (c), Alan Thorpe; Noel Byrne (Rory Brown 46 (Stephen Burke 62)), Baba Issaka, Matt Byrne, Orrin Farrell; David O’Riordan, Alan Lynch.
Subs not used: Colin Cassidy (gk), Paul Rigney.
Booked: Brown (60).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Stephen Bradley.