Date: 8 p.m. Sept. 3, 2010
Venue: Tallaght Stadium
Billy Dennehy 68' -
The form book indicated that this would be a tight encounter and so it proved as both teams set off at a cracking pace. Within twenty seconds the home side had created the first chance when Neale Fenn set up Gary Twigg whose shot flew over the Sligo bar.
On nine minutes Billy Dennehy created another opening, bursting down the left and slipping a superb ball to Neale Fenn who was denied by a saving tackle from Danny Ventre.
Moments later Fenn returned the favour, picking up on a mistake by Gavin Peers and clipping a ball onto Dennehy’s head which then licked the paint off the top of the Sligo crossbar before slipping over.
The Shamrock Rovers faithful, spoiled in recent weeks by the goal- scoring exploits of their team, could have been forgiven for assuming that another night of domination lay ahead but as the game settled it was Sligo who started to exert the greater pressure.
Joseph Ndo, always deceptively louche in possession of the ball, excelled with his back to goal, constantly tapping short passes to team-mates who caused the home defence increasing difficulties.
Mathew Blinkhorn’s weak shot on fifteen minutes fell to Eoin Doyle no more than five yards out but his shot suffered from the surprise of the shooter and Alan Manus collected gratefully. Ten minutes later Ndo broke through on the left and Craig Sives deflected his cross narrowly over.
On the half hour Shamrock Rovers retaliated when a high ball to Twigg breached the off-side trap. Twigg’s shot was parried by Kelly and Fenn would surely have scored from the rebound but for the outstretched leg of Jim Lauchlan.
But it was the visitors who had the final say in an entertaining first half. A low, driven free from Gary McCabe took a slight deflection which wrong footed Manus in the home goal. He recovered, just, but parried the ball loose into the six yard box. Neither Blinkhorn nor Peers could apply a finish.
The second half continued at a devilish pace, sometimes spoiled by erratic passing, but always compelling to watch. Ndo kept up his exquisite distribution of the ball and, with some spicy tackles from both sides, a real contest began to develop.
Dennehy flashed a twenty yard drive narrowly over Sligo’s bar before McCabe did likewise at the other end from a tight angle on the right.
When the breakthrough came it was fashioned by substitute Sean O’Connor, a late first half replacement for the injured Robert Bayly. He caused numerous problems for the Sligo defence before being fouled on the edge of the visitor’s box in the 67th minute. Billy Dennehy placed the ball, stepped back and unleashed a ferocious shot that sped past Kelly and into the far top corner of the net.
If anything the tempo increased and Sligo almost equalised within a minute. Eoin Doyle found himself beyond the Hoops back-line and though Mannus parried his initial effort he collected the loose ball and hooked a cross to the far post where Gary McCabe volleyed into the lunging bodies of two home defenders.
It would be fair to say that Shamrock Rovers dominated the final quarter. O’Connor drove a shot just wide of Kelly’s right hand post and, from the subsequent corner, Craig Sives knocked a header back into the box that Twigg just failed to convert.
But it should also be said that Sligo were never out of this game and pressed their hosts until the final whistle sounded. It is Shamrock Rovers that took the points and who, as a result, take one more step towards the league title, but Sligo will know that with this level of performance a European place is surely not beyond them.
Shamrock Rovers:Alan Mannus; Enda Stevens, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Danny Murphy; James Chambers, Chris Turner, Robert Bayly (Sean O’Connor, 43), Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg, Neale Fenn (Thomas Stewart, 72).
Subs not used: Pat Jennings, Danny McGuinness, Paddy Kavanagh.
Bookings: Robert Bayly (36), Chris Turner (48).
Sligo Rovers: Ciaran Kelly; Alan Keane, Jim Laughlan, Gavin Peers, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Gary McCabe (John Dillon, 83), John Russell, Joseph Ndo Danny Ventre, Eoin Doyle (Mark McGoldrick, 83); Mathew Blinkhorn.
Subs not used: John Gibson, Conor O’Grady, Jason McCartney.
Bookings: Danny Ventre (54).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Billy Dennehy