Date: 7:45 p.m. Oct. 29, 2010
Venue: Carlisle Grounds
Wearing their changed strip of purple, Rovers would have been hoping to get at Bray from the very start, but it was actually the opposite that happened, as Shane O'Neill set the foundations for a bright beginning for the home side by running at the visitors' defence, before winning a free 25 yards from the Rovers goal.
Gary Dempsey's subsequent free-kick was off target in the end, but Bray continued to press, and Graham Kelly had a couple of efforts on goal that were well-hit, but couldn't quite trouble Rovers custodian Alan Mannus. This was not the beginning that Rovers wanted, and they really needed to come into the game or else risk having their title surge drift away from them.
While they did start to come into the game, at least in terms of possession, they were finding it hard to really trouble the Bray goal, and their main tactic seemed to be hitting long, hopeful balls up to star striker Twigg in the hope that he could flick the ball on for Stewart or Dessie Baker.
This wasn't really coming off for them, and they soon found themselves behind when Jake Kelly raced on to a through-ball from Chris Shields on 21 minutes, and his delicate chip from 25 yards was too strong for the onrushing Mannus, as The Seagulls took a deserved lead. This was a real shock to the system for The Hoops, and it was something they needed to rectify if they had aspirations to come away with the Airtricity Premier Division trophy at the end of the game.
With the news that Bohemians were leading 1-0 against Dundalk, there was a need for more urgency from Michael O'Neill's men, and while they did start to get on the ball a lot more around the middle of the park, they still weren't threatening Matt Gregg's goal, and they looked a bit anxious when they found themselves inside the final-third.
Indeed, it was looking likely Rovers would go into the second-half trailing Bray, but Twigg had other ideas, as he rounded Gregg on 40 minutes after a ball over the top by Craig Sives, and he coolly slotted to the back of the Wanderers net (for his 50th competitive goal for the club) to draw the sides level, and send the faithful travelling support into raptures.
This meant that they were level going into the second half, which meant that they didn't need to panic too much after the re-start. In fact, it was a far more confident Rovers outfit that emerged onto the pitch after the break, and it took them only 21 seconds to completely turn the game around, as good link play by Dessie Baker and Twigg put Stewart into space on the right-wing, and he superbly slotted home to the bottom left-hand corner of the net with a sweet left-footed strike.
This put the Rovers fans into a good mood, and it is appeared that both managers were beginning to look ahead to their next games, as The Hoops withdrew both Twigg and Dessie Baker (to be replaced by James Chambers and Neale Fenn respectively), while Bray replaced goalscorer Jake Kelly and Gary Dempsey with Gary Shaw and the second of the Baker brothers, Richie.
Rovers received some further good news around 68 minutes into the game when news came through of a Dundalk equaliser from Fahrudin Kuduzovic, which meant that the former Milltown residents were now very in pole position to claim the Championship. Given the euphoria that was taking place in the stands, it is most likely that the Rovers players would have been aware of matters elsewhere, and this may have caused them to take their eye of the ball, as Bray were back on level terms just a minute later when super-sub Shaw turned in a Daire Doyle cross from 12 yards.
This put a bit of a spanner into the works, and Rovers needed to be careful not to concede another goal, as that may well have proved costly in the end. As it turned out, with Bohs winning their tie in Dalymount Park 3-1, this would have seen the title go the way of Pat Fenlon's side, but Rovers managed to hold firm, and even though there were one or two scary moments, it didn't look they like they were going to let in a third goal.
It has been a truly memorable season for The Hoops, and after plenty of ups and downs, they can now bask in the glory of a 16th league title, and with their FAI Cup final against Sligo Rovers still to come, Captain Stephen Rice may well get his hands on some more silverware before the end of the season.
As for Bray, they now face a relegation play-off tie against Galway on Tuesday night, knowing that they are able to compete with the very best in the league on any given day.
Bray Wanderers: Gregg; Webster, Mitchell, O'Connor, Massey; Doyle, Dempsey (R Baker '61), G Kelly, Shields (Tresson '81), J Kelly (Shaw '51); O'Neill.
Subs not used: Tyrell, Kane.
Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Flynn, Sives, Price (Murphy '84), Stevens; Rice, Dennehy, Turner, D Baker (Fenn '67); Twigg (Chambers '59), Stewart.
Subs not used: Jennings, Bradley.
Referee: A. Kelly (Cork).
Attendance: 4,000 approx.
Extra Time Man Of The Match: Thomas Stewart (Shamrock Rovers).