Shamrock Rovers suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Bray Wanderers, who left Tallaght Stadium with a deserved 1-0 win on Friday night.
Bray scored early through a fine Danny O’Connor effort and a superb defensive performance meant they took all three points back to the Carlisle Grounds.
Bray had set themselves up to hit the home side on the counter attack, with captain Gary Dempsey playing in a sweeper role in front of his back four.
The Bray game plan would have went out the window however, had Shamrock Rovers taken a glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the fourth minute.
Full back Pat Sullivan created space on the right flank to cross, picking out Gary Twigg in the box, and with the goal seemingly at his mercy, last season’s top scorer put his shot the wrong side of the post.
Bray found their feet and stunned the Rovers faithful by taking the lead just two minutes later. David Webster stole forward on the right side and centred to Danny O’Connor, who had time and space to fire a sweet strike past Alan Mannus from the edge of the area.
The home side dominated much of the play thereafter, but the Bray defence coped easily with the threat of Dennehy and McCabe on the flanks, leaving keeper Darren Quigley a spectator for much of the match.
Bray were mostly confined to the counter attack, but they looked dangerous when given the opportunity.. On 22 minutes O’Connor played a fine pass out of defence to find Conor Murphy. The forward done the hard work of creating a chance to shoot but his final effort from the edge of the box was tame.
Rovers’ chances were dealt a big blow with 15 minutes left in the first half when their talismanic striker Twigg was forced off with what looked like a knee injury with Gary O’Neill replacing him Shamrock Rovers had another chance before half time to equalise but Ronan Finn’s fizzing 25 yard effort did not test Quigley, and so Bray went in at half time with that one goal lead.
The second half began in much the same vein, with Rovers having the most of possession, but not creating any clear cut opportunities. Bray were forced into a change just five minutes into the second half when goalscorer O’Connor went off injured and was replaced by Graham Kelly.
With little return for their possession, Rovers manager Michael O’Neill brought on an extra forward in Karl Sheppard, withdrawing Gary McCabe.
The urgency of Rovers’ play increased as the half wore on but the Bray rearguard refused to buckle, with the defensive triangle of Mitchell, Prendergast and Dempsey particularly effective in breaking up Rovers attacks.
Bray did have the odd foray forward but in truth it was also a quiet evening for Mannus in the Rovers goal.
Rovers’ best chance of the second half arrived with little over 10 minutes remaining. Bray’s defence failed to clear the danger as O’Neill tried to force an opening and the ball fell to fellow substitute Dean Kelly, but his stooping header went wide of the upright.
The home side put together a sustained period of pressure in the closing stages, forcing several set pieces but Bray maintained their excellent resistance, finally relieving the pressure.
They wound down the clock in the Rovers half and referee Derek Tomney’s whistle signalled the end of Shamrock Rovers’ unbeaten start to the campaign. Conversely it also meant that Bray Wanderers have now taken nine points from a possible nine away from home this season.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Pat Sullivan, Dan Murray (c), Ken Oman, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe (Karl Sheppard, 58), Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg (Gary O’Neill, 37), Ciaran Kilduff (Dean Kelly, 75).
Subs not used: Ryan Thompson, Pat Flynn, Conor McCormack, Paddy Kavanagh.
Bookings: Rice (71), Finn (87).
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Dane Massey, Adam Mitchell, Derek Prendergast; Gary Dempsey (c), Dean Zambra, Danny O’Connor (Graham Kelly, 50), Jake Kelly; Conor Murphy (John Mulroy, 75) Chris Shields.
Subs not used: Matt Gregg, Dan McGuiness, Daire Doyle, Shane O’Neill, Sean Houston.
Bookings: Webster (22), Dempsey (70).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Attendance: 3,500 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Adam Mitchell. A textbook display from the young centre half who dealt with everything Rovers could throw at him.