Date: 8 p.m. Aug. 12, 2011
Venue: Tallaght Stadium
Rovers dominated from the kick off and created several chances in a first half that offered the possibility of a night in which territorial advantage might count for nothing. The earliest chances fell to Gary Twigg in the 13th and 14th minutes. He first beat the offside line to hit an unconvincing shot straight at Ger Barron from six yards and, moments later, stole the ball off a compliant Craig Sives before thrashing a shot just wide of the right hand post.
UCD might have taken a shock lead on 18 minutes when a beaten Ryan Thompson watched a low strike from Paul O’Conor whistle past his right hand post. But Rovers were soon back in the box seat and Twigg was presented with another opportunity on the half hour mark after a terrific ball from Gary O’Neill sent him racing through the middle. Only a determined block from UCD captain Mick Leahy prevented an opener.
Leahy was to prove instrumental again on 38 minutes but for an altogether different reason. Stephen Rice chipped a quickly taken free kick over the top for Twigg to chase but Leahy intervened, heading the ball over his own ‘keeper and just inches wide of the gaping UCD goal.
The second half began with the home side picking up the baton once more, forcing a succession of corners in the early stages that were all dealt with, one way or another. It was beginning to look as if it might be one of those days for Michael O’Neill’s men when the Rovers boss made the pivotal move of the game, introducing Gary McCabe for Dean Kelly in the 58th minute.
Five minutes later O’Neill swept the ball out to the right from where McCabe drove in a powerful low cross that was expertly deflected past Ger Barron by Gary Twigg. Relief swept down from the Tallaght stands and, with the tension lanced, Rovers embarked on a remarkable sequence of attacking play.
Three minutes later Dan Murray blasted a loose ball into the roof of the UCD net from six yards after the visitor’s failed to clear a corner and two minutes after that Billy Dennehy powered home a first time effort from the edge of the box when a wayward UCD pass fell into his path.
Martin Russell made two changes, bringing on Tomas Boyle and Daniel Ledwith for Marshall and Creevy in a vain attempt to stem the tide. But it took just two more minutes for Rovers to add a fourth, Gary O’Neill prodding home an Enda Stevens cross at the near post.
It had taken the Hoops just seven minutes to turn a scoreless draw into a 4-0 rout, and they weren’t finished yet. Karl Moore came on for his Rovers debut and striker Ciaran Kilduff joined him on 74 minutes, the latter taking just ten minutes to add his contribution, scrambling the ball over the line after yet another Rovers attack.
The final nail in the Student’s coffin came in added time when an Enda Stevens cross was headed past his own goalkeeper by substitute Thomas Boyle, a cruel end to an evening that, just half an hour earlier, had looked like it might provide UCD with a hard won point. Instead, the Students must face up to the prospect of returning here in two weeks time for an FAI Cup fourth round game against a side that have now scored 15 goals against them in just three meetings.
Shamrock Rovers: Ryan Thompson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Enda Stevens; Dean Kelly (Gary Kelly, 58), Stephen Rice, Conor McCormack (Ciaran Kilduff, 74), Billy Dennehy (Karl Moore, 70); Gary Twigg, Gary O’Neill.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Pat Flynn, Lorcan Shannon, Karl Sheppard.
UCD: Ger Barron; Sean Harding, Mick Leahy, David O’Connor, Ciaran Nangle; Samir Belhout, Robbie Creevy (Daniel Ledwith, 68), Paul Corry (Stephen Doyle, 82), Paul O’Conor, Dean Marshall (Thomas Boyle, 68); Graham Rusk.
Subs not used: Mark McGinley, James Kavanagh, Robbie Benson, Cillian Morrison.
Bookings: Belhout (89).
Referee: Paul Tuite.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Stephen Rice.