Shamrock Rovers ran out 3-1 winners after a very entertaining game beside the seaside on Friday night. Leading 2-0 at half time thanks to goals from Killian Brennan and Ken Oman, the Hoops did allow Bray get back into the game with Kieran Marty Waters’ goal after half time. However, Gary McCabe, who was impressive all night for the outgoing champions, made sure of the three points scoring from the penalty spot with ten minutes remaining.
Bray captain Danny O’Connor needed to be sharp at the start of the game to put behind a Gary McCabe cross as Gary Twigg lurked in the six-yard box with just three minutes on the clock. Minutes later McCabe’s corner could have been converted by Ken Oman but his side footed effort went over the bar. That Rovers combination would prove very effective later in the half.
Bray had a couple of chances in the following minutes with Sean Houston involved for the home side. But it was the away team who opened the scoring on 17 minutes. Gary McCabe earned a free in a dangerous position after Adam Mitchell took the winger down to concede the free and go in the referee’s book.
Brennan struck the ball over the wall to score with the shot clipping the underside of the bar on the way in. It was Brennan’s first league goal of the season.
Bray had a chance of their own from a free when Twigg, back defending, pulled back Kevin O’Connor. Jason Byrne’s back heeled the free-kick to the onrushing David Webster but his shot went wide of the goal.
It was from another dead ball position that Rovers doubled their lead on 32 minutes. Adam Mitchell, who had a game to forget, put the ball behind for a corner after McCabe had played a one-two with Gary Twigg. From the resulting corner, McCabe swung it in and this time Rovers captain Oman made no mistake rising unchallenged to head home to make it 2-0.
Amazingly Bray failed to score on 35 minutes as the ball ricocheted off the bar twice and around the box. Jason Byrne’s side footed shot was parried by Oscar Jansson and with the goal at his mercy somehow Houston hit the bar. Houston was too busy holding his head in his hands to react as the ball bounced back down onto the bar a second time and back into play. Jansson the sprang up off the ground to touch the ball away and it was eventually scrambled clear.
Six minutes into the second half, the Rovers cross bar was shaking but the goal stayed intact as Danny O’Connor hit the bar from an Adam Hanlon cross. But Bray did find the back of the net on 56 minutes as Kieran Marty Waters turned inside the box and poked it home with the outside of his left to score.
McCabe’s next in-swinging corner found substitute Billy Dennehy at the back post but Darren Quigley was well positioned to push it away for a corner.
Gary Twigg next played a great ball through to Dennehy whose left foot shot came back off the butt of the post. Twigg was involved in the third goal as he earned a penalty after the assistant referee flagged to say Webster had pulled Twigg back. Webster got a straight red card and McCabe made no mistake to score his fourth goal, and third penalty, in three games.
In injury time, Pat Devlin was sent from the dugout as he took out his frustration at the loss out with some verbals on the fourth official. Rovers remain in fourth place with Bray nine points clear of Dundalk at the bottom.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Adam Mitchell, Danny O'Connor (Daire Doyle 90), Dane Massey; Dean Zambra; Adam Hanlon (Yani Georgiev 69), Kevin O'Connor, Sean Houston, Kieran Marty Waters (Dean Marshall 90); Jason Byrne.
Subs Not Used: Brian Kane; Kevin Knight, Conor Earley, Lee Dixon.
Booked: Mitchell (16), D O’Connor (67).
Sent off: Mitchell (79).
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe, Ronan Finn, Stephen Rice, Killian Brennan (Billy Dennehy 35); Ciaran Kilduff, Gary Twigg (Aaron Greene 82).
Subs not used: Aaron Shanahan, Sean Gannon, Graham Gartland, Shane O’Connor, Thomas Stewart.
Booked: Sullivan (70).
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary McCabe (Shamrock Rovers).