In a night that was supposed to be all about Champions Sligo Rovers, it was Gary Twigg who stole the headlines in his final ever game for Shamrock Rovers. Twigg struck twice, both goals either side of half time, to crown a truly magnificent four year spell in the League of Ireland with the Tallaght club.
‘The Hoops’ turned out what was probably their best performance of the entire season, hitting the home side with lacerating counter attacks on a regular basis. For the ‘Bit O’Red’ however, it is a bitterly disappointing way to end a phenomenal season.
The supporters didn’t let the result get them down though – they finished out the season singing ‘Champions’, and will surely enjoy the rest of their night. The Showgrounds was packed to the rafters, and the 6,097 patrons who turned up were in a thoroughly jubilant mood, fully expectant of another scintillating performance from the best football team in the country.
Shamrock Rovers almost immediately spoiled the party for the home side when they took the lead in the tenth minute. Conor Powell swung in a cross from the left side, before Gary Twigg marked his final appearance for the club with a real poacher’s effort after his initial shot had hit the cross bar.
Twigg seemed to really want to leave his mark in the League of Ireland, and nearly added a second in the 18th minute – this time, Gary McCabe threaded through a lovely ball in the path of the Scot, whose shot was saved by Gary Rodgers.
Sligo desperately tried to get a goal back, and pressed hard for an equaliser, but – uncharacteristically – lacked the quality in the final third to cut open their visitors. Shamrock Rovers however looked dangerous on the break, moving the ball forward quickly and efficiently – something absent from their overall play this year.
Joseph Ndo had Sligo’s first real chance of the game in the 29th minute, but the Cameroonian midfielder’s powerfully struck volley was comfortably saved by Oscar Jansson. Shamrock Rovers were doing all the meaningful attacking, and squandered a great chance to add an insurance goal in the 49th minute, when Ken Oman drove his volley inches wide of the post.
They finally doubled their advantage on the stroke of the hour mark, Gary Twigg really making a mark in his last game for the club. The Scot seized on an error from Sligo substitute Marty Owens, before rounding the goalkeeper and finishing with aplomb.
Sligo then tried to force their way back into the game, tinkering with their formation as well as making a few personnel changes – Shamrock Rovers however, held strong, determined to crown their campaign with a victory. They very nearly did just that with 20 minutes remaining. Gary McCabe drifted in from the left, exchanging a neat one-two with Gary Twigg before seeing his shot parried to safety by Gary Rodgers.
Shamrock Rovers had, however, done enough for the win, and went out of 2012 in style.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Jeff Henderson (Marty Owens, 56), Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness (c), Ross Gaynor; Pascal Millien (John Dillon, 67), David Cawley, Joseph Ndo, Lee Lynch, Raffaele Cretaro; Mark Quigley (Liam Buchanan, 80).
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Jake Dykes, Ryan Connolly.
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Pat Sullivan, Ken Oman (c), Graham Gartland, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe, Conor McCormack, Killian Brennan, Billy Dennehey; Aaron Greene, Gary Twigg (Dean Ebbe, 86).
Subs not used: Reyaard Pieterse, Sean Gannon, Shane O'Connor, Craig Sives, Colin Hawkins, Stephen Rice.
Booked: Dennehy (32), Oman (66), McCabe (69).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer
ExtraTime man of the match: Gary Twigg (Shamrock Rovers).