Thanks to a devastating five-minute spell in the second half Shamrock Rovers came away with all three points against Drogheda United in Hunky Dorys Park on Friday night. Two headed goals by substitute Gary McCabe either side of a superb strike by Sean O’Connor made it back-to-back away victories for the Hoops as they remain unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions.
It took only four minutes of the game for the first yellow card as Rovers’ Sean O’Connor went in too strongly on Gavin Brennan for referee Derek Tomney’s liking. The home fans were soon screaming for another card, and a red one this time, as just four minutes later Graeme Rusk went down at the edge of the box under a challenge from Rovers defender Derek Foran but this time Tomney waved play on.
The first real chance of the game fell to Shamrock Rovers on 12 minutes as Billy Dennehy put in a cross that James Chambers ran onto. However the Rovers midfielder’s header went wide of the goal when he really should have found the target.
The Boynesiders went close to opening the scoring on the 20-minute mark. Brennan found some space in the Rovers box to get a shot away which bounced dangerously in front of the Rovers ‘keeper Richard Brush who bundled it behind for the first corner of the game.
The first half wasn’t exactly end to end stuff but it was Rovers who went close four minutes later. Sean O’Connor played the ball into Ken Oman at the Drogheda back post. The centre-half’s header went all the way across the six-yard box but a green and white hooped shirt couldn’t get on the end of it.
Brush needed to react sharply when United’s Peter Hynes took a speculative shot but the game remained goalless at the break despite that Hynes effort or the chance that fell to Derek Foran from a Chambers corner in first half injury time.
Drogheda pushed onto Rovers strongly early in the second half and they almost got caught out when Billy Dennehy played the ball over the top for Thomas Stewart to run onto from his own half. Stephen Quigley did really well to get back for United and thwart that chance. The Boynesiders then broke up field with the ball falling to Brennan but with another lob he couldn’t find the Rovers goal.
The Hoops introduced their club captain off the bench just before the hour mark in place of Conor McCormack and Pat Sullivan was able to get forward and support the Hoops midfield as the visitors carved out a number of chances.
Gabriel Sava pulled off a trio of high class saves to keep his team in the match. The first two opportunities fell to Thomas Stewart. The Ulsterman cut in from right but Sava saved his shot putting it behind for a corner. Sava’s second stop was world class as Stewart was sure he had scored but somehow the Italian pushed the shot around the post.
Rovers ended the game as a contest with an amazing five minute period beginning on 69 minutes. Stephen Rice did well on the right to create some space to swing a cross into the backpost. Gary McCabe, who was only on the field three minutes, was in the perfect position to head home the opener for the visiting team.
The away supporters were still celebrating when Rovers doubled the lead a minute later. The ball came to Sean O’Connor 40 yards from goal and the Rovers winger let fly with the ball beating the despairing dive of Sava for 2-0. McCabe grabbed his second, and Rovers’ third, with another header, this time from a Sean O’Connor cross.
Three nil down Mick Cooke made a triple substitution but to no avail as the stuffing had been knocked out of his side. That is 10 goals that Rovers have put passed the Boynesiders in their last two meetings and worryingly for United that is five league defeats in a row. For Rovers, they hopes of getting themselves back into contention at the top of the table were given a good boost.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Stephen Quigley, Michael Daly, Derek Prendergast, Shane Grimes; Graham Rusk (Cathal Brady 79), Brian Gannon, Paul O’Conor (Ciaran McGahon 79), Gavin Brennan (Jason Marks 79); Peter Hynes, Gary O’Neill.
Subs Not Used: Michael Schlingermann, Declan O’Brien, Philip Hand.
Bookings: Daly (26), Prendergast (62).
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor Powell, Derek Foran, Ken Oman, Conor McCormack (Pat Sullivan 57); Sean O’Connor, James Chambers (Shane Robinson 75), Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy (Gary McCabe 66); Thomas Stewart.
Subs Not Used: Barry Murphy, Mark Quigley, Karl Sheppard, Ciaran Kilduff.
Bookings: McCormack (3).
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime Man of the Match: Gary McCabe (Shamrock Rovers).