Shamrock Rovers prevailed 2-1 over Saint Patrick’s Athletic as the two teams served up a scintillating match at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday evening.
Sandwiched between the World Cup quarter-finals, those fans that made it to the SSE Airtricity League game had much to discuss after a full blooded Dublin derby that saw both Irish internationals Stephen McPhail and then Keith Fahey sent off in the second half.
Goals from Dean Kelly and Gary McCabe sent the Hoops above the Saints into third place in the table with Christy Fagan scoring the only goal of the game for the Champions.
It was a frantic opening period to the match and many of the crowd were still coming into the ground having been keeping an eye on Argentina’s win over Belgium and they missed the opening goal. It took less than two minutes for Shamrock Rovers to score with Simon Madden’s right-footed centre across the area dispatched by Dean Kelly into the Pat’s net past Brendan Clarke.
The Saints on their first visit to Tallaght of the season were behind for less than 10 minutes though as Christy Fagan ran onto Conan Byrne’s right footed cross to score to the delight of the Pat’s fans in the sold out visitor’s section of the ground.
Liam Buckley’s men dominated the half after that goal, creating a number of chances, none of which they could convert. On 17 minutes, Chris Forrester cut inside, linking up well with Fagan with a one-two, but he couldn’t keep his shot on target. Two minutes later, a sweeping move was started with a James Chambers clearance from the back. The ball worked through Fagan with Byrne’s cut back coming to Chambers whose shot flew over the bar.
The next Pat’s chance midway through the first half came to Killian Brennan, one of five former Hoops players in the Pat’s team, and he should have added to his team’s tally. Murphy punched away Byrne’s corner, which came to Killian Brennan at the edge of the box, but he couldn’t keep his shot down when he had time to pick his spot.
Both managers had brought their Ireland international players, back into their starting lineups. Pat’s Fahey was the more influential in the opening period. However, when Rovers’ McPhail got more centrally involved in the closing period of the half, it was the home team who looked most likely to carry a goal advantage into the break.
Trevor Croly had gone with a 4-4-2 line up with Eamon Zayed and Dean Kelly up front for the Hoops and the late chances in the first half fell to Kelly. With Ian Bermingham still recovering from a knock, Rovers were able to exploit space on the right of the pitch. Kelly got a chance with his head from a Robert Cornwall cross and a Ronan Finn shot required a timely block by Fahey.
When Gary McCabe went down close to the edge of the Saints box, referee Padraig Sutton allowed a good advantage to Rovers, and the ball came all the way to Kelly but he couldn’t convert.
When Pat’s conceded a free kick in a dangerous position just before the break, McCabe sent the free kick over the wall but Clarke gathered at head height with ease. The last action of the opening period saw Kelly go in the book for a late challenge on the Pat’s goalkeeper.
Rovers started the second half as they ended the first on top but the difference this time was that they were able to manufacture a goal from the pressure they put Pat’s under. When Shane Robinson and Brennan tangled in midfield, the ball ran free to McCabe who drove at the Pat’s defence. He took a speculative shot that deceived Clarke thanks to a deflection as it flew into the top corner of the net with the ‘keeper simply watching on.
On the hour mark, McPhail came in late on Conor McCormack and while McCormack accepted the hand offered to him as the two got up from the turf after the foul, Killian Brennan didn’t like the challenge and had words with McPhail. The former Leeds United man stepped in on Brennan and the resulting headbutt gave the referee little choice with Padraig Sutton straight away reaching for his red card to send Rovers down to 10 men.
Zayed was withdrawn by Croly who brought on Ryan Brennan into the midfield leaving Kelly up front on his own as the Hoops looked to hang onto their lead. From the opposite dugout, Mark Quigley came on in place of Chambers as Liam Buckley looked to provide more offensive support to Fagan. However the game took another twist as there was soon parity in player terms on the pitch if not on the scoreboard.
Fahey saw red after a blatant push on Cornwall to make it ten men against ten men and Foran was very lucky not to follow his Pat’s teammate down the tunnel minutes later when his challenge cut through Ryan Brennan on half way.
Both goalkeepers needed to be alert in the closing period as first Ryan Brennan’s free kick forced a save from Murphy and Finn’s shot required Clarke to gather the ball on the bounce but neither side could find another goal.
At the death both teams had guilt edge chances to score. Somehow the ball stayed out of the Rovers net in the final minute when Quigley’s looping header hit the bar from substitute Daryl Kavanagh’s cross. The ball rebounded to Byrne who, from inside the six-yard box, somehow also hit the crossbar. Then in injury time, Clarke pulled off a magnificent save from Robert Bayly’s first touch off the bench. The victory sees Rovers move into third place in the table just three points behind league leaders Dundalk who come to Tallaght next weekend.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Robert Cornwall, Conor Kenna, Jason McGuinness, Simon Madden; Ronan Finn, Shane Robinson, Stephen McPhail, Gary McCabe (Robert Bayly 90+2); Dean Kelly (Ciaran Kilduff 79), Eamon Zayed (Ryan Brennan 63).
Subs Not Used: Craig Hyland, David O'Connor, Evan Osam, Sean O'Connor.
Booked: Robert Cornwall (34), Dean Kelly (45+2), Ronan Finn (51).
Sent Off: Stephen McPhail (60).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Conor McCormack, Kenny Browne, Derek Foran, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, James Chambers (Mark Quigley 68), Killian Brennan, Keith Fahey, Chris Forrester (Greg Bolger 79); Christy Fagan (Daryl Kavanagh 84).
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin, Ger O’Brien, Lee Lynch, Lorcan Fitzgerald,.
Booked: Conor McCormack (29), Derek Foran (72).
Sent Off: Keith Fahey (75).
Referee: Padraig Sutton.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary McCabe (Shamrock Rovers).