Date: 2 p.m. July 3, 2011
Venue: Tallaght Stadium
Gary Twigg 53' -
Despite the presence of some empty seats, both sets of fans were buoyant, eager and in full voice awaiting what promised to be a very entertaining game of football. Promises however, especially in football aren't always kept.
The game started brightly with the pace of Daryl Kavanagh causing Ronan Finn some problems in midfield. An early St. Pats free-kick taken by Stephen Bradley found Anto Murphy on the back post, but the ex-Bohemians player could only manage to head wide.
Rovers were soon at the other end of the pitch with some fine unhindered passing. A threatening free kick of their own was dealt with easily by the Pat's defense and with the first half-chances out of the way both teams looked to settle in their respective rhythms.
Four bookings in the first fifteen minutes might give the illusion of a dirty match but it was far from it. On another day another referee might not have blown for free kicks, never mind brandishing multiple bookings. Either way, Stephen Rice, Stephen Bradley, David Mulcahy and Enda Stevens all found their way into Dave McKeon's black book. Perhaps eager to ensure an incident free game, or possibly just seeing things that no else could, the referee had made clear who was in charge. Two bookings per team it would thankfully remain until the final whistle though.
Despite the zealous bookings some fluidity seemed to be developing. Rovers were seeing more possession while Pat's were happy to counter attack with the pace of the tireless Danny North and Daryl Kavanagh.
On 16 minutes, the former Waterford United man Kavanagh did some good work in getting to the end line before laying back for the on-rushing Derek Doyle. The Pat's winger could only find Rovers keeper with his weak shot however.
Shortly afterwards, Gary Twigg headed wide from a corner after some good passing movement down the Rover's right. As play developed half chances were appearing at both ends.
A fine chance for Enda Stevens to score against his former club was scuppered by the very much in-form Gary Rogers. The full-back broke through on the left hand side of the box only for the Pat's keeper to make himself large and deflect the shot wide of the post. Another chance for Rovers saw Gary McCabe's shot flash wide of Roger's left hand upright shortly afterwards.
St. Patrick's Athletic responded to the two chances for Rovers with two of their own. Daryl Kavanagh broke though and saw his shot go wide after hitting the post. A minute later, a Stephen Bradley free kick was met with the head of Derek Doyle. His looping header could only nestle onto the roof of the net though.
If Pat's had started off comfortable without the ball, they were starting to look uncomfortable with the ball. Some sloppy passing and slow reactions saw a few of players caught in possession as the Saints seem to be making things awkward for themselves. But for a fine covering tackle by Danny North in the left full-back position, the badly exposed Pat's defense could have found themselves trailing at the break. As it was, the half-time score would be nil all.
With the sun beating down the second half started. Pretty much as the first half had transpired, Rovers seemed to have more of the ball while St. Pats were happy to counter. However, with the European exploits of Pats seemingly taking their toll on tired legs, Rovers looked to turn possession into chances.
Sure enough, Rovers got the goal they desperately sought on fifty three minutes. Plenty of passing around the edge of the Pats penalty area saw Twigg receive the ball from strike partner Ciaran Kilduff. Unchallenged and not closed down he calmly shot past Gary Rogers.
Two minutes later, Billy Dennehy shot softly into the arms of Rogers after expertly creating some space for himself. A visibly tired and far from composed Inchicore team needed to make changes.
Not before the Rovers manager would be sent from the dugout though. Michael O'Neill had exchanged words with fourth official Richie Winter and was given his marching orders.
McFaul arrived on for the jaded Bradley and gave Pats some momentum. No clear cut chances appeared for Pat's though, with Danny North bundled over when looking to go through one on one. Appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears.
A half chance for Anto Murphy saw him slide in a shot at the far post after Derek Doyle had flicked on with his head. Striker Dave McMillan was to replace Murphy shortly afterwards as Pats saw to push for an equalizer. That equalizer was to prove elusive however. Despite some fine work by Danny North and the introduction of Ian Daly for Dave Mulcahy, the league leaders were struggling to get a clear chance on goal.
Meanwhile at the other end, Dean Kelly saw a low scissors kick just go wide of the post. It would've been some goal had the former Oldham Athletic player found the target. For Pat's, North combined with Ian Bermingham a couple of times to see crosses fire across the face of the Rover's goal. For all their efforts though, the league leaders couldn't get the goal they needed and the champions return to the league summit.
For the Saints, its Europa League on Thursday and for Shamrock Rovers, after their LSC tie in Dalymount tomorrow, it's a tough tie against Derry City in the Brandywell.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Enda Stevens, Gary McCabe (Paddy Kavanagh 86), Stephen Rice (c), Ronan Finn, Billy Dennehy, Gary Twigg (Conor McCormack 80 mins), Ciaran Kilduff (Dean Kelly 69 mins)
Subs not used: Ryan Thompson, Dan Murray, Stephen O'Donnell, Gary O'Neill
St. Patrick's Athletic: Gary Rogers, Derek Pender, Ian Bermingham, Daryl Kavanagh, Stephen Bradley (c) (Shane McFaul 60 mins), Evan McMillan, Danny North, Derek Doyle, Brian Shorthall, David Mulcahy (Ian Daly 80 mins), Anthony Murphy (Dave McMillan 73 mins)
Subs not used: Chris Bennion, Jake Carroll, Paul Crowley, Neil Harney
Referee: Dave McKeown.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Daniel North (Pat's). The Striker from Grimbsy was tireless and unrelenting. Despite being on the losing the side, his efforts and ability stood out for all to see.