Shamrock Rovers made it three league wins from three against Longford Town this season with a 3-1 victory in City Calling Stadium on Friday night. Two goals from Danny North and Mikey Drennan’s 11th strike of the season earned all three points in Longford with the home team’s solitary goal coming from Lorcan Shannon.
The talk ahead of kick off was all about who Pat Fenlon named on the Shamrock Rovers bench. On any another night it would have been about Barry Murphy making just his second league start of the season in goal after Craig Hyland was dropped following two errors that cost the Hoops last week against St. Pat’s.
However, of more interest maybe was Fenlon handed Damien Duff a Hoops substitute jersey. Rovers had unfortunately confirmed during the week that Irish international Keith Fahey had been forced to retire due to injury and the introduction of 100 timed capped Damien Duff to a Rovers teamsheet was a real boost for the Tallaght based club. Duff went through a fair warm up in the second half but ultimately Fenlon decided to not give him a run out on this occasion.
Another lift for Rovers was the return of Mikey Drennan to goalscoring form with the Hoops top scorer coming back into the starting line up and putting his team in front after just three minutes. Martin Deady had taken Gavin Brennan down in the Town box and, after the assistant referee raised his flag, Neil Doyle awarded the penalty for the visitors.
Drennan took the spot kick which was saved by Paul Hunt but the 21-year-old striker was quickest to react to slot home the rebound. Within another 10 minutes the Hoops had doubled their lead. Gary McCabe had gone close forcing a Hunt save before Drennan’s strike partner Danny North showed great composure to score. The Englishman beat Hunt to the ball and going by him took a touch to slot home with his right foot.
It all looked so easy for Rovers who were missing Patrick Cregg and Marty Waters in midfield due to suspension and the pocket of Hoops fans in the corner were calling for another penalty. Town captain Conor Powell looked to have manhandled David Webster to the ground from a Rovers corner but this time Doyle waved play on.
Pat Sullivan had caused the Hoops difficulty with his long throws wide on the right before his 26th minute throw helped Town to a goal. There was a real scramble in the Rovers box with Kevin O’Connor shot goalbound only to hit a defender. Lorcan Shannon nipped in to poke the ball by Murphy to get the home side a goal back.
Pat Fenlon dropped Drennan back into midfield to shore up the middle as Town began to dominate the centre of the park. Stephen Rice, playing an advanced midfield role just behind Gary Shaw, went close when Town’s lone striker looped the ball over the Hoops defence. Rice’s shot was straight at Murphy when he had more time to pick out the corner of the net.
McCabe twice went close from long range for Rovers with Hunt happy to see the ball fly just passed his left hand post both times. At the other end another Sullivan throw in came to Ayman Ben Mohammed whose overhead kick was smothered by Murphy in first half injury time.
Tony Cousins’ men started really strongly after the break but got caught pushing forward by Rovers 10 minutes into the second period. Against the run of play, North latched onto a perfectly weighted through ball by Mickey Drennan to score, slotting the ball home by the advancing Hunt for his second of the game.
The sides played out the rest of the game without too much incident with many eyes drawn to who was warming up for the Hoops. League of Ireland fans though will have to wait another couple of days before they will see Damien Duff in action. Fans who come to Tallaght Stadium next Monday will likely see Duffer make his debut then in an enticing league clash against Cork City.
Longford Town FC: Paul Hunt; Pat Sullivan, Rhys Gorman, Conor Powell, Martin Deady; Philip Gannon (David O'Sullivan 67), Kevin O'Connor; Lorcan Shannon (Don Cowan 67), Stephen Rice, Ayman Ben Mohamed (Kaleem Simon 76); Gary Shaw.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner, Jamie Mulhall, Dean Kelly, Mark Rossiter.
Booked: Martin Deady (38), Pat Sullivan (41), Gary Shaw (90).
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna, David Webster, Luke Byrne; Gavin Brennan, Gary McCabe, Max Blanchard, Brandon Miele; Danny North (Gareth McCaffrey 81), Mikey Drennan.
Subs not used: Craig Hyland (gk), David O'Connor, Dylan Kavanagh, Cian Kavanagh.
Booked: Mikey Drennan (71), Luke Byrne (84), Gary McCabe (90).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Danny North (Shamrock Rovers).