Macdara Ferris reports from the RSC
It was the best of starts to the season for Shamrock Rovers thanks to Ethan Boyle's injury time goal earning his team the 2-1 win at the RSC against Waterford. The Rovers right back got up to slot home the winner off a Jack Byrne corner with the last kick off the game.
It gave Rovers all three points which was probably deserved as, although they had trailed at the break to a super Kevin Lynch free kick, the Hoops were the better team for much of the game.
They got back into the match thanks to Aaron Greene’s first goal for Rovers in his second spell at the club.
The two sides had battled it out for third spot last year with Rovers winning out come the end of the season.
The Hoops had won on their last visit to the RSC and started the game brightly – albeit getting the benefit of the stiff breeze that was blowing from behind their backs.
There was plenty of high quality midfielders in the starting XI’s but the 4,000 plus crowd at the RSC didn’t see the best of Bastien Hery on the night. It was Jack Byrne, making his competitive debut for the Hoops, who was the standout player.
When the teams played late on last season, both Alan Reynolds and Stephen Bradley were sent to the stands and that was where they watched the match on Friday evening serving touchline bans.
Reynolds was able to call on Izzy Akinade despite the player being a doubt.
The striker’s best play though was probably his defensive performance as he got his head on the multitude of corners his side conceded in the first half that Jack Byrne put into the six yard box from both sides of the pitch.
Matthew Connor had to come and claim a couple of those set pieces and he was certainly the busier goalkeeper in the first half.
Although it was Alan Mannus who had to dig the ball out of the back of his own net mid-way through the first half - slightly against the run of play.
The Blues earned a free kick through Shane Duggan in a dangerous position. Kevin Lynch whipped left footed over the Rovers wall and just beyond Mannus despairing dive.
Waterford kicked on after the goal and put Rovers under pressure with Akinade pinging a shot off the Rovers post from a tight angle. The Hoops had their equaliser ten minutes into the second half though as Greene swept home a Dan Carr centre on the edge of the six yard box.
Trevor Clarke came on with 15 minutes remaining – in the ground where he had a season ending injury early last season – and he provided a lot more threat up the left than Sean Kavanagh.
At the other end it required Mannus to push away an acrobatic effort from Akinade to give them the chance of the win.
Rovers kept the pressure going to the end and with only seconds remaining of the two minutes of injury time, Boyle’s neat touch took the ball over the Blues line and send the sizeable travelling support into a frenzy celebrating the late late winner.
WATERFORD: Matthew Connor; Rory Feely, Kenny Browne, Damien Delaney, Kevin Lynch; John Martin (Maxim Kouogun, 77), Bastien Hery, Shane Duggan, Zach Elbouzedi; Aaron Drinan, Izzy Akinade.
Subs not used: Hugo Keto (gk), Dean O’Halloran, Jack Larkin, Cory Galvin, Scott Twine, Dean Walsh.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Alan Mannus; Ethan Boyle, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Sean Kavanagh (Trevor Clarke, 75); Aaron McEneff, Dylan Watts (Greg Bolger, 68); Jack Byrne, Ronan Finn, Dan Carr; Aaron Greene (Orhan Vojic, 75).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Joey O’Brien, Brandon Kavanagh, Joel Coustrain.
Booked: Orhan Vojic (90+2).
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime.ie man of the match: Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers)