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Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Somehow Shamrock Rovers couldn’t find a way passed a resolute Sligo Rovers defence in Tallaght Stadium on Friday night as the game stayed scoreless despite a dominant performance from the Hoops. With Dundalk drawing in Derry, it was a missed opportunity for the Hoops to cut the deficit of eight points on the league champions at the top of table.
While Sligo Rovers had the first real chance of the first half, that Alan Mannus saved from Romeo Parkes in the second minute, it was the Hoops who dominated the game from start to finish. They really should have taken a lead into the break, with a Graham Cummins header, on debut for the home side, bouncing down and out off the cross bar.
The visiting Sligo fans know that Tallaght is not a happy hunting ground for them, having only won twice here in Dublin 24 in the league – the last victory coming six seasons ago. Their team defended deep with Liam Buckley deploying a back three that spent most of the time morphed into a back five as they looked to peg back Stephen Bradley’s men.
There were also a couple of tasty tackles in the middle from the visitors with one of them seeing David Cawley going into referee Neil Doyle’s book when the midfielder barrelled through the back of Dylan Watts. As usual Jack Byrne was the standout player for the home side and his trickery created a number of shooting chances.
Ed McGinty was called on to keep out a couple of those efforts and he should really have been facing a spot kick on the half hour mark. Trevor Clarke lifted a cross towards Cummins’ head and he went down under pressure from John Mahon with the goal at his mercy but the ref waved play on.
Kavanagh and Watts weren’t afraid to get forward moving into central positions to shoot but had efforts either just wide of goal or blocked in the case of Watts. At the back, the Hoops still needed to be mindful of Parkes who, on a couple of occasions, turned the centre half pairing but was he too isolated to do anything meaninful with those half chances that came his way.
It was more one way traffic in the second period. McGinty went full stretch to tip over a 30 yard effort from Byrne within three minutes of the restart. Just before the hour mark, the goalkeeper did really well to smother the ball at Cummins’ feet after Byrne played the debutant in on the edge of the area.
Byrne’s run across the box soon after found him space to play the ball in between the Bit O’Red back three but again McGinty was on hand to smother the Cummins’ effort. Substitute Dan Carr then got free on the left diagonally cutting in on goal but he couldn’t force McGinty into a save as his shot drifited wide of the Sligo goal.
Stephen Bradley brought Gary O’Neill on for his first Rovers appearance since signing from UCD as the Hoops Head Coach looked to add a bit more creativity in the middle to unpick the deep lying Sligo Rovers defence. He went close with a looping effort with ten minutes remaining.
As the clock ticked closer to the 90 minutes and the corner count went into double digits for the Hoops, the home crowd got more and more frustrated that they just couldn’t find the breakthrough. McGinty picked up a booking for time wasting but he had done enough to keep that precious cleansheet to earn a point for the Bit O’Red.
Despite the Hoops securing the services of a new striker in Cummins, the story remained the same for Shamrock Rovers as it has been all season as they simply left too many missed chances out on the pitch. They ended the game with Cummins, Carr and Aaron Greene up front but none of the forward men could find the back of the net for a disspointing night for the Hoops.
The home support clapped off their team as their attention turns to European action with a trip to Norway for Shamrock Rovers next Thursday night.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O'Brien, Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Trevor Clarke; Ronan Finn (Dan Carr 59), Greg Bolger (Gary O’Neill 63); Sean Kavanagh, Dylan Watts (Aaron Greene 76), Jack Byrne; Graham Cummins.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Ethan Boyle, Sean Callan, Brandon Kavanagh.
Sligo Rovers: Edward McGinty; Kyle McFadden ©, Dante Leverock, John Mahon; Johnny Dunleavy, John Russell (Sam Warde 67), David Cawley (Niall Morahan 77), Ronan Murray (Kris Twardek 67), Lewis Banks; Romeo Parkes, Ronan Coughlan.
Subs not used: Luke McNicholas (gk), Liam Kerrigan, Daryl Fordyce, Brian Morley.
Booked: David Cawley (35), Ronan Murray (50), Ed McGinty (83)
Referee: Neil Doyle
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Ed McGinty (Sligo Rovers).