Shamrock Rovers came out on top in a five-goal thriller as they defeated Drogheda United 3-2 at United Park on Friday night.
Ronan Finn fired the visitors in front on eleven minutes before Gavin Brennan drew Drogheda level but second-half goals from Eamon Zayed and Ciaran Kilduff were enough for the three points despite Philip Hughes’ late consolation.
Rovers started the game in the ascendancy and only a last-ditch intervention from Shane Grimes halted Zayed’s early run on goal.
The first shot in anger of the game produced the opening goal as Finn was afforded too much space by the United midfield and his powerful finish from 20-yards gave David Ryan no chance in the Drogheda goal.
Drogheda responded well to going behind and should have leveled instantly as Cathal Brady got beyond the Rovers left-back Sean Heaney and his cross was met by the head of Gary O’Neill but the striker was unable to keep his effort on target.
O’Neill atoned for his miss a couple of minutes later as he got goal-side of Conor Kenna only for the Hoops captain to pull him down inside the box for a penalty. Having missed against Cork last week, Brennan made no mistake as his spot-kick went in via the left-hand post.
Brennan could have put the home side in front on 35 minutes as he connected with Daly’s deep delivery but his looping header crashed off the bar and into the grateful hands of Rovers goalkeeper Barry Murphy.
The visitors started the second half in rapid fashion and they retook the lead on 51 minutes. Kilduff passed to Simon Madden and the right-back delivered an inch-perfect cross to Zayed, and the former Drogheda player headed past Ryan.
Rovers struck again just two minutes later as a quick counter-attack from the Hoops saw Zayed miss-control the ball, but following a couple of deflections in the penalty area, Kilduff’s weak effort found its way into the bottom corner for 3-1, despite calls for offside.
The two goals in quick succession took the wind out of Drogheda’s sails as they struggled to create many chances of note against a compact Rovers defense.
United came close to pulling a goal back on 84 minutes when Brennan’s corner-kick was met by the head of Alan McNally but the frame of the goal denied the home side once again.
Drogheda did pull a goal back with a couple of minutes remaining as O’Neill picked out the run of substitute Hughes, who worked a yard of space before firing past Murphy.
Despite three minutes of additional time, United were unable to create another chance on goal as Rovers hung on to a hard earned three points.
Drogheda United: David Ryan; Michael Daly, Alan McNally, Paul Andrews, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe 73), Stephen Maher (Paul Crowley 82), Ciaran McGuigan, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neill, Declan O’Brien (Philip Hughes 73).
Subs not used: Dylan Connolly, Sean O’Connor, Gavan Holohan, Daire Doyle
Booked: O’Brien (25), Maher (58), McGuigan (66)
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Conor Kenna (Robert Cornwall 73), Jason McGuinness, Sean Heaney (Luke Byrne 46); Ronan Finn, Shane Robinson, Stephen McPhail, Gary McCabe (Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters 64); Ciaran Kilduff, Eamon Zayed
Subs not used: Craig Hyland (gk), Ryan Brennan, Robert Bayly, Karl Sheppard.
Booked: Kenna (23), McGuinness (38),
Referee: Padraigh Sutton
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers)