Shamrock Rovers extended their unbeaten start to the season, by beating a stubborn Sligo Rovers 3-2 at the Showgrounds for the first time since 2016, in the SEE Airtricity Premier League on a rainy Saturday night.
As expected, Shamrock Rovers dictated the play early on, with Jack Byrne looking lively, trying to find that killer pass on more than one occasion to Gaffney and Greene, who were both willing runners.
But it was in the 3rd minute that Sligo Rovers had the first glimpse of a chance when a ball was chipped through for Ronan Coughlan to run onto, but Alan Mannus was alert to clear the ball from danger.
Shamrock Rovers got back into the swing of things and created their first real chance when McEneff found himself clear but was unable to convert as his shot went wide of the post in the 7th minute.
The first ten minutes were lively, but things started to get scrappy with both sides playing a lot of long balls, without much success either end.
Byrne continued to be the best player on the park and whipped in a few crosses but with nobody taking a chance to get on the end of them.
The pressure kept coming from the Hoops, having four corners in the first 15 minutes, but they failed to make McGinty make a save, with Liam Scales coming closest with a header just going wide of the mark.
The 17th minute saw the first real clear-cut chance made, when a nice one-two by Farrugia and Gaffney broke the stubborn Sligo defence, but Farrugia failed to even test the keeper as he shot wide.
Sligo’s injury worries continued as defender Teemu went off with a knock early on to hand New Zealand international, Ryan De Vries his debut.
This saw a shuffle at the back, with Gary Buckley going into centre back, in an already makeshift defence.
And things were to get worse for the home side as Shamrock Rovers were getting closer, and keeping possession of the ball, it was only a matter of time before they broke the deadlock and it was that man again, Jack Byrne, who came up with a bit of creativity to unlock Sligo.
On the 22nd minute Byrne received the ball from Finn outside the box and with a swivel and drop of the shoulder made the space that enabled him to shoot low and hard past McGinty and give Shamrock Rovers the lead.
The game descended into a scrappy affair, with Sligo only testing Mannus with long range shots, one from Coughlan, that bounced awkwardly in front of the Shamrock Rovers keeper, for him to spill it.
Luckily for Mannus, there was no Sligo striker there taking a chance to take advantage.
Wit only a few long-range shots from both teams it wasn’t until the 40th minute when Sligo Rovers got a chance to equalise and it came from the penalty spot.
After Jesse Devers played the ball into David Cawley, Roberto Lopes seemed to trip the Sligo man and he went down.
Referee, McLoughlin had no hesitation and pointed to the spot. Coughlan, who had tirelessly and thanklessly ran around all half, put the penalty away to equalise and score the first goal of Sligo Rovers season.
This seemed to give Sligo a bit of confidence and they started passing the ball around and keeping possession much better than they did in the previous forty minutes and kept Shamrock Rovers at bay, leaving it 1-1 at half-time.
Sligo Rovers continued the second half like the ended the first and put pressure on Shamrock Rovers, never letting them settle. Indeed, the Bit O’ Red created more chances than the visitors in the early stages of the second half, whipping in a few dangerous crosses but they were dealt with by the Hoops defence.
The game started to fizzle out, with Sligo Rovers dropping deeper to stop Shamrock Rovers from breaking through and it seemed to work with Shamrock Rovers creating very little.
The only chance they had arrived in the 66th minute when Greene was fouled just outside the box. Byrne stepped up and curled the free kick just over the bar.
The work rate from the likes of Jesse Devers, Cawley and Buckley seemed to be frustrating the visitors and Bradley felt they needed a change, bringing on Dylan Watts for Rory Gaffney and it turned out to be the right move.
On the 75th minute Scales played a ball into Watts, whose little flick put McEneff through, and he slotted home.
Watts was then again involved when he collected the ball from a throw-in and dribbled his way into the box, to then put the ball on a plate for Greene, who smashed it home from ten yards out.
It looked like the Hoops had done enough to secure all three points, with Sligo looking tired from all the energy they had put into the game, but in the 92nd minute they pulled one back thanks to a tidy finish from 19-year old Niall Morahan.
But it was to prove too little too late, with Shamrock Rovers ending their long wait for a win at the Showgrounds, extending their unbeaten start to the season and keeping them top of the table.
Sligo Rovers: Edward McGinty, Kyle McFadden, Ronan Coughlan, Alex Cooper, Darragh Noone (Ronan Murray 79th), Jesse Devers, Will Seymore, Teemu Penninkangas (Ryan De Vries 22nd), David Cawley, Niall Morahan, Garry Buckley.
Subs not used: Mark Byrne, Luke McNicholas, John Russell, Darren Collins, Scott Lynch.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace, Greg Bolger (Gary O’Neill 75th), Ronan Finn, Aaron Greene, Aaron McEneff, Liam Scales, Rory Gaffney (Dylan Watts 69th), Neil Farrugia (85th), Jack Byrne.
Subs not used: Sean Callan, Leon, Pohls, Thomas Oluwa, B. Kavanagh
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Jack Byrne.