2024 President's Cup Report: Shamrock Rovers 3 - 1 St. Patrick's Athletic
Shamrock Rovers regained the President’s Cup after a comfortable 3-1 win against St. Patrick’s Athletic at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
After the long offseason, the League of Ireland was finally back as Tallaght Stadium once again hosted the President’s Cup, with league winners Shamrock Rovers facing cup winners St. Patrick’s Athletic.
This year’s edition was the highest ever attended since its inception in 2014, with 8,053 spectators in Tallaght.
For Rovers, the big news was Darragh Burns started against his former club. Stephen Bradley, speaking before the match, highlighted the importance of the game but also emphasized that he viewed the encounter as a preseason game.
This was reflected in his starting lineup as he rested key players such as Lee Grace, Gary O’Neill, Dylan Watts, Rory Gaffney, and Trevor Clarke from the start. Richie Towell and Jack Byrne missed out due to injury.
The visitors, on the other hand, went with a strong selection. Jon Daly, in his preview before Friday night, highlighted the opportunity for another trophy.
He named five of his new signings in the starting XI: Marcelo Pitaluga, Ruairi Keating, Conor Keeley, and former Rovers players Brandon Kavanagh and Aaron Bolger.
As kick-off approached and the teams entered the field, the atmosphere was electric, a great advertisement for our league. It's just a shame no TV broadcaster aired the occasion.
The match started frantically as both sides wanted to get on the front foot early on.
Neil Farrugia started brightly and caused problems down Pats' left-hand side, winning corners and free kicks. Poom had an early free kick that stung the palms of Pitaluga in the Pats' goal.
The South Side derby came to life between 11 and 13 minutes as Darragh Nugent and Josh Honohan received yellow cards for late tackles on Kian Leavy and Jamie Lennon, the latter foul causing a little scuffle down by the Rovers dugout.
After 20 minutes, the game settled as the visitors sat deep, allowing Rovers to have much of the ball. When the Athletic managed to get possession, the home side's press did not allow the Saints any time on it.
Burns was the pantomime villain, as every touch was booed by the sizeable away support. However, the talented midfielder looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.
He had the best chance of the first half when Nugent picked him out with a pullback, but the Rovers man blazed his effort over the bar into the new North Stand, to the delight of the travelling supporters.
At the break, Bradley made five changes to his side, with O’Neill, Gaffney, Watts, Clarke, and Grace coming on for Markus Poom, Aaron Greene, Neil Farrugia, Sean Kavanagh, and Dan Cleary.
The second half continued like the end of the first, with Rovers on the ascendancy and made the breakthrough just after half time.
Brandon Kavanagh tried to keep the ball, Rovers won the ball back, and Noonan played a sublime ball to substitute Clarke, who composed himself before smashing the ball by Pitaluga to make it 1-0.
It was a double blow for Pats as Chris Forrester was forced off with an injury shortly after. Jason McClelland replaced him.
After numerous corners throughout the match, Rovers finally made one count when Noonan again was the provider as his cross found the head of Honohan who powered home a header to make it a deserved two-goal lead.
Daly reacted and made a double change, switching to three at the back to try combat Bradley’s side, who had complete control since the 20-minute mark.
Rovers were hit with an injury blow themselves when Sean Hoare went down off the ball and had to be substituted, a precaution his manager will hope.
Gaffney almost made it three, but his powerful half volley hit the post and bounced clear. Pats went on the counter as Anto Breslin was put through on goal, but Leon Pohls was equal to his effort.
Rovers made it three on the break late on as Clarke again ran through unopposed at the Pats defense, took it upon himself to have a strike on goal, but it ended up in the back of the net as Pitaluga made a howler as the ball went through his gloves somehow.
Jamie Lennon turned home a Pats corner to score a consolation goal in added time as Rovers ran out comfortable winners in the season's curtain-raiser.
Despite missing players and resting others, Rovers were superior and showed their class throughout.
Potentially, an ominous sign for the rest of the league.
Shamrock Rovers: Léon-Maurice Pöhls; Daniel Cleary (Lee Grace 46), Neil Farrugia (Trevor Clarke 46), Seán Hoare (Cian Barrett 75), Joshua Honohan, Seán Kavanagh (Dylan Watts 46); Darragh Burns, Darragh Nugent, Markus Poom (Gary O'Neill 46); Aaron Greene (Rory Gaffney 46), Conan Noonan.
Subs not used: Lee Steacy, Gideon Tetteh, Graham Burke.
Booked: Darragh Nugent (11), Joshua Honohan (13), Conan Noonan (44), Lee Grace (87), Darragh Burns (90).
Sent off: None.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Marcelo Pitaluga; Aaron Bolger (Luke Turner 62), Anthony Breslin, Conor Keeley, Joseph Redmond; Christopher Forrester (Jason McClelland 58), Brandon Kavanagh (Cian Kavanagh 62), Kian Leavy (Alex Nolan 83), Jamie Lennon, Jake Mulraney (Carl Sjöberg 75); Ruairí Keating (Mason Melia 83).
Subs not used: Daniel Rogers, Arran Pettifer, Alfie Taylor.
Booked: Jamie Lennon (35).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Damien McGraith
extratime.com Player of the Match: Conan Noonan (Shamrock Rovers)