Ominous statistical signs as Shamrock Rovers begin to motor in their drive for five

Johnny Kenny has scored in back-to-back games for the Hoops

Johnny Kenny has scored in back-to-back games for the Hoops Credit: Thomas Flinkow (ETPhotos)

Six games into last season Shamrock Rovers still hadn’t won a league match. Compared with the same juncture this year – one sixth of the way through the season – the Hoops are in a better place having won their last two games following a four game winless start.

When they began the 2023 season with four matches without a win, there was a newspaper headline stating ‘Even if Shamrock Rovers eventually get their act together, it may already be too late for title hopes’ but there wasn’t any panic in the Rovers dressingroom.

They still seemed relaxed even when they went a further two matches without a victory - their worst start in two decades - before a 4-0 win away to Dundalk in their seventh match kick started their campaign.

The message from Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley then was that he was pleased with his team’s performances and the results would come to match the play on the pitch. That was the case as they went eight wins and a draw propelling them to the top of the league by mid-May.

This year the message has been the same from Bradley. Speaking in Friday’s Hoops Scene, the Shamrock Rovers match day programme, Bradley said: “I think our form has been good. You can see the performances have been improving little by little.

"So, we just have to stay focused, keep working hard, maintain those levels and keep looking to improve. If we do that, we’ll be ok.”

The statistics seem to suggest that is the case running the eye over those available from Wyscout - ominous signs for oppostion club's looking to stop the Hoops making it a five in a row.

Scoreless first 45

Rovers have failed to score a first half goal in any six of their league matches but their second half displays in the recent wins over Galway United and, in particular, Bohemians have been excellent and got their season going. They still are only fifth though, ten points off early season table toppers Shelbourne.

Shels have started the season in superb form with a draw in their opening game followed by six victories in a row – including a 2-1 home win over Rovers. The Hoops do at least have a game in hand over Damien Duff’s team with that game in hand coming at home against Drogheda United at the end of April.

Can Shels’ squad cope with a title tilt and a European campaign? Maybe not in their first season being part of a title chase.

Derry City were viewed at the start of the campaign as the best club to challenge the Hoops’ dominance and that is still the case.

However, like last year at crucial parts of the season, they have handed the impetus back to Rovers. Losing their last two games means the Candystripes sit third in the table eight points behind Shelbourne and two above the Hoops who have a game in hand.

Stat attack

Across their six league games to date Rovers have an xG of 2.02 while giving up 1.3 xG to their opponents.

Their expected points based on xG scored and conceded is 11.2 points (ahead of the nine they have actually earned). Derry City’s is 13.1 while Shels are overperforming compared with their xG and have an expected points of 10 (compared with 19 earned on the pitch).

Rovers top the shooting charts with 12.53 per game ahead of Derry City and Galway United (both 10.33) with their average shot distance of 16m the nearest to the goal in the league (second with 18.4m are the Candystripes).

The Hoops have conceded the second fewest shots – just 8.25 compared with Derry City 6.5 who have the next fewest.

Possession and passing

As has been typical for Stephen Bradley’s side in the last few seasons, they are dominating the passing statistics.

The Hoops are averaging 485 passes per 90 minutes with an 83% accuracy. Dundalk, who sit bottom of the league table, have the second most passes with 376.

Rovers top the possession charts with 65% on average (seven percentage points more than this point last season) with second place Derry City having only 55% of the ball.

Shelbourne have less of the ball in their matches than their opponents, sitting seventh in that table with 46% of the play. 

Rovers top the charts for passes overall (with the top six players on the pass table all Hoops players), passes to the final third, deep completions, progressive passes, through passes, and touches in the penalty area (24 per game six more than second placed Derry) with Graham Burke topping the player charts averaging five touches in the peno area per game ahead of Pat Hoban (4.2) and Rory Gaffney’s four. 

The Hoops top the dribbling charts, with Darragh Burns the top dribbler, but not crosses. Derry City are putting more crosses into the box (21.2 compared with 20.8 for Rovers) – Paul McMullan is averaging 7.1 crosses per game ahead of second placed Darragh Burns 4.9.


Ill discipline was costly for Rovers last year where they had three red cards in their opening two games (and in May last year they infamously had three players sent off in the 1-0 loss in Cork) but have yet to pick up a red card this year.

It should be noted that they are probably lucky that at least one of Markus Poom, Lee Grace or Leon Pöhls were not dismissed with incidents in recent games.

Pöhls told this reporter when discussing a foul on former Hoops player Simon Power in the game in Sligo when the keeper came rushing out of his area that “I got a bit lucky to be honest. I spoke to the ref and he gave me a good reason why it wasn't a red for him so I'll back him on that.

"If it was the other way round, I'd probably make a case for why it was a red. I understand why opposition fans would be upset and Rovers fans were happy.”


Rovers remain the only side in the top flight playing three at the back – with their formation moving from 3-4-3 (32%) to 3-4-2-1 (27%) and 3-4-1-2 (23%).

Six of the teams in the Premier Division predominatly play 4-2-3-1 in their matches but Shels have gone 4-3-3 for most of their games.

Monday sees the Hoops travel to Wateford while league leaders Shelbourne host Derry City in what is a crucial test for both side’s title winning ambitions as the season moves into April.

The Hoops have been struggling with injuries to crucial players such as Jack Byrne, Aaron McEneff, Neil Farrugia and Trevor Clarke (the latter who came off the bench against Bohs on Friday). 

Rory Gaffney missed that derby win but is expected to be available on Monday in Waterford with a Byrne return pencilled in for the Pat’s game next Friday.