Stuart Connolly reports from Finn Park
Shamrock Rovers extended their long unbeaten run to 30 league games as two goals in eight second half minutes from Rory Gaffney and Sean Hoare secured the three points at Finn Park.
The win saw the Hoops equal an illustrious League of Ireland record, 30 games unbeaten - a feat only ever achieved by another Shamrock Rovers side back in 1927.
The result sees Rovers keep up the pace with St. Patrick’s Athletic at the top of the table with Harps now failing to win or score in their last four outings, although they do remain in fourth place.
Harps started with some decent early possession but were dealt an early caution as Graham Burke was booked for alleged simulation in the area under a tackle from Johnny Dunleavy inside three minutes.
Much of the play that followed was slightly lacking from both sides as a satisfactory rhythm could not be found in the attacking third of either side of the pitch.
Rovers began to find some sort of stride and enjoyed a period of sustained pressure on the Harps rearguard but for all their possession and attempted crosses, none found the intended target as the hosts held firm.
In and around the half hour mark, Rovers continued to boast majority control with a string of Dylan Watts corners, only allowing Harps an occasional breakaway with the away defence dominating when called upon.
With some of the passing wayward and many of the crosses thwarted by the on top defences, it was no surprise that the first half ended without a shot on target for either side.
The second half began in a similar fashion to how the previous one ended as neither side had any joy in the attacking third but much of that was down to the defences rather than a lack of effort from the forwards.
This encounter took time to properly shine, the opposite to their last battle and with 20 minutes to go in this game and during a whirlwind ten minutes the story of the match unfolded.
Following a stoppage to tend to the wounded Johnny Dunleavy, Rovers lined up a free kick near halfway, infuriating the Harps bench who were quick to point out that the referee initially pointed for a foul in their favour. With Dunleavy made to wait on the sidelines, Harps were forced to deal with any potential threat a man down.
Dylan Watts lofted a high ball into the area and Marc McGinley looked set to gather but dropped the ball invitingly for Rory Gaffney to bundle home.
A few minutes later Rovers were awarded another free kick, much to Ollie Horgan’s disbelief resulting in a red card for his troubles.
Watts again swung in an inviting ball and Sean Hoare rose highest amongst the bodies gathered on the left side of the area to nod home into the far corner.
The Rovers backline remained unbroken in the remaining exchanges as they now sit at 30 league games unbeaten dating back to September 2019.
They currently sit in second place, level on points with St. Pat’s who also have 20 points from their first eight games this season.
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Kosovar Sadiki, David Webster, Johnny Dunleavy, Ethan Boyle; Barry McNamee (Ryan Shanley 83), Mark Coyle (Niall McGinley 85), Stephen Doherty (Tunde Owolabi 63), Will Seymore; Karl O’Sullivan(Mark Timlin 83), Adam Foley (Mark Russell 63).
Subs not used: Luke McNicholas, Sean Boyd, Tony McNamee, Ryan Rainey.
Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Hoare, Lee Grace, Joey O’Brien (Sean Gannon 72), Liam Scales; Ronan Finn, Gary O’Neil, Rory Gaffney, Dylan Watts (Darragh Nugent 83), Danny Mandroiu (Dean Williams 83), Graham Burke (Aaron Greene 63).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Max Murphy, Chris McCann.
Referee: Rob Hennessey
Extratime.com Player of the Match - Sean Hoare (Shamrock Rovers)