Macdara Ferris reports from Tallaght Stadium
Sligo Rovers went top of the table on Monday night with a 1-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers, their first win over the Hoops in Tallaght Stadium since 2013.
Romeo Parkes was the match winner ten minutes into the second half as he beat the offside trap to punish the champions. The home side hadn’t suffered a league loss since September 2019 until last Friday but now it is back-to-back defeats for Stephen Bradley’s side – this title race is very much on.
If the Hoops felt hard done by with their defeat in Dundalk last time out, they can’t have had too many complaints about the outcome in this match as they really didn’t trouble the Sligo goal throughout the 90 minutes.
It was a cagey opening half with very little between the sides and very little goal mouth action.
There was plenty of niggle between the teams with John Mahon marking Rory Gaffney very closely with a bit of argy-bargy off the ball at one stage that required referee Neil Doyle to step in and get them to quieten down.
While Stephen Bradley was able to name a strong starting XI, once again his bench had very little experience – albeit with Chris McCann returning – with five teenagers and five players who have yet to play a Premier Division game.
With Sean Hoare still suspended, Bradley could have done without veteran defender Joey O’Brien going off injured after just six minutes. The Hoops rejigged their defence with Max Murphy coming on as left wing back and Liam Scales settling into the left spot in the three man defence.
The visitors brought their shooting boots with them but not their radar as they were wayward all too often with shots from distance from the lively Jordan Gibson, Walter Figueira and the vocal Greg Bolger on his return to Tallaght.
The Hoops deployed Danny Mandroiu, who early in the day had been called up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad, in a deep lying role and he looked to get on the ball as much as possible looking to break down the resolute Bit O’ Red defence.
The home side racked up five first half corners but Ed McGinty and the defence in front of him dealt with all the Hoops sent their way. The closest Bradley’s men came to a goal was a Sean Gannon shot that John Mahon did well to get a block on even if it did seem to come off his elbow. There was also another shout for a penalty when Burke went down in the box but the ref waved play on.
There was a more open feel to the second half and Gannon was able to get more space down the right for Shamrock Rovers. Greene should have done better from a Gannon centre and they were left to rue that miss when the visitors took the lead on 55 minutes.
Liam Scales beat Romeo Parkes to a header that fell to Gibson but the Sligo player slotted Parkes through as Scales stepped out looking for an offside flag that never came. The Sligo striker made no mistake to dispatch the ball past Alan Mannus.
The Bit O’ Red were happy to drop deep and hit the Hoops on the break whereas the home side huffed and puffed but really didn’t trouble Ed McGinty. They kept pressing for a late goal but had no joy. It was Liam Buckley’s boys who were full of joy at the final whistle as they now sit pretty at the top of the Premier Division table.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O'Brien (Max Murphy 8 [Dean William 78]), Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Sean Gannon, Gary O'Neill (Chris McCann 68), Daniel Mandroiu, Liam Scales; Aaron Greene, Rory Gaffney, Graham Burke.
Subs not used: Cole Omorehiomwan, Darragh Nugent, Dean McMenamy, Aidomo Emakhu, Leon Pohls, Adam Wells.
Booked: Lee Grace (15), Liam Scales (37), Rory Gaffney (64).
Sligo Rovers: Edward McGinty; Lewis Banks, John Mahon, Robbie McCourt; Mark Byrne, Garry Buckley, Greg Bolger, Niall Morahan; Jordan Gibson, Walter Figueira , Romeo Parkes (Ryan De Vries 86).
Subs not used: Cillian Heaney, Regan Donelon, Richard Brush, Shane Blaney, Colm Horgan, Johnny Kenny, Peter Maguire, John Russell.
Booked: Jordan Gibson (39), Greg Bolger (47), Johnny Kenny (77).
Referee: Neil Doyle
ExtraTime.com Player of the Match: Greg Bolger (Sligo Rovers)