Ronan McNamara reports from Tallaght Stadium
A second half brace from Graham Burke ensured Shamrock Rovers’ title party was not spoiled as the Hoops completed a stirring second half comeback to see off a spirited Drogheda United 2-1 at a carnivalesque Tallaght Stadium on Friday night.
The win capped off a fabulous title defence for Stephen Bradley’s side and they were deserved winners on the night despite the visitors doing their best to play the proverbial party poopers after taking a 1-0 lead into the interval.
The first half was largely played at a pedestrian place with Drogs arriving already safe from relegation concerns and Rovers knowing they would be lifting their 19th League Title at full time.
The first shot in anger came after three minutes when Graham Burke flashed a shot wide at the near post with David Odumosu rooted to the spot.
The away side grew into the half and had a massive penalty appeal waved away by referee Rob Hennessey after Doyle appeared to be pushed in the back by stand in wing back Aaron Greene.
Rovers rarely tested Odumosu in the opening half and were playing like a team that had the post match title party on their minds.
Drogheda looked dangerous on the counter attack and might have gone ahead had Joe Redmond not dragged an effort wide after Alan Mannus failed to deal with Darragh Markey’s corner.
Tim Clancy’s side certainly weren’t playing like they had nothing to play for and were a constant menace on the break. Killian Phillips went rampaging down the right and sent in a wicked cross but Sean Gannon did well to flick it to safety.
A rather pedestrian half for the majority sprung into life as Burke forced Odumosu into a fine save before Drogheda broke from the resulting corner with Markey sending Doyle away. He made a mockery of Richie Towell’s presence leaving him for dead in the box before firing over from a narrow angle.
The visitors would get the goal that their first half deserved after Markey was clipped by Sean Hoare with Rob Hennessey quick to point to the spot.
Doyle sent Mannus the wrong way to score his 50th goal for the Boynesiders and send his side in a goal to the good at the interval.
The title party was being somewhat spoiled in Tallaght and the Hoops came roaring out of the traps in the second half and were level within five minutes of the restart.
Danny Mandroiu showed why there is so much hype around him at the moment as he split the opposition defence with a delightful through ball and Burke without breaking stride slotted neatly past Odumosu.
That sparked Bradley’s side into life and Mandroiu went ever so close twice in quick succession. He saw an effort fly over from just inside the box after Richie Towell went on a marauding run before he saw a toe poked effort remarkably kept out from the sliding Redmond who scrambled the ball off the line.
Joey O’Brien was withdrawn to a standing ovation as he left the pitch for the final time before he links up with Damien Duff at Shelbourne. The former West Ham, Bolton Wanderers and Irish International was serenaded by the Tallaght faithful as he walked off.
The party got started two minutes before the 90 minutes came up on the scoreboard when Dylan Watts swung a corner to the near post and Burke was there to flick it on and the ball found its way past Odumosu via a wicked deflection off Gary Deegan. It was Burke's 11th goal in the league this season.
Tallaght Stadium soon became submerged in a green mist as the ultras behind the goal began to get the party in full swing and the final three minutes of added time were played out in front of a jubilant home crowd - the largest ever league attendance in the stadium.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Sean Gannon, Sean Hoare, Joey O'Brien (Max Murphy 76); Ronan Finn © (Roberto Lopes 58), Chris McCann (Aidomo Emakhu 58), Dylan Watts, Aaron Greene (Barry Cotter 58); Richie Towell (Conan Noonan 80), Daniel Mandroiu, Graham Burke.
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Adam Wells, Dean McMenamy.
Booked: Chris McCann (54).
Drogheda United: David Odumosu; James Brown (c), Dane Massey (Gary Deegan 70), Daniel O'Reilly, Joe Redmond; Darragh Markey (Mohammad Boudiaf 76), Conor Kane, Gary Deegan, Killian Phillips; Mark Doyle (James Clarke 76), Dinny Corcoran (Ahu Obhakhan 58).
Subs not used: Colin McCabe, Sam O'Brien, Charles Mutawe, Kaleem Simon, Luke Heeney, Ronan Murray.
Referee: Rob Hennessy.
extratime.com Player of the Match: Graham Burke (Shamrock Rovers)