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Sligo Rovers claimed only their second ever win against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on Friday night but it wasn’t enough for them to finish in second place in the table after Dundalk’s win in Bray.
Coming from behind after Shane Robinson’s opener for the Hoops, goals from Aaron Greene and second half substitute Danny North earned Sligo a win in the last league game of the season.
Both teams had come into the game hoping that a win, along with results elsewhere, would push them up a position in the table. Sligo were seeking runners up spot for only the fourth time in their history, while the Hoops were hoping to finish fourth in the table to keep their slim hopes of European football alive. As it was wins elsewhere for Dundalk and Derry left their positions unchanged.
It was the home team who played with more urgency in the opening period, perhaps reflecting that they were the team with more to play for. Sligo goalkeeper Ciaran Kelly was certainly the busier goalkeeper and Ronan Finn was the first player to sting Kelly’s hands after just six minutes. Finn took Thomas Stewart’s pass on and drove at the Sligo defence before getting the shot on target which the ‘keeper saved.
On the quarter hour mark, Kelly’s error could have caused the away team difficulty as he spilled Shane Robinson’s long range shot. Down the other end of the pitch, the Bit O’ Red did have a couple of chances. Somehow Rafaele Cretaro’s centre made it all the way across the six-yard box avoiding both Aaron Greene and Kieran Djilali who were lurking in front of goal. Richard Brush was then thankful that when Djilali threw a toe at a Ross Gaynor cross the ball went straight at the Hoops netminder.
Sligo only had themselves to blame for conceding the opening goal on 26 minutes as they had the opportunity to clear a Thomas Stewart effort but both centre-backs got in each other’s way. When the ball ran free to Robinson his shot found the back of the net beating Kelly.
The equaliser came just five minutes later as the Shamrock Rovers defence was opened up when Aaron Greene’s one-two with Djilali sent the striker free on the left and Greene’s shot beat Brush low to the ‘keeper’s left. Shortly after the home goalkeeper came rushing out of his box to take down Cretaro. Referee Neil Doyle looked like he wasn’t going to give a free kick until his assistant put up a flag. Doyle only produced a yellow card, the third for the Hoops in four minutes.
Sean O’Connor and Shane Robinson forced further saves from Kelly in the first half. The second opportunity came after great work by O’Connor, wide on the left, and then Ronan Finn. in the last minute of the half Finn’s shot whizzed by the outside of the post, missing by inches.
At half-time Barry Murphy collected the Shamrock Rovers Player of the Year award but the man currently keeping him out of the team, Richard Brush, had little to do in the first quarter of the second half. Ronan Finn made a number of trademark runs and had another shot fly just past the Sligo post on 55 minutes.
As heavy rain began to fall, news from the Brandywell that Derry City were comprehensively beating Limerick wasn’t helping the mood of the home fans who had held up a banner saying “our passion is limitless, our patience is not” in the first half. Other fans were still happy to pose pre and post-match with the three trophies that are now residing in Tallaght; the Setanta Sports Cup, EA Sports Cup and Leinster Senior Cup.
Ian Baraclough looked to freshen things up by bringing on both Anthony Elding and Danny North on the hour mark in a team that he had already made six changes to from their last league outing. It was North who got Sligo’s second steering Djilali]s centre back across Richard Brush’s path and into the goal.
The Hoops brought on Eamon Zayed with 12 minutes remaining hoping he could do a similar job but he wasn’t given the chance. McCabe and Finn yet again wasted shots from outside the box and the final whistle was met with a lot of boos from the home fans as the pocket of Sligo fans celebrated in the corner. They will be hoping for more celebrations after their next game in Dublin when they take on Drogheda United in next weekend’s final in the Aviva.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor McCormack, Jason McGuiness, Derek Foran, Conor Powell; Gary McCabe, Shane Robinson, Ronan Finn, Richie Ryan (Eamon Zayed, 78) Sean O'Connor (Billy Dennehy, 72); Thomas Stewart.
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, David Elebert, Ken Oman, Stephen Rice, James Chambers.
Booked: McCabe (33), McGuinness (34), Brush (37).
Sligo Rovers: Ciaran Kelly; Seamus Conneely, Evan McMillan, Jeff Henderson, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Raffaele Cretaro (Danny North, 60), Danny Ventre David Cawley, Ross Gaynor (Anthony Elding, 60); Kieran Djilali, Aaron Greene (David McMillan, 75).
Subs not used: Matt Gredhill, Alan Keane, Pascal Millien, Lee Lynch.
Booked: Ventre (84), North (92).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Attendance: 2,000 (estimate)
Extratime Man Of The Match: Kieran Djilali (Sligo Rovers).