Shamrock Rovers 1 Shelbourne 0
Ten-man Shamrock Rovers took a massive step in retaining their title with an enthralling 1-0 Ringsend derby victory in front of a record crowd of 7,879 in Tallaght.
The two sides, who have shared the points on their previous three meetings this season and on long unbeaten runs, played out a tense and tight affair with Graham Burke proving the match-winner midway through the second half, moments before receiving his marching orders.
The hosts played out a surprising away 0-0 draw away at a now relegated UCD side, which left the door ajar for their title rivals to get within touching distance, but failure to do so by the chasing pack, meant the draw turned out to be a good point for Stephen Bradleys men who boasted a five point lead prior to kick off.
And it was the home side who went closest to opening the scoring just three minutes in when Roberto ‘Pico” Lopes rose highest in a packed area but failed to direct Markus Poom’s set piece goalward.
Damien Duff’s Reds in their third game in seven days, settled into the game well as a tactical battle of attack versus defence ensued.
Hull loanee Will Jarvis did cause the Rovers rearguard numerous problems and looked the likeliest outlet for Shels to create something but just lacked a little care with his final ball.
Following a stoppage just after the half-hour mark, when referee Damien MacGraith needed replacing due to injury, the game then came alive. Jack Moylan showed great strength to steal the ball from Sean Kavanagh, and on the break slipped in Harry Wood. The English attacker patiently waited for JJ Lunney on the overlap but failed to trouble Mannus.
Stephen Bradley’s men came flying out of the traps and went close twice in quick succession. Poom’s corner was flicked on at the near post but sat up too high for Gaffney who couldn’t get over the volley. And a minute later Gaffney rounded Conor Kearns, but from a tight angle saw his strike cleared.
The pressure finally told with 20 minutes remaining when the classy Graham Burke showed good strength to hold off two challenges before hitting a daisy cutter into the bottom corner.
Moments after putting his side ahead, Burke was shown a second yellow for a late challenge on Mark Coyle, who looked to be going nowhere on the touch line.
Luckily for the matchwinner, his side held on for a massive win and with four games remaining, look on course to win their fourth title in a row.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Dan Cleary, Roberto Lopes, Lee Grace; Ronan Finn (Richie Towell, 76′), Markus Poom, Gary O’Neill (Dylan Watts, 62′), Graham Burke, Sean Kavanagh (Trevor Clarke, 76′); Liam Burt (Jack Byrne, 76′), Rory Gaffney (Aaron Greene, 85′)
Subs not used: Leon Pohls, Sean Hoare, Darragh Nugent, Johnny Kenny
Shelbourne FC: Conor Kearns; Euclides Cabral (Shane Griffin, 63′), Paddy Barrett, Gavin Molloy, Tyreke Wilson; Will Jarvis, JJ Lunney (Brian McManus, 90′), Mark Coyle (Gbemi Arubi, 83′), Evan Caffrey (Shane Farrell, 63′); Harry Wood, Jack Moylan
Subs not used: Harry Fisk, Andrew Quinn, Luke Byrne, David Toure, Kameron Ledwidge
Referee: Damien MacGraith (Paul McLoughlin, 36′)