SoccerMatch Report

Frantic finish sees Markus Poom rescue point for Shamrock Rovers in Derry draw

Estonian comes to the rescue after the champions had given up a 1-0 lead in Tallaght

Airtricity Premier Division: Shamrock Rovers 2 Derry City 2

Derry City were denied a famous victory by Markus Poom’s injury-time equaliser on a night that suggests a serious title race is in store in 2024.

Danny Mullen came off the Derry bench to plant a late header into the Shamrock Rovers net only for Poom, the rangy Estonian, to salvage a point for Stephen Bradley’s history chasers.

Last season Rovers needed seven League of Ireland outings to record a win. Three games down and they lie second from bottom with two draws.

Derry, meanwhile, signed Pat Hoban from Dundalk to secure these sort of results.


There were goals a going on the sodden Tallaght turf. Chances aplenty. Oddly, none came for a cold hour.

Darragh Burns eventually broke the stalemate with a finish under Derry goalkeeper Brian Maher. The champions are lethal whenever the mood catches them, and Burns profited from quick thinking by old heads Rory Gaffney and Graham Burke.

Derry equalised via a Hoban penalty after a dubious call by referee Damien McGraith.

The surprise was the match took so long to catch fire.

Aaron Greene had the first look of the evening. At kick-off, the rain stopped swirling around a depopulated Tallaght as only 4,883 showed up to see Dylan Watts roll a ball for Greene to nudge wide of Maher’s far post.

Both sides went with back fives, and on a slippery track, the game was made for diagonal Greene runs and speculative Michael Duffy shots up the other end.

Rovers controlled possession. Derry mirrored their formation, forcing a cat and mouse affair. Graham Burke accepted the challenge, pushing passes wide to Burns, who is rejuvenated since returning home from MK Dons.

Either outfit could have led at the turn. Oddly, neither did. After Burke almost finished a Burns cross, Derry rushed downfield and Cameron McJannet should have opened the scoring but his touch inside the six-yard box barely troubled Leon Pöhls.

Clearly, Ruaidhrí Higgins came south with a plan. The Candystripes adopted a 5-2-2-1 approach that invited Rovers midfielders, like Gary O’Neill, to pick out Burns or Gaffney.

A flashpoint in the 30th minute, or nothing at all? Lee Grace appeared to be mimicking the action that got him a yellow card from McGraith when he pushed the referee, hand to chest. McGraith took a breath and did nothing.

It was a sticky contest, full of tiny tweaks as Bradley lived on the edge of the manager’s rectangle all night. Higgins was the same. Eoghan O’Shea, the fourth official, might have a future in mediation.

All Higgins and Bradley needed were matching headsets and big notepads to morph into NFL coaches.

Goals flooded the other four Premier Division grounds. Especially Oriel Park where John Russell’s Sligo Rovers took a 4-0 lead into half-time against Dundalk thanks to New Zealand striker Max Mata scoring one and creating two more. It finished 5-0.

Down the east coast, Waterford’s multi-club arrangement with Fleetwood Town continues to yield early season joy as a Pádraig Amond brace saw them beat St Patrick’s Athletic 3-1.

Back in Tallaght, Rovers were struggling until Gaffney found Burke in traffic and the Ireland international slipped the pass for Burns to finish under Maher.

Rovers’ squad depth is sometimes unfair. When Greene worked his muscles to cramp, Bradley turned to 20-year-old Johnny Kenny to press harder and higher as Derry were forced to change tactics.

The visitors refused to lose. Ben Doherty scrapped his way down the left and cut back to Duffy whose deflected shot hit the crossbar.

They did not waste their purple patch as Hoban dispatched a spot-kick when McGraith punished Watts’s nudge into the striker.

An away point in Tallaght is as good as victory but Mullen fought off several hooped shirts to reward Paul McMullen’s late corner with what seemed the winner.

Only for Poom to save Rovers at the death.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Pöhls; Honohan, Grace, Cleary; Burns, Watts, O’Neill, Poom; Burke (Lopes, 88), Gaffney; Greene (Kenny, 64).

DERRY CITY: Maher; Boyce (Kelly, 65), Connolly, McEleney, McJannet, Doherty; O’Reilly, McEneff (Mullen, 78); Duffy (Todd, 78), Hoban (Coll, 88), McMullen.

Referee: Damien McGraith.

Monday’s other Premier Division results

Drogheda United 2 Bohemians 1

Dundalk 0 Sligo Rovers 5

Shelbourne 1 Galway United 0

Waterford 3 St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent