Damien Duff’s Shelbourne go six points clear after seeing off Shamrock Rovers

Injury-ravaged Rovers fall at Tallaght after Will Jarvis strikes twice for the league leaders

Shamrock Rovers 0 Shelbourne 2

A memorable week in the life of Irish football. What began with Damien Duff’s Shelbourne plundering victory against St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park on Monday, ended with Damien Duff’s Shelbourne scalping champions Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.

What happened in between could fill a tome.

Amidst the multitude of games, Dundalk won an Emmy for ‘One-Armed Wonder: The Extraordinary Story of Jimmy Hasty.’

“Football is so dynamic,” said Meath man Xabi Alonso on Tuesday. “The system is just a picture and the game is a movie.” Xabi was riffing before Bayer Leverkusen lost the Europa League final 3-0 to Atalanta at a heavily fortified Lansdowne Road. The noise generated by Italian and German ultras provided a glimpse into another footballing dimension.


Rovers and South Dublin County Council have played their part in the rejuvenation of Irish soccer, creating a 10,000 capacity stadium off Whitestown Way. Between Monday and Friday nights, 12,307 souls clicked the Tallaght turnstiles.

Shels’ are also working hard, announcing investment mid-week from Tech brothers Neil and Cathal Doyle for the rejuvenation of Tolka Park.

In the meantime, Shelbourne have stretched their lead at the top of the Premier Division to six points. They are nine clear of Rovers.

This victory looked possible before The Hoops’ starting XI disintegrated. It was 1-0 at the turn thanks to Will Jarvis’ expertly converted penalty after Pico Lopes was booked for fouling Matty Smith. Jarvis and Lopes repeated each trick in the second half.

It was supposed to be 1-0 to Rovers but Johnny Kenny missed a skimming ball across the six yard box when a sumptuous Jack Byrne pass invited Graham Burke’s slick cross.

Byrne, mercifully, avoided injury for his third start of the campaign, but the same does not apply to Rovers trio Trevor Clarke, Josh Honohan and Daniel Cleary. All three limped off before the break.

Duff held the prolific Sean Boyd in reserve, going 4-3-3 in possession and 5-3-2 without the ball, as he constantly demanded spurts of industry from his front three of John O’Sullivan, Smith and Jarvis.

O’Sullivan was in regular conversation with his manager as the attacker must transition to left back in a split second. His 56 minute shift is a prime example of what allows Shels’ dynamic system to work.

If this game was a movie, it would be a wild western.

Act I, Scene I: Clarke hits the post and he is booked for hacking O’Sullivan, before Byrne and Burke tear Shels open. Kenny fails to score. Kearns goes long, Pico upends Smith and is also booked (See Act II, Scene I), Jarvis nails the spot kick low to Leon Phols’ right. One-nil.

Act I, Scene II: Before the Rovers injury crisis takes hold, Burke almost squeezes an equalizer under Kearns. Cleary hobbles off. Honohan looks dazed after being booked for fouling Jarvis. Two centre halves gone in four minutes. Aaron McEneff is a quality replacement his arrival forces Markus Poom into the Rovers defence. Kenny, again, fails to finish a decent delivery by Neil Farrugia. Poom is hurt but the Estonian battles on after denying Jarvis a clean run on Pohls. Clarke limps off. Scene.

Act II, Scene I: Smith puts Jarvis racing clear again, and sprints alongside his fellow attacker, taking the return pass and meeting the turf on contact with Lopes. Penalty number two. Lopes sees red for his second yellow card. Jarvis wallops the spot kick into the roof of the net. Two-nil.

Epilogue: Shels are in everyone else’s head now. Duff plants a kiss on Jarvis’ cheek and afterwards tells the delirious away fans to “stay calm.”

Shamrock Rovers: Pohls; Honohan (McEneff, 34), Lopes, Cleary (Grace, 28); Farrugia, Poom, Nugent, Clarke (Greene, 45); Byrne (Noonan, 82), Burke; Kenny.

Shelbourne: Kearns; Gannon, Barrett, Molloy, Ledwidge; Lunney (Williams, 76), Caffrey (Farrell, 91); O’Sullivan (Wilson, 56), Smith (Hakiki, 76), Jarvis (Boyd ,72).

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent